14 Aug
2014
Posted in: photography, travel
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Close Encounters of the Wildlife Kind

Mama grizzly bear and two cubs walking through a meadow

Last week, we were hiking in Glacier National Park and a grizzly bear trotted across the trail about 50 feet in front of us. My thoughts were convoluted in that 40-second encounter. I wanted to take a photo, but self-preservation took top priority. The six of us were clumped together as we watched the bear trot across the path and wander up a brush-covered hillside. It wasn’t until the bear was out of sight that I realized I was holding my breath. My tensed shoulders dropped with a great sigh of relief.

Black bear standing in a meadow

Those seconds were the closest I’ve been to a bear in the wild, and the closest I ever hope to be. He was beautiful, majestic and terrifying. For my family, weekends of nice weather are spent hiking. Our kiddos are well-versed in rules for wild animals and what the phrase “bear aware” means. We were armed with bear spray in Glacier National Park, and it went everywhere we went. Also, every animal and person is more than aware that we’re approaching while hiking. We are not a quiet crew.

Black bear cub crossing a road

The stunning scenery in Glacier has become the backdrop for moments of escaping to a a peaceful, happy spot. A morning drawn out by a seemingly endless trip to Walmart with four summer-tired kiddos had me daydreaming of lush green meadows dotted with wildflowers sitting at the base of majestic peaks. Sigh. The problem with vacations is they always must end.

White mountain goat standing near a boardwalk

The wildlife in Glacier was captivating. There’s nothing quite like watching a black bear stand on his hind legs to get food just out-of-reach, or watch twin black cubs saunter across a road in pursuit of mama bear. The experiences were made even better by being in a car, not standing exposed on a hiking trail. We stood on the Hidden Lake Overlook and watched stark white mountain goats climb over a hill and into view. We turned to leave the overlook to find a mountain goat tucked away next to the boardwalk, non-pulsed by the tourists milling around his home.

Hoary marmot scampering over a meadow

I listened to my children belly laugh as young hoary marmots wrestled on top of a dirt hill and Columbian ground squirrels scampered across the trail filling the morning air with high-pitched clicking sounds. Watching wildlife in nature is mesmerizing and calming for me. I enjoy watching animals gather food and interact with other animals.

Moose eating from a lake bottom

I grew up near mountains where seeing moose was a given. Last week I watched a moose stand in a lake, submerge most of his body in the water and come up with tendrils of moss hanging in his jaws. In 37 years, I’ve never witnessed a moose calmly and slowly gather his supper while IN a lake. We only turned away when the moose made a move to come out of the lake. I had no intention of sharing the trail with the moose.

Herd of mountain goats on a hillside

Life slows to a a near standstill in the crisp mountain air. The gaggle of tourists even manage to fade to the background as leaves rustle in the breeze and the sun warms my face. Those moments with my family are the ones I tuck away for safe keeping and pull out on those days when my whole being seems to be unraveling. In those moments I find peace, unless the moment has a grizzly bear crossing the trail.

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