Encounters: Part I

Screen+Shot+2017-10-21+at+10.13.30+AM.png

They weren't dogs like I had thought, but grizzly bears. To be more specific, a mother and cub duo running straight for me. Reacting, as any photographer in my position would, I snapped one photo and then took off full speed in the opposite direction. While making my escape, I thought back to ten minutes before this encounter where I was sitting alone alongside the road underneath the peaks of Glacier National Park, meditating, repeating to myself, "Show me what you want me to see." Funny, right? 

Logan's Pass was closed due to the fact it was the beginning of June, and most of the snow hadn't been plowed yet. It was my first time exploring the east side of the park, so out of curiosity, I walked the three miles of road that was cleared beyond the barrier at the entrance of the pass. During my hike, I took photos of the scenery, meditated and eventually decided it was time to walk back to my car. As I began my descent, I spotted a family and their dogs off in the distance walking toward me. I kept pace and eventually passed the family of four, a mother, father and two little girls being pushed in a stroller. I passed them, but noticed their dogs were still quite a way off in the distance. I continued to walk when the realization struck me that the two dogs were bears accelerating toward me from a walk into a run. While hightailing it out of there, I noticed I had forgotten my bear-spray leaving me with what seemed to be my only option, to yell from the top of my lungs "BEAR!! HELP!!! BEAR!!! HELP!!!" I eventually caught up to the family, who unfortunately didn't have bear-spray either. All of us, including their eight year old and five year old, began running up the pass, adrenaline pumping, nervously glancing at each other and back at the bears. 

After a mile of running, we reached a bend in the road that revealed a trailer. Arriving at it, we discovered the doors were unlocked, so we piled inside, set on waiting until the bears disappeared. We frantically looked for anything, aside from our shelter, that would protect us, but were dismayed when all we found were items to be used in the emergency of an avalanche. Half an hour passed, and we began to peek our heads outside of the trailer searching for a sign that we were no longer in peril. The bears were nowhere to be seen, which led us to reconvene outside of, but still nearby, the trailer. As we waited, the five year old pulled me aside to show me the necklace she had around her neck. She extended it toward me, and in her hand I saw a giant grizzly bear claw. I looked at her, and staring back at me she said, " I knew we were going to be chased by a bear today and I knew you were going to be here too." I was taken aback by her statement, unsure of what to think. The next moment, caught all of our attention when we saw two cyclists riding our way. When they reached us, we asked if they had seen any sign of the two grizzlies, but they shared that they hadn't seen any bears. In case of the grizzlies reappearance, they gifted us with their extra can of bear-spray.

IMG_0906.JPG

With all of the excitement over, I was preparing to walk back to my car, when the father of the family mentioned, "You know, we're from Texas and were planning on showing our girls snow for the first time. Would you like to join us and then we can all walk back together?" Relieved, I accepted the invitation and followed as we made our way up the road to the snow. The girls were ecstatic and started to play in the usual snow filled activities like throwing snowballs, building snowmen and making snow angels. As we did so, we noticed more cyclists making their way up the pass. The girls were filled with excitement as they played in the snow for their first time, but the snow chilled our skin, hurrying us into the decision that it was time to head back to our cars. Right as we decided this, we looked back at the trailer we had previously hid inside of and saw the two cyclists from before on top of it's roof. Looking closer, we saw that the bears had reappeared and were walking further up the pass. 

Stricken with fear once again, we climbed on top of the bulldozers and plows and awaited the grizzlies as they came closer. They meandered as they scavenged for food, which made their approach toward us painstakingly long. We discussed amongst ourselves what we thought we should do, whether that be cutting across the mountain, creating some sort of distraction, or waiting out the predators. Watching, waiting, and unsure of what to do, we prepared ourselves with the bear-spray we were given as the grizzlies closed in. Closer and closer they came and THEN, as if taken by some random scent, we watched as they ran up the side of the mountain, stopping amongst a cluster of shrubs. We waited to see if they would come back down, but after a few minutes of them staying in place, we took our opportunity to escape. 

We jumped from the bulldozers and hurriedly walked down the road below them, keeping a steady pace to ensure our distance from the animals. The bears continued to feast on berries and we continued to make our way to safety. The hike down the pass was filled with plenty of backward glances, but no other signs of wildlife. Finally, arriving at the parking lot four hours after our initial encounter, the family and I said our goodbyes, grateful to have had one another during that frightful experience.