It’s now “Day Four” of my Glacier National Park vacation, and the only “bigger than a breadbox” wildlife sightings I have seen amount to one lousy goat. Sure, there have been marmots, chipmunks, squirrels. But nothing worth getting excited about. Now that I am on the more remote east side, I think my chances will improve. In fact, my anticipation is bordering on angst, as I have heard the likelihood of encountering bears on the trail is much greater in this section of the park.
Today, I am hiking to Redrock Falls, but it is only a 4 mile RT hike, so I will extend a bit further to Upper Bullhead Lake, making it a little over 7 miles in length. You may recall from this photo in my previous post, there have been recent bear sightings at Bullhead Lake, so I pack my bear spray canister on my hip, and do a couple of “Quick Draw” trial runs to be sure it is readily accessible.
This trail is a great option because the trail-head is only about 50 feet from my Many Glacier campsite, so no commute is required to the trail-head. The downside is the location makes for one of the more popular hikes in the area. But due to my over-indulgent splurge at the Many Glacier Lodge breakfast buffet, I am getting a late start. So there are no crowds. I set a turnaround time to be sure I make it back to the campground in plenty of time before dark.
The first stop along the trail is Fishercap Lake, named for the Blackfoot Indian name given to George Grinnell, early conservationist and advocate of the park. A moose is known to frequent the water’s edge, so I am hopeful that my timing for wildlife will have improved. I arrive at the lake’s edge, and a woman tells me she has been coming down to the lake every day during her stay to watch the moose. But today, he is no where to be found.
As I am returning to the main trail, I encounter three beautiful deer. (Though “bigger than a breadbox,” I do not count them as “wildlife” considering they hang out along most major highways.) I stand and watch them graze, as they seem to be impervious to my presence. But then, I hear a thrashing noise behind me, coming on fast. The deer race off in a blur, bolting down to the shore of the lake and beyond. The thrashing noise alarms me, and adrenalin shoots through my veins as I whirl around to see what is approaching behind me. Two Asian tourists with telephoto lenses, chasing after the deer. I am not the only one desperate to see wildlife, it would appear.
The trail comes to Redrock Lake before I reach the falls. I can hear them long before I see them. Soon, the trail splits, and I arrive at the edge of the cascades rushing through sculpted boulders carved in red rock known as the “Grinnell Layer,” colored a vivid red by iron oxide. There are a handful of hikers at the falls, all asking the same question, “Seen any bears?”
I leave the falls and keep walking toward Upper Bullhead Lake. The trail is very scenic, flanked on both sides by mountains, and dotted with wildflowers. The trail is level, so the walking is easy. I could go on like this forever, but “half time” is approaching. I am already at the point where I need to turn around, but I can see the lake overlook up ahead, so I decide to continue on for another few minutes.
As I am standing on the rock overlooking Upper Bullhead Lake, a hiker approaches from Swiftcurrent Pass up ahead. “Which way you headed?” he asks. “Back to Many Glacier Campground.” “Oh, just wanted to let you know there is a grizzly up ahead.” “REALLY?? How far?,” I ask. “He is way up on the switchbacks. You’ll need to go another 20 minutes just to be able to make him out.” I look at my watch. Another twenty minutes would put me back at camp after sunset. I consider it for a second, but then deem it too risky. Possibly even more so than seeing the bear…
I turn and head back for the 3.5 mile walk back to camp, where I don’t see another living soul….or creature bigger than a breadbox, for that matter.
Wildlife sightings bigger than a breadbox = 0, Total = 1 Goat