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One of the grizzlies...
There will be no sleeping tonight.
Right at dusk, I stopped at the head of the beautiful Squaw Basin and was setting up camp, admiring the spectacular view spread out below me. Birds chirped happily in the forests behind my tent, and wildflowers spread out to the horizon before me. I'd just laid out my gear and pulled out my camera to snap some photos when the birds behind me fell silent. I heard branches breaking in the trees about a hundred yards from my tent. I glanced up, thinking it must be a herd of Elk coming down to the basin to water and graze for the night. I raised my camera right as a grizzly bear came lumbering out of the trees.
I won't repeat my exact words, but it went something like, "OOH MY GOD, THAT'S A (insert bad word of your choice) GRIZZLY! Yes, grizzlies are known to be in this area of the Winds, but I honestly hadn't really expected to see one. Bears are the ghosts of the forests - you'll see sign, but it's unusual to actually see them up close and personal. I've always counted myself lucky to have seen the black bears I've encountered in the past, and here, just a few hundred feet away was a grizzly.
I dropped my camera (sorry, but it's not worth dying to get a photo) and grabbed my trekking poles. I banged them together and opened my mouth to start yelling when out from the trees pop two fat cubs, trailing behind momma. Oooohhh, no no no no. Crap on a cracker, they were huge.
I yelled and banged my poles, danced my bear dance, and peed my pants a little. After a brief moment, when I began to wonder if my new trail name would be Bear Shit, they all did the polite bear thing and turned and waddled back into the trees. I stood there shaking and trying to listen to hear what direction they were going over the pounding of my heart.
I'll be honest, I'm freaked.
They were massive, bigger than any of the black bears I've encountered in Colorado, California, Washington, or Oregon, and they had such a look of disdain on their faces when they slowly turned and wandered off, almost like, " Yeah, yeah, honey. We'll be back later."
Unfortunately, I was shaking so hard that I didn't get a good photo of mom, and only crappy ones on the babies, but they were there.
Unfortunately, dark is falling fast and I'm not really comfortable pushing on father on these unmarked trails, not knowing where they went, so I'm staying put and will be sweating bullets all night long, listening. For the first time ever, I've bear bagged my food and cooking gear, and am sleeping with my shoes on, just in case. I've got my wee Leatherman knife, all one inch of it, laid out by my bed roll, and my spare trekking pole is within easy grasp.
I know the odds of them coming back are slim to none, but my adrenaline is pumping. Between the recent attack in Yellowstone, and the fact that I watched Grizzly Maze last week before leaving for the hike, it'll be a long, looong, looooooooooong night.
Can we fast forward to morning now? Please?
In other news, the trail is perfect so far. I didn't make it far this afternoon, as I didn't hitch to the trailhead until after dinner and a quick wander around town. I'm only about two miles from the highway at Togwotee Pass and can still hear big trucks changing gears as they make the climb. It was tempting to hike back to civilization and start again tomorrow, but no. There were grizzlies reported in town this afternoon as well, and those babies are the problem bears. I'll suck it up, watch the stars spin through the night, and take a nap tomorrow afternoon.