My Labor Day Weekend trip to Waterton/Glacier National Park was the best hiking and camping trip I’ve ever been on for several reasons:
1. Not a single bug bit me.
2. Mountain Man was on hand to carry all of the equipment and prepare all of the meals.
3. We didn’t get eaten by bears.
Our adventure started with a boat trip from Waterton, Canada across the lake to Goat Haunt, USA. After dropping off our packs at the hiking shelters we walked over to ‘customs’ to get our passports stamped. We set up camp and hung the food up on a pole in the designated food storage area, then set off for a brisk swim before dinner. Sharing our campsite that night was a group of four men from Canada and a woman from Zimbabwe. Jenny had moved to Canada eight years ago to pursue ballet, and I loved listening to her stories about growing up in Africa and the nonchalant way she described her brothers swimming in crocodile and hippo infested waters. The men in her group were teasing her because she hadn’t brought toothpaste, but had brought her makeup, dry shampoo and baby wipes on a back-country camping trip. She pointed out that she knew they’d all have toothpaste, that all of them had been using the baby wipes, and stated that “If I’m going to die, I’m going to die, pretty.”
Night set in with hot chocolate and a round of cookies to share with our new friends, and then Lucas and I made our way back to the dock to drink in the intoxicating brilliance of the night sky. The Milky Way put out her finest effort, and I trembled with joy and beauty at the thought of letting go of gravity and falling into an endless lake of stars…
The next morning we hiked our equipment in to the next camp, set up, and prepared for a day of hiking. Our companions at this site were a group of older ladies, all of whom looked like they could out-hike me any day of the week. Lucas and I set out for Francis Lake, located about six miles from camp. We had the lake almost completely to ourselves, and we plunged into the frigid waters at the foot of a breath-taking waterfall. Our hunger for beauty and adventure satisfied, we made our way back to camp in anticipation of a hot meal and a deserved rest.
While Lucas was hiking back to the previous campsite to get fresh water for cooking, I chatted with the group of older ladies and then heard the bullhorn shout of ‘Joan,’ a single camper who had also joined our ranks. Joan kept up a huge ruckus, and made her way to our social gathering to inform us she’d heard a bear in the brush. We banded together with our bear spray and kept up a lot of noise. We had a glimpse of the bear as he crossed the path and made his way to the river, stopping to munch berries along the way. His behavior in itself wasn’t alarming, but what worried us is that even though we were shouting at him and making a lot of noise, he had no intention of going away. Lucas returned with the water and we sent him right back to the ranger’s station to let them know about our situation. The ladies praised his bravery, and I took a picture of his departing back as a Last Photo in case his mother should want it.
We continued to hear and see the bear crashing around, and we armed ourselves with sticks. It was getting darker by the minute, and by the time the ranger arrived, it was almost completely dark. He splashed across the river wearing sandals, shorts, a t-shirt, a head-lamp, and guns. Without hesitation he marched straight into the bush, calling out, “Hey Bear!” He fired ‘bean bags’ and flares at him to scare him away, then announced that we were safe and started to make his way back across the river and to the steak he’d been cooking when Lucas interrupted him. He didn’t get too far when we called him back. The bear had returned. The ranger stomped back across the river. “What is WRONG with this bear??!!” This time he pulled out the big flares and rubber bullets, which were splendid to watch in the dark. This time the bear was gone for good. The next morning we met the ranger as we were preparing to take the boat back to Waterton, and he told us that there had really been two bears the previous night, not a single bear who had come back.
Back in Canada, we rounded out a rugged weekend with wild animals by having high tea at the Prince of Wales Hotel.