Grizzlies Abroad!

by Clara Detweiler | Jul 1, 2023 | 0 comments

Grizzly bear eating berries
Grizzly bear. Photo © Amelia Martin/

Ah! A camping place to stay!

We arrived early in the afternoon, tired of haphazard camping and a stuffed van that spilled belongings onto our heads or laps or feet.

A clear-water creek, cold enough to chill gelatin, flowed nearby. There were trees, grass, and plenty of space on this Blackfeet Indian reservation, and we were also glad there weren’t more grizzly warnings around. I was a little tired of making sure all food, lip balm, toothpaste, etc., was out of reach of grizzlies. We did, however, discover an enormous ant hill when we were pitching tents, which sent us scrambling for repellents.

As we were finishing a game of wildlife memory on the picnic table, someone exclaimed, “What’s that?” All birders scrambled for their binoculars, and we soon spotted the owner of that beautiful song—a lovely Western Tanager in the treetops above us. The Western Tanager was one of my dream birds, and I could hardly believe we’d seen one.

I had a headache and went to my tent to nap it away. When I awoke and crawled out, I spotted the others all dashing toward the trees and huckleberry bushes outside the edge of the campground. Thinking it was another wonderful bird, I hurried to join them, only to be greeted by, “Bear! A real bear!”

Two of our group had been walking around the campground and were debating a walk into the huckleberry bushes when a brown lump backed out of the bushes, rose on its hind feet, and looked at them. Verily! A grizzly at sixty yards/meters!

The people fled—but so did the bear, and now we were foolishly looking for him, but he was gone. The men were excited. They got out spotting scopes and binoculars and started scanning the surrounding hills.

“There’s a bear!”

“There’s another one!”

By the time bear seven was spotted, we found it agreeable to comfort ourselves by sitting around the campfire, discussing the perils of camping far into the evening—but we stayed.

The next day was lovely. I took a walk down the creek, built a miniature tepee, and found a Lazuli Bunting in the nearby tree branches. I recognized that bird instantly from the pictures in the bird book. Another dream bird! I was pleased to be able to tell the boys about a new bird for a change.

That evening we spotted one bear. Maybe one of the same. The next morning we rushed for Glacier National Park, where we spent most of the day exploring. Two bull moose blocked our path before we entered the park. They cared nothing about our deadline! Soon after entering, we spotted a black bear lumbering through the field beside us.

Later that day, as we hiked toward Hidden Lake, one of the boys eagerly pointed out a Black-headed Grosbeak. We also spotted a Rosy-Finch, and drank glacier water as it trickled across our path. Indian paintbrush bloomed in lovely profusion, and marmots greeted us at the top.

The men of our party lingered after we ladies started back down. When they caught up with us, they told us they had seen a mamma grizzly with two cubs way down in Hidden Lake. They even observed the mamma swatting her cubs. No fair!

We traveled on. One evening found us camping in the backyard of kind friends who loaned us their basement, laundry, and showers. As we sat around eating supper, a black bear galloped out of the nearby trees and disappeared back into the woods. That was bear sighting number thirteen. We had been hoping to see a bear sometime on our seventeen-day trip.

We did. Thirteen bears in seventeen days! Even in our wildest dream, we did not imagine that. We will never forget that camp where we spotted bears in almost every direction.

Now, when they say there are grizzlies out there, I believe them. The words of the Indian, when we told him about our grizzly, still ring in my memory…“Oh, that Grizzly.”


Next time I’m taking bear spray!

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