We almost did not pack the bear spray. Our cabin had one sitting out so we quickly threw it in our bag, not knowing if there was even anything still left in the can.
In a rush, we grabbed our jackets and backpacks. Some still putting on their hiking boots wobbled over to the car, while others raced over eager for a full day spent outdoors. Frantically and loudly dodging the mosquitos, all 6 of us were smushed into the small rental car.
With all of our rain gear, snacks, jackets, backpack, blankets, and phones fully charged with Netflix downloaded, we hit the road bright and early ready to embrace the next few hours of driving to the East side of Glacier National Park. We were all prepped and ready to conquer the biggest hike of the trip, Grinnell Glacier. It was a 10.3-mile hike round trip.
Most of the trip had been spent on the west side of Glacier, but someone had said that there was more wildlife on the east-side. Having seen only a few birds and deers, we all were eager to go. Only to find that the path through the park was closed. So, we made plans to drive the long way around the park.
The hike was spectacular! It began with a slow walk around a quiet and peaceful lake. It was freezing and we were all bundled in layers. We crossed a wooden bridge with a handle on one side and the other was open to see the large, smooth river stones and the ice cold clear water gliding around them. Off far in the distance we could see the glaciers. There we stopped for the first photos of the day.
Then, began the uphill journey through the woods. The path was broad and as far as you could look there were tall trees. When the path finally let up, we came to a flat area of earth where a small group of chickens roamed around. Excited to see our first bit of wildlife, we watched them jerk around with their short legs. They clucked quietly to each other and peck the ground looking for tiny insects to eat. There our legs could rest before continuing on.
As we pushed through the next stretch of hiking uphill through the woods, we turned the corner and the view change more drastically then I could have ever imagined. It was breathtaking. We were standing above the most beautiful blue lake, embraced in the middle of a meadow with wildflowers surrounding us, it felt as if we had walked into a Bob Ross painting.
Proudly, we looked at how far we had come and yet we saw the once broad path, become narrow and steep before us. The path playfully ran through the meadow in gentle curves. It went higher and higher brining us closer to the edge of the cliff. It wrapped around hugging the mountain side. At times, it walked us through trickling waterfalls. With the hike becoming more strenuous and the sun shining warmer, we began shedding layers. The cool melting glacier dripping over us was refreshing.
Stopping to catch our breath, both from the scenery and the physical work, we ate a quick snack. We nibbled on strawberries and mixed nuts to re-energize us for part two of the way up. Only leaving behind us a few fallen nuts and strawberry stems that had been stripped of their fruit.
The path became steeper, narrower, and more tiring. We passed a couple sitting on a rock and looking out at the view. They were on their way back down from the hike. We made small conversation with them while waiting for the others to catch up. They pointed out into the distance, far away. They said they were watching a mama bear walking with her 3 little cubs. Hopeful to see a bear, we all squinted and tried hard to see them.
We continued on, looking out into the distance seeing what could possibly be a faint image of the bears. We talked about how it would feel to meet a bear. However, bears typically stay away from noisy groups and we have been known to be a little chatty, so our chances of meeting a bear were slim. Daniel had been fascinated with bears all summer and longed to see one. I had little to no desire to meet a bear, but we all agreed it would be fun to see one from a far, take a picture, and carry on.
As we pressed on, the path became so small we had to walk single file. On our left was a cliff, and on our right was a wall of mountain.
The final stretch of the hike to the glaciers was switchbacks in the beating sun. Our legs were now exhausted. Knowing the reward would be incredible, we pushed through and made it to the very top. We went as far as we possibly could before needing snow gear and having to stop.
Surround by Glaciers, we re-bundled in all of our coats. We sat on the cozy grass hill near the glacier and stopped for lunch. Allowing ourselves to rest, we took in the magnificent and breathtaking view that was in front of us. The mountains and glaciers had stretched as far as they could, before the clouds covered their tips. Untouched and perfectly smooth, the white glaciers soared and wrapped around the mountain. The large lake that we had originally walked around, appeared small from so high up. After resting for a while, we took photos and packed up everything from lunch.
We were ready to make the long journey back. We could feel our legs and muscles were tired from the way up. Cautiously, we moved slowly down the steep path. Having the resistance of trying not to stumble down the mountain, we found muscles we did not know were there before.
Now into a rhythm of moving downhill, Dad lead the way. Daniel followed close behind with just as much energy as when he began. I was next, being careful and thoughtful with my steps, having the small fear of the very high cliff only a few inches away from my foot. Caitee followed placing her foot where mine had just been. Mom enjoyed the hike and view with her family in front of her and feeling safe having Adam follow behind everyone.
Talking and laughing, we moved down the path single file. We were proud that we had made it all the way up to the Glacier. Almost immediately, my world came to an instant and jerking stop.
“Whoa, go back.” I heard in Dad’s low and stern voice.
I looked up. Around the corner directly on our path walking quickly toward us was a massive, brown face almost 12 inches wide. Deep black eyes stared at us. My heart dropped.
“It’s a bear.”
Dad instantly pulled out the bear spray.
The Grizzly bear was moving toward us. He must have been almost 8 feet tall had he stood on his hind legs. He was blocking the path and refused to step off. With a cliff on one side and a mountain too steep to climb on the other, we could not go around him. I turned around instantly. Facing Caitee, I frantically whispered, “Bear, bear, bear!”