The fall morning was crisp as we hiked along Bowman Lake Trail toward Brown Pass. Golden aspen leaves quaked in the breeze. Pine needles crunched underfoot. Then we heard it, a growl so deep, so close.
"That's one big grizzly," said Jon, a sort of demented smile on his face.
Layne nodded in agreement: "And that was a get-the-hell-away-from-my-breakfast kind of growl." We retreated the 2 or so miles back to our previous night's campsite. The air felt electric. My skin tingled, I heard sounds that seemed to be 10 miles away, and I never felt so alert in my life.
The heightened awareness stayed with me for the rest of the six-day trip through Glacier and made it unlike any I'd taken before. A few days later, across the park on the shores of Upper Two Medicine Lake, we watched a sow and three cubs amble along the beach before disappearing into the woods. Elsewhere, we found tracks, poked through scat, and examined scratch marks on trees.
Of course, the mountains, sky, golden larch trees, and shimmering lakes were glorious. Glacier National Park is blow-your-mind beautiful. But it's the bears -- seen and unseen -- that make the place unforgettable.
Trail Info: Glacier National Park, (406) 888-7800.