Surviving a Bear of a Hike in Red Lodge, Montana

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It’s fitting to start this blog the morning I awaken from a dream about encountering a brown bear while hiking. Luckily, the dream let me escape with nary a scratch. Would Seester, her husband and I have been so lucky if we’d hiked to Keyser Brown in the Custer Gallatin National Forest as we intended?

Located in a beautiful stretch of park/woods south of Red Lodge, Montana, that was our destination one August Sunday morning. Often when I’m visiting, we head to the Custer National Forest in the Luther area. It’s easy to access and a nice little hike with mountain views. We thought it’d be good to change things up this time. Uh huh.

Parking in the lot at the trailhead, we saw a ranger sitting in her truck, along with half a dozen other vehicles. No sooner had we gotten out of the SUV to gear up than she was walking toward us. What could we have possibly done already?

Reason for stopping us:

Problem bear.

Prognosis for an enjoyable hike:

Not good.

He’d been, she said, “ Swiping food right out of people’s hands.”

Who’d fed him the first time, I wondered? Some person who yet again mistook a killer wild animal for a pet they could feed while ruffling his fur? The ranger went on to say they hadn’t closed the trail and wouldn’t stop us from going but recommended that we moseyed on somewhere else.

Since our parents hadn’t raised any fools, we reconsidered options.

Our leisurely planned hike turned into a more difficult one when we re-parked the SUV at the Silver Run Trailhead and started up.

Two miles up. Rocks and uneven terrain. I was reminded of going up on the Kalalau Trail in Kauai, minus the mud. Glad that I’d acclimated to the elevation a bit being three days into my visit, the hike still called for the usual resting spots.

Silver Run #102, Ingles Trail #35
Silver Run #102, Ingles Trail #35

 

John, the crazed hiker and hunter, had been over these hills…mountains…a dale or two many times, but not for years. How did he remember them so well? Cabin ruins will be there, a split in the path will be here if we go the opposite way, there’s a huge excavated hole. Having come from that direction, a couple laboriously making their way down pondered the point of that digging right along with us.

All the while I was thinking, “Down: we have to go down this trail? Oh man, I so don’t want to do that.” Again, thinking of Kalalau.

Happily, we came to a trail sign showing the split and took the branch to the right to Ingles Creek. Not only was this route a smoother and more gradual descent, but it felt like being on the backside of the mountain we’d just climbed.

Our almost eight miles of hiking brought us in touch with one mountain biker, several solo hikers, an array of wildflowers and crossing of the same stream multiple times—with only one soggy pant leg for our efforts.

What it didn’t bring us was a bear.

Wonder if they caught that wily food thief yet? In my dream, he looked mighty stout.

Ever encounter an animal in the woods that you really didn’t want to see?


Also published on Medium.

29 Responses

  1. GP Cox
    | Reply

    I would love to get lost here!!

    • Rose Mary Griffith
      | Reply

      GP, it is super beautiful. Get lost in the summer, though, not the winter!

  2. Andy
    | Reply

    Here are my wild animal encounters, such as they are:
    (1) On two occasions I have seen a coyote roving around our suburban neighborhood.
    (2) I’ve come across medium-sized snakes a few times in our yard (and I’m A-OK with that, as snakes keep rodent populations in check).
    Not exactly Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom but there you have it.
    Andy recently posted..Calculator Capabilities, ContinuedMy Profile

  3. Tuhin
    | Reply

    Wow what a lovely place to spend a fresh day! The pictures are clearly testifying the time you had here.
    Tuhin recently posted.. Bonding of Happiness: 6 Tried and Tested Ways to Connect With PeopleMy Profile

  4. Ken Dowell
    | Reply

    About a year ago I’m playing golf with my 12-year-old son on a course in northwest New Jersey. As I’m about to hit a shot I hear him trying to get my attention. I’m not a golfer so it doesn’t matter to me whether someone is talking as a slice a shot into the woods. I’m just as inept during silence. But after two or three times I finally realized what he was saying. “Bear!” I looked back and there was a black bear right in the middle of the fairway. Up ahead someone was working on some part of the course and Aidan thought he should give him a warning. He approached the guy and pointed out the bear. The golf course employee responded: “Don’t worry about it. they won’t bother you unless it’s a mother with her cubs.” And at that point we looked up just in time to see two cubs heading out into the middle of the course to join their mama. Needless to say, we didn’t hang around to finish that hole.

    • Rose Mary Griffith
      | Reply

      That’s a great story, Ken! I tend to be wary of wild animals with or without babies around. Hey, they’re bigger than us!
      Did your golfing improve this year? 🙂

  5. William Rusho
    | Reply

    Being raised as an outdoorsman, and knowing nature, it does not surprise me a bear was getting too friendly snatching food from people. When we go into the woods, we must remember we are just viewers of it. If we interact with them, such as feeding a bear, we are destroying what they are and changing them into something different, as in this case a bear relying on human food.

  6. Sushmita
    | Reply

    Amazing scenery in the wild dear. Glad you did meet the bear in person meeting one would be so scary though exploring is so much fun. Thanks for sharing with us!
    Sushmita recently posted..Introducing Personal Branding Essentials! It’s Time You Figure them out.My Profile

  7. Erica
    | Reply

    Eesh…a bear is super scary. I’ve never encountered a bear in the woods before. But in my acting days I was once on set with a bear. And while it was a trained bear, they did ask if any of us were menstruating because the bear would attack upon the smell of blood. Comforting, huh?

    When I think of real, rustic hiking, I think of Montana. I just imagine that there is so much open space for animals to roam. Not sure if that’s really the case, but that’s how I imagine it. Love the pictures. Looked like a really pretty hike.
    Erica recently posted..FREE Workshop: Banish Cravings & Heal Your Relationship With FoodMy Profile

    • Rose Mary Griffith
      | Reply

      Yikes! On the stage with a real bear? I think Big Ben would have even scared me.

      You’re spot on about the openness of Big Sky Montana, Erica. What many people don’t realize, though, is how much wilderness there is in California. Don’t you think? Preconceived ideas of city, city and nothing more.
      Rose Mary Griffith recently posted..Surviving a Bear of a Hike in Red Lodge, MontanaMy Profile

  8. Donna Janke
    | Reply

    The scenery in Custer National Forest looks lovely. I’m glad you didn’t encounter a bear.
    Donna Janke recently posted..Wedding Dress View Into The PastMy Profile

  9. Marquita Herald
    | Reply

    I am all for avoiding the bears! Since I lived most of my life in the Islands nearly all of my hiking has been there so no bears, though we did have a couple of unpleasant encounters with wild boar. On a more impressive note, I’m still laughing at the image I conjured up of Jeri running from that Bison! Thanks for sharing with us RoseMary!

    • Rose Mary Griffith
      | Reply

      I’ve wondered about the boar on our Hawaiian hikes. I keep a weathered eye (whatever that phrase means) out for them.

      Jeri, running, bison, laughing because she made it!

  10. Rose Mary Griffith
    | Reply

    PS. Most of these great photos were taken by Seester, Jackie LoPresti. She rocks.
    Rose Mary Griffith recently posted..Surviving a Bear of a Hike in Red Lodge, MontanaMy Profile

  11. Sabrina Quairoli
    | Reply

    I have never been to Montana. Looks beautiful though. When I was growing up, we had a summer home in the mountains And saw lots of bears. We kept our distant and they didn’t bother us. We were grateful of that.

    • Rose Mary Griffith
      | Reply

      With all the bear warnings we had as kids, Sabrina, I never once saw one! In fact, the only time I saw a bear outside of a zoo was on a trip through Yellowstone around 2006. It was down an embankment, quite far away, and I was in my car. Perfect!
      Rose Mary Griffith recently posted..Surviving a Bear of a Hike in Red Lodge, MontanaMy Profile

  12. Jackie
    | Reply

    I walked alongside a moose one time on my walk up the road. I could sense it over there and when I realized what it was I just started walking backwards to the house. Luckily, he went along his merry way.

    • Rose Mary Griffith
      | Reply

      You have to keep your eyes on those wily buggers! Moose are so big and fast–they could pounce you in record time! Remember when we got trapped in our friend’s house in town because mama was on one side of the front door and baby on the other? What a great way to call in late from lunch: Er, boss, I’m trapped by a moose. Be there soon.

  13. Phoenicia
    | Reply

    I have only ever encountered animals when visiting farms and safari parks.

    I would be absolutely petrified at coming across a bear. I am sure I would freeze on the spot.

    Thank goodness it was a dream.
    Phoenicia recently posted..Be True to YourselfMy Profile

    • Rose Mary Griffith
      | Reply

      We were very glad to not have met the bear in person! When I lived in Montana, I had a mother moose and two babies who lived in my woods. The bull moose came around sometimes…they are also very scary–very, very big!

      ha ha on my dream. Nightmare!
      Rose Mary Griffith recently posted..Surviving a Bear of a Hike in Red Lodge, MontanaMy Profile

  14. lenie
    | Reply

    One of my neighbours didn’t even have to go on a hike to encounter a bear – it came right into her backyard. She took pictures (through the window) of the bear playing with her bird-feeder. It actually looked rather cute but not something you want to shake hands with.
    Love the pictures – you captured some beautiful spots.
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    • Rose Mary Griffith
      | Reply

      My dad used to take pictures of The Bear in their backyard. As kids, we were always warned to be wary of The Bear. I’m laughing as I write this because it was always the capital letters. I wonder how many black bear cycled through those hills?

      I’d rather watch the birds at the feeder.

      Yeah, sigh, Montana is lovely.
      Rose Mary Griffith recently posted..Surviving a Bear of a Hike in Red Lodge, MontanaMy Profile

  15. Rose Mary Griffith
    | Reply

    Across the Grand Canyon would be too close to a grizzly for me! I’ve certainly heard of people coming across them in Yellowstone. I can imagine your heart pounding running away from a Buffalo. I think they are terrifying animals! They’re ginormous!
    Rose Mary Griffith recently posted..Surviving a Bear of a Hike in Red Lodge, MontanaMy Profile

  16. Jeri
    | Reply

    I came across a grizzly once when hiking around the canyon rim in Yellowstone. It was still pretty far away, but rose up on its hind legs to get a better look and try to catch our scent. We waved our arms, backed away and saved that trail for another day. I also foolishly ran from a Bison once. I was walking from my dorm room to the employee cafeteria and it was running through the trees. Never again… haha. I finally dove off into the side of the path into the trees. It wasn’t after me, I was just in its way.
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