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:
Prognosis for an enjoyable hike:
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.
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.