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#197996 - 03/21/17 10:18 AM Do you backpack in grizzly country?
HPD Offline

Registered: 12/22/16
Posts: 24
Loc: Colorado High Plains
Just curious to hear some thoughts on the subject.
If you do, how do you deal with it, what precautions do you take?
If you don't, what do you think about it, are you considering it or not?

Personally, I don't, but I do.
I do go to the Wind Rivers. And there are some grizzlies there. They've been seen, photographed and in at least one case, shot and killed. I guess I go because I think they're rare enough that there's a good chance I won't encounter one and I'm OK with that.

I do not and don't see myself ever going in Yellowstone, Glacier, the Bob Marshall and so on, because I figure the chances of an encounter are too good and I don't feel comfortable with that thought bouncing around in my head. Especially when it's time to close my eyes for the night.

We hang our food as high as we can get it and haven't had a problem-yet! I have a canister but I've only used it where it's required. It's heavy and awkward to carry.
We always keep a clean camp.
I carry bear spray but have never pulled the trigger though I did have it locked and loaded once.

How do you feel about it?

#197998 - 03/21/17 01:03 PM Re: Do you backpack in grizzly country? [Re: HPD]
BrianLe Offline

Registered: 02/26/07
Posts: 1118
Loc: Washington State, King County
I've gone through this sort of thought process, and I expect anyone who didn't grow up in grizzly country does. While my experience with this sort of bear is quite limited, I've done two long trips through grizzly country and feel now that it's a matter of getting some perspective to hit a sort of sweet spot of doing the right things, and comfort (sleeping sound) because you're doing the right things --- and because the statistics are good.

I did end up hiking solo through some grizzly country, but that was inadvertent --- my trail partner was injured and had to leave the trail, but we were through a lot of it by that time. So I did hike through Yellowstone and the Winds by myself, but I think that part of "doing the right things" includes hiking in a group of two, or even better, three if you can.

For the one serious grizzly encounter that I had, both I and my hiking partner completely forgot we were carrying bear spray until quite a number of minutes after we broke contact with the bear (it was right in our trail, and we ended up bushwhacking quite a ways around it). Just not something we were used to, and perhaps it was for the better: the bear gave us fair warning (scratching on a tree, huffing and chuffing). There was no reason for us to use bear spray there. But ... as I said, we both just forgot we were carrying it. I would carry it again if going solo; not sure if I would in a group; hiking east-to-west through Glacier N.P. last year I was in a group of three, and only one of us carried spray; we saw no bears.

I definitely DO think that the in-camp rules are to be taken seriously in grizzly country --- if hanging, get not only high enough, but out far enough from the trunk. The triangle approach (don't cook where you sleep). And if you come upon a bear kill near the trail, just keep on hiking! My trail partner and I were in Glacier early season in 2011 and came upon partly eaten goat carcasses two different times --- that has a way of speeding up your steps for a while.

For folks with long distance hiking experience in black bear country, it can be easy to sort of let that stuff slide ... in places where bears are hunted.

FWIW, the one significant grizzly encounter I had made me MORE comfortable in grizzly country. It helped me realize in my gut that the bears aren't all out there just looking at us as a food source, and that their behavior is at least to some degree predictable, or at least, understandable if you read up on it.

All of the above being said, I'm no kind of expert on grizzlies! This is just how *I* feel, that there's a kind of balance to be achieved in doing intelligent things, but then being comfortable once you're doing them. Key for me is to know not just in my head but in my *gut* that driving on the freeway is more dangerous than hiking through grizzly country, so long as you have follow reasonable process in the latter case. Actually, in both cases: our highways and freeways are friggin' dangerous! We're just used to that danger.
Brian Lewis

#198009 - 03/22/17 02:05 PM Re: Do you backpack in grizzly country? [Re: BrianLe]
hikerduane Offline

Registered: 02/23/03
Posts: 2122
Loc: Meadow Valley, CA
I've been to Alaska with a group, solo in the Winds and two years in a row to Glacier NP. Nodda. The trips in Glacier, I missed a Grizzly by a day. Dang it! Used canisters in AK and the Winds, hung food in Glacier or bear boxes where supplied. Clapped my hands or yelled a little in Glacier.

#198018 - 03/22/17 10:44 PM Re: Do you backpack in grizzly country? [Re: HPD]
JustWalking Offline

Registered: 01/12/16
Posts: 78
Loc: PNW
Here's some good guidelines from Andy Skurka.

Skurka on food protection techniques in bear country

#198020 - 03/22/17 11:54 PM Re: Do you backpack in grizzly country? [Re: HPD]
wandering_daisy Offline

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2718
Loc: California
I take bear spray and a bear canister. Never encountered a grizzly, but plenty of black bears. I used to climb in BC, Canada but was always in a large group. We wore bear bells. When we were in BC last year, several trails were restricted because of grizzly activity- in that case you were required to have a minimum of 4 adults, and children not allowed.

If you solo in any kind of bear country you have to make noise. In general bears do not like being startled. They need to know you are coming. I "click" my trekking poles regularly and if I see bear sign, I talk to the bears or carry on a fake two-person conversation using two different voices.

I do not camp near bear sign. If I see fresh tracks or poop, I continue at least a mile.

Another good measure is to not cook meals where you tent. Cook dinner and then move on at least a mile.

#198023 - 03/23/17 02:02 AM Re: Do you backpack in grizzly country? [Re: wandering_daisy]
OregonMouse Offline

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6280
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
All good ideas. When I was in the Winds, I did a lot of singing when going around blind corners or through dense woods when hiking up the Green River valley, where griz have been spotted and occasionally raid the campground below the lakes. My singing didn't endear me to passing hikers, but I didn't see any bear. I also kept my dog on leash unless the country was completely open so that I could see a long way in all directions.

Of course you all know the joke about how to tell grizzly scat from black bear scat; grizz scat contains bear bells and smells of pepper!

Here in the Pacific NW, bears are not an issue except in National Parks. Outside National Parks, bears are hunted and generally quite shy. Occasionally, though, some human does something stupid,like the ones who left a slab of bacon in their tent up in Washington a few years ago, and the authorities have to ban camping in the area for a while.

There's a move by the NPS and Fish and Wildlife Service to import grizzly to the North Cascades. Thirty years ago, they talked about grizz recovery and assured us that they wouldn't do that, just let grizz wander in from Canada. Well, the Canadian grizz decided they didn't like the US, so they didn't come. That;s probably because when grizz lived in the PNW, they lived in the lowlands, not the high mountains. Now they're talking about transplanting grizz from Montana. That sounds really scary. I would sure hate to meet a grizz that had been yanked out of its home and dumped down in a strange place!
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

#198028 - 03/23/17 07:36 PM Re: Do you backpack in grizzly country? [Re: OregonMouse]
wandering_daisy Offline

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2718
Loc: California
If you are going to introduce grizzlies, you need to allow hunting. Hunted animals are generally more skittish of humans. Maybe just official state hunters until they establish, but getting shot at regularly will help.

I personally am not in favor of re-introducing grizzlies to the lower 48. If they want to increase numbers there seems to be plenty of very remote, not used land still in Canada and Alaska.

The large group size seems to be the best protection.

OM- is Phat still on the forum? He has done lots of backpacking in grizzly country.


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