I hung my head, counting the dusty, dry steps up the slight incline. I was settling into my stride for the day, having just left the parting of the waters on the divide.
I was entering southern Yellowstone, and sung softly to myself, in beat with my pace. “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” was song of choice, and had kept the bears at bay so far on this hike.
I heard the soft grunts before I started over the small hill – no memory registering to associate the odd sound with anything familiar. Reaching the top of the small hill, I stopped to examine the pile of shag carpet, twisting and turning on the trail ahead – dust and debris flying. “Crap,” I said, taking a step back! Grunts, dust, carpet – the light bulb flickered. A large grizzly was taking a dust bath in the middle of my trail.
I couldn’t go back. Long distance hikers DID NOT back track. Just like runners did not add an extra loop, or chefs use Crisco. It was just not done. I could not go around, with a drop off to the river to my left, and a steep cliff about 40 yards to my right – so I waited.
The twisting stopped, and a small, beady brown eye turned my way – followed by a massive square, flat head. He had seen me. I was about to be eaten. The head lowered and the dust bath resumed – legs pin wheeling and dirt flying. I was a little indignant. The bear was indifferent to my presence. I clearly offered zero threat. So, I waited, and I waited.
About five minutes passed, and I began singing my country Devil tune again, with no response but faster pin wheeling. Sighing – I lightly clacked my poles together, and after not even a glance in my direction, so I knocked them together harder.