First Time Seeing a Grizzly Bear

So funny story, there is more cell coverage in this beautiful National Park than their was in that crappy State Park we stayed in.  But I am jumping ahead.  Despite the stress of last week we did really have a good time with our friends Deb and Steve and Mario and Ellen.  Every night we got together for joint meals and I was amazed at how easy feeding everyone was.  We fell into an easy rotation where each couple took the main meal one night and then one other person provided a side of one kind to help.  Lee and I love eating other people’s food and since Mario and Deb are such great cooks it was a really nice food week. Also it was great to reconnect with our Dreamers friends.  Of the original group that got together at the RV-Dreams rally in 2014, Ellen and Mario were the last to go on the road, as she was waiting to retire.  She’s a month in, and they are having a really good time, but still working through some of the mechanics of living in a rig.  Even though they are long-time RVers it is very different living full-timing in an RV than taking long vacations and since we all learn from each other, it was great to share stories and advice. Ellen and Mario are headed to Yosemite while Deb, Steve, Lee, and I move on to more of Glacier, and I was so glad to spend time where our paths crossed and get to know them better. I learned how to use my timer on my camera for the shot below and thought the goofiness captured the spirit of the fun we all had together!

Ellen, Mario. Lee, me, Steve. and Deb being silly

Ellen, Mario. Lee, me, Steve. and Deb being silly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, Steve and I were both off work, and since checkout time at the state park was at 1 pm we could really take our time.  Lee and I actually prepped the night before, and went to a few stores in the morning.  When it turns cold in the northern states, lots of products we used go on clearance, and since you can never have enough bug spray in this lifestyle we use this as a chance to stock up.  So we bought lots of bug spray and new metal tiki torches at Target (on clearance) and then went to several stores looking for a new percolator.  The boon docking overall has gone much better than I expected but we only have  a small, cheapie camp style percolator for coffee in the mornings that I have to use a  pot holder to pick up since the “handle” is just a ring that gets very hot.  Since we love our morning coffee I really wanted to get this problem solved before tackling the next week. Unfortunately although they had them online we didn’t have much luck at Target, Walmart, or Bed Bath and Beyond so Lee finally recommended Cabela’s.  Wow, was that ever a good choice.  Not only did we find an awesome percolator I also finally found my perfect camp chair.  The people who have hung out with me around a campfire know I have been in search of the perfect fold-up chair for over a year now.  We started with the gravity chairs (which Lee loves and I hate) and have been limping along with canvas chairs we bought over 15 years ago.  We spend quite a bit of time around campfires and for me, the chair matters.  So I was $97 poorer, but richer in quality product when we left Cabela. Even though I am budget conscious, some things are just worth a little extra money, and I don’t regret these two purchases at all. On a side note, as I am linking these products I notice the online price was a little cheaper for the chair.  I didn’t price match, because they were Cabela brand, but I bet I could have saved $10 if I would have used Red Tag.  I really need to get into the habit of using that app!

 

Awesome rubber handle and large coffee holder capacity

Awesome rubber handle and large coffee holder capacity. (The image does not indicate proper usage of the percolator. Even a moron knows that’s not how you make coffee.-Lee)

Hard arms that flip up and a cool cup holder that swivels out on the bottom

Hard arms that flip up and a cool cup holder that swivels out on the bottom

 

 

When we came back, Steve and Deb were finishing their prep to leave,  and we spent the last 30 minutes hitching up, etc.  Coordinating with another couple on travel day could be stressful, and we have never actually followed another camper before to the next campsite, but Steve and Deb are very relaxed on travel day.  I chalk it up to lots and lots of experience because they have moved quite a bit more than us over the last year on the road, and from the outside looking in, they have a very nice system.  We are still working out the kinks in our routing, but we are definitely getting there, and we all stopped together at the local Cenex to dump and take on propane and fresh water. The campground we’re heading to has a dump station,  and this is definitely dealer’s choice, but I like to dump prior to making the drive just in case you get to your destination and there is a problem.  I just find it less stressful in general and Lee is fine either way so if possible we dump before leaving our current stay. The drive to Fish Creek Campground in Glacier was pretty short and we got there comfortably around 3pm.  How different from Whitefish Lake!!

Lake McDonald next to campground

Lake McDonald next to campground

Lake McDonald

Lake McDonald

Cool rock circle someone made

Cool rock circle someone made on the lakeshore

Huge downed tree we were fascinated by

Huge downed tree we were fascinated by

Lee walked it, was around 75 feet long

Lee walked it, was around 75 feet long

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even though the park was very full, it was blessedly quiet, and the treed spaces give an illusion of privacy although you are very close to people. Plus 3 bars of AT&T and Verizon!!  You wouldn’t believe the lengths Steve and I went to with our jobs to be totally disconnected for 10 days and it turns out wasn’t necessary.  Crazy, and I have to say I am relieved, because we’re not crazy about the kids and our parents not having access to us for such a long period of time.   We were in site B89 and Deb and Steve are in B92 across from us and although the pull through circular sites are a tight fit, we both got our 40 foot rigs in with minimal maneuvering. Unfortunately, we are still under a campfire ban, those poor tent campers are seriously hardy since night temps are down in the 50’s, but the solar is working very well.  I should mention that Greg from RV Solar Solutions designed a solar solution for us that worked with our budget and our projected solar needs.  So far it has worked out very well, and we have been doing a lot of experimenting on how long we can run certain items on solar.  Yes, they are friends of ours, but believe me, I would have been mad if I was having major issues, but so far the system has been rock solid. All systems do require a learning curve though, who knew a toaster would suck up so much juice?, and we are using this time to learn.  So far we have had excess capacity every night, except the one time we didn’t run our generator  in the evening. Speaking of generators, our is propane and we used 3 tanks of propane in a 10 day boon docking period.  That’s not awful, but Steve has the small gas-powered external generators and those seem to be more efficient.  The major advantage to ours though is it can generate up to 50 amps whereas Steve’s can only do 15 (30 amp if he strings two together.) Anyway, it’s going pretty well, but this campground has very restricted generator hours.  Essentially they are during meal times 8-10am, 12-2pm, and 5-7pm.  The one time Steve didn’t turn his off on time he had a ranger knocking on his window at 7:02pm  They take the generator hours very seriously here!  I like it from a peace and quiet standpoint, but it can get a bit tricky if you are out all day, it kind of forces you to be back at the campsite from 5-7 and then really conserve for the evening hours.

We were all very happy though, and wanted to get out into the park right away.  It was very smoky coming in, but Saturday night called for rain and we were all hoping that that would disperse some of the smoke.  Months ago I saw a picture on Pinterest of “Pebble Lake” in Glacier and that was a must do for me.  There actually isn’t a Pebble Lake here, but after some Google research Deb and I discovered the picture was taking at Kintla Lake.  This lake is on the West side of the park and requires driving up a dirt road but we were all up for it.  We took off at 9am, they were actually 2 minutes early gotta love that, and started the drive.  The Inside North Fork Road was closed for a stretch so we were forced to the Outside North Fork Road but it was still beautiful.  We had Glacier on one side and Flathead National Forest on the other.  In any other place Flathead would have been amazing, but when you can look at Glacier by just turning your head it certainly came off as a poorer cousin.  The houses that had both views though, one from the rear and the other from the front, were in an amazing spot.

Glacier Mountains

Glacier Mountains

Flathead Mountains

Flathead Mountains

Saw several of these signs along the way

Saw several of these signs along the way

The road less traveled

The road less traveled

Lots of creeks and meadows

Lots of creeks and meadows, clouds were beautifully smoke free

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a beautiful morning, with the best visibility we have had, so we took our time stopping whenever we wanted along the way.  I loved that the views kept changing.  Fire had come through here in the past and we saw the forest in varying stage of regrowth along with some beautiful prairies.  This is how I always pictured Montana in my head and wow it was stunning.

Y050 Y082

 

Y163

Kintla Glacier close up

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Kintla Peak and Kintla Glacier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The road by the way is variable. Some is paved, some is oiled dirt, and the closer you get to the Canadian border the rougher it gets.  It was definitely manageable in our truck though and we saw several smaller cars going by.  It is super bouncy towards the end though, which is kind of a good thing because it forces you to slow down and really look around.  We were all on animal lookout of course, and Steve was dying to see a grizzly bear.  We had made a joke that he tipped the ranger $15 to see a bear and kind of our running theme was “would we see bears?”.  As we were driving along and looking at the beautiful views we came upon a really nice house, at a point in the trip where for a handful of miles it was private property as opposed to public land. There were some private residences on the edges of Glacier and as we were looking at one of the driveways I saw what I thought was two bear statues or plywood cutout silhouettes.  After my brain registered what I was actually seeing, I told Lee to stop, and he backed up, and holy cow there were two huge grizzlies right in the driveway!!! They were looking straight at us from about 75 feet away and they stayed for a while until Steve got out of his truck upwind from them and they decided to wander off.  It was truly truly an amazing moment, one I will cherish forever, and I definitely felt it was the universe’s way of saying, “yes this is tough but look at what you get to see…you are on the right path.”

My favorite pic

My favorite pic

 

Ybears

We think the little one smelled Steve 🙂  Only partially kidding here they have an amazing sense of smell and as soon as he got out of his truck it turned towards him.

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Lifting it’s nose for a sniff.  They moved off shortly thereafter

 

Closeup of the big one

Closeup of the big one

You can clearly see the hump of the back which shows it's a grizzly

You can clearly see the hump on the back which shows it’s a grizzly.

 

A big clump of what I think was bear hair I saw much later in the day., I got out to check it and it feels like human hair

A big clump of what I think was bear hair I saw much later in the day. I got out to look and it felt like human hair.

 

 

The lodge that initially caught my attention. Nice view :)

The lodge that initially caught my attention. The bears were on the driveway

 

Since mating occurs between May and Mid-July (we think and) the mother’s and cubs stay together 2-3 years we think it was a mother and an older cub.  This was a really great sighting because according to Western Wildlife.org  “Grizzly bears have one of the slowest reproductive rates among terrestrial mammals, due to their late age of first reproduction, small average litter size, and the long interval between litters: it may take a single female 10 years to replace herself in a population.”  All of us were incredibly excited and I was so happy that my hands stayed steady enough on super zoom to get the shot.  In that moment, I felt really calm and very focused. And as Deb said, “That made our Glacier.” Not only did we get to experience it, but we got to do it with our really good friends. Plus Steve’s $15 tip really worked lol.  That’s only $7.50 a bear…a bargain at any price!  (I am kidding about the tip of course)

You might think the rest of the day was anticlimactic, but it was great in different ways. First we stopped at this little town called Polebridge (when I say town I mean 5 buildings and a street, and checked out their bakery and gift store.  Steve and I are addicted to Huckleberry Bear Claws and these were amazing.  Really cute store and we loved the little town in the middle of nowhere. Plus pastry yummy.

 

The one store

The one store

Working phone and mailboc

Working phone and mailbox

Little bit of everything and their prices were decent

Little bit of everything and their prices were decent

Deb and Steve checking it out

Deb and Steve checking it out

I loved the individual bandaids for sale

I loved the individual bandaids for sale

Lee loved the lending library

Lee loved the lending library

Polebridge, definitely worth a stop

Polebridge, definitely worth a stop

After leaving the town we also saw 6 deer at various stages along the road.  The sixth was a cool buckling but I didn’t get a picture of it.

Lee's picture

Lee’s picture, how awesome is that

In the meadow

In the meadow

Another pair in the woods

Another pair in the woods

 

 

 

 

 

 

After another hour or so of we  came to Kintla Lake.  It was beautiful but unfortunately overcast by this time and I really wanted a picture with the sun out.  We had a snack and watched the lake and Steve intentionally waited until we got a little break in the clouds and I got a few shots with the sun.  Very sweet of him.  We also saw what I think was an Osprey across the lake on the outer edges of my zoom limit.  My favorite part of the lake and adjoining campground was it allowed no motorized boats and all the campers had tents.  Even the camp host was in a tent, albeit a nice one.  We were only 14 miles from the Canadian border and felt really remote, but it was nice to have a bathroom accessibly, lol. I took about a million rock pictures, I really do love rocks, and made another major check off my RV bucket list.  If you come for Glacier I highly recommend staying at Fish Creek and making this drive.  It’s long but so worth it, and if you have the chance do it with friends because it makes the experience so much more special.

Kintla Lake

Kintla Lake view to the right

The view to the left

The view to the left

Favorite rock shot

Favorite rock shot

So much variety

So much variety in the types of rocks

I could have taken pictures of rocks all day :)

I could have taken pictures of rocks all day 🙂

Osprey

With the occasional bird thrown in!!

So we headed back after a full day for some yummy steak dinner and a few games of Qwerkle.  Next up: some hikes Deb has scheduled for us and hopefully some more animal sightings.  So far this is a fantastic trip and I can’t wait to see what happens next!!  And on a completely side note, our friends Bill and Kelly just completed their one year on the road.  Here’s the link to an absolutely fantastic write up of their first year.  She did a great job and congratulations you guys!!

Campground Reviews

Fish Creek Campground West side of Glacier National Park 4 out of 5 pine cones

Even though the park was very full, it was blessedly quiet and the treed spaces give an illusion of privacy although you are very close to people.  We were in site B89 and Deb and Steve are in B92 across from us and although the pull through circular sites are a tight fit we both got our 40 foot rigs in with minimal maneuvering. Dump station and solid Verizon and AT&T coverage.  restricted generator hours.  Essentially they are during meal times 8-10am, 12-2pm, and 5-7pm.  Well kept, well-managed,  Showers available but only in Loop A which is a 5 minute walk for those in other loops.  Keep in mind you need to by a $30 seven day parks pass (on top of your $23 a night fee), but we recommend the $80 America the Beautiful pass which is good for one year on all federal land.

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14 thoughts on “First Time Seeing a Grizzly Bear

  1. So happy for you guys – seeing a grizzly in the wild! How cool is that? And – getting those awesome pics!
    Also happy for you that you FINALLY found a chair you are happy with! We are going to need to replace a few of ours – maybe now is a good time!
    Thanks also for the shout-out! Hope you enjoy the second installment just as much!

  2. Awesome reporting on what you guys are seeing at the park and how you are doing it! And how true about finding the perfect folding chair – I’m still on the lookout for a couple.

    I always learn a lot from your posts. Even the generator selection and usage info is helpful. I’ll have to go back and try and find a post about your solar system setup. I must have missed that one. I read Debs blog as well. She has given me some great advise along the way.

  3. Glacier NP is still on our TODOS list. Thanks for all the great info and fantastic photos. Those bears were amazing!!! I too love rocks and if you haven’t been to the rocky coast of Maine…put it on your list;o)) Keep having fun and sharing you wonderful photos!

  4. I got a little of a kick about the toaster, I done away with my toaster awhile back. and now just make toast in the skillet, like toasted cheese sandwichs, I love your blogs. The photos are great. I am not a full timer, but a extended time traveler. I’ve been to Yellowstone park 33 times. I am still learning from every ones experiences.Good and bad.I follow Howard and Linda for past 5 or 6 years. I say you are doing it right. Traveling while your young, and in good health. I’m 67 and have diabetes, but I still like to get out. I was married for 23 years,divorced for 24 years. Anyway, I got carried away. You and Lee enjoy your time.

  5. Pingback: First Year – By the Numbers | Camper Chronicles

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