Archive for bear

From Utah to Montana…

Posted in documentary, landscape, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 18, 2011 by christine redmond

Continued from my post On the road in California….

So when we returned to San Francisco, we were smelly, tired and broke (already). We slept in the airport and flew out to Salt Lake City on an early morning flight. We were relieved to find the hostel we had booked was cheap and cheerful. Showered immediately and decided to plan our trip to Yellowstone National Park immediately. We quickly realized that the bus service we had intended to take was not sure a thing. In fact, public transportation to Yellowstone and within Yellowstone was non-existent. Without a car we had no hope.

After seeking some advice from fellow travelers in the hostel, we decided to head to Jackson Hole, where we planned to set up camp, and maybe travel to Grand Teton National Park. In the mood to celebrate our new plan we decided to hit the town, little did we know we were slap bang in the middle of the most non-existent city in America. The streets were empty, the restaurants were closed, the place was like a set from a postapocalyptic movie. I did not take any photos of SLC – because there was nothing to take photos of. We did however find a bar and succeeded in finding drinks, which continued when we returned to our hostel and were welcomed with open arms by drunk Americans (my favourite kind of American).

Next day we were back on the bus, this time heading to Jackson. When we arrived (7 hours later) we found no campsites in the town. Reluctantly we got a taxi to the nearest campsite, 10 miles from Jackson, in Gros Vente. We pitched our tent in the dead darkness of night. It soon hit us that we were in bear country and our campsite didn’t have bear lockers. Terrified, we decided to leg it down the road and tie our food in back sack in a tree. Good plan if we had some rope. Instead we tried to use a bungee cord I had accidentally stolen from our San Francisco bike rental company. Didn’t work. Just as I was struggling with this pathetic attempt at survival, we heard running and growling. It sounded like whatever it was, was right at our heels. We fled, running as fast as we could with pounding hearts until we reached our tent. It was dark. We left a bag of found on the ground just 100ft from our tent and now there was a snarling monster waiting outside in the shadows for us. Things couldn’t get much worse. We tried to calm ourselves down and go asleep. Just as I beginning to convince myself we were going to live, the sky erupted with the loudest thunder I have heard. Flashes of lightening lit up our small tent. Things had gotten worse. The storm seemed to last all night. I stayed awake all night praying to God we would make it out alive. We did. First thing in the morning we packed our stuff. We retrieved our bag, untouched which was a relief and began our walk back to Jackson. As we left the campsite entrance, another camper pointed out something sight worthy on the dusty ground. A single moose leg. A bear’s left overs. Dying to flee this place immediately we figured our best bet was to hitchhike. We were picked up by a wonderful elderly couple who had been on the road for months and had lots of stories and advice to impart.

When we reached Jackson again we caught a bus to Grand Teton National Park. We jumped off at Jenny Lake and set up our tent in an ideal campsite, situated at the foot of the Grand Teton Range and Jenny Lake, but also just behind the ranger station which gave a small sense of security. Our time in Jenny Lake was the best time in the entire trip. The scenery was breathtaking as was the wildlife. Our first day there, while on a short hike, we almost bumped into a mother moose and baby and we were also lucky enough to see a bear. On our second day we did a 12 mile hike to reach the stunning height and views of Amphitheatre Lake. When descending the mountain, we encountered another bear. This time, it was just the two of us, with no bear spray. Afraid and unsure what to do, we very, very slowly backed away until we reached a corner. We waited in the hope another hiker would pass by and we could all walk past the bear together. We were in luck, along came Bob, our saviour, who joined us and we passed the bear as a trio (much better than a scared duo). When we reached the bottom, Bob generously gave us pretzels and home-made cookies and gave us a ride back to our campsite where we all went for a freezing cold splash in Jenny Lake.

On day three we had succeeded in finding a bus company that could provide a service from Grand Teton to Yellowstone and 7 stops within Yellowstone itself! We were thrilled. We boarded the bus early in the morning and we very welcomed by our bus driver as we were his only passengers. As our bus journey progressed our bus driver became stranger and stranger. His remarks on our appearance began to get creepy and overstep the line. We decided we’d enough and asked to be let off at the next stop so we could explore on our own. He stopped talking to us and we rode in silence until the next stop. As we left, he offered to pick up his car after his shift to spend the day with us, driving us around. Our declination to spend the day with him was more than awkward. As he drove off we realized we were stranded in Madison, miles from Old Faithful where we had wanted to go. We had no option but to hitchhike again. Luckily,  we were picked up by an elderly man and his daughter. We saw Old Faithful and a brief walk around before we had to catch the bus back. We waited and we waited. No bus. Almost 2 hours later, after much argument and frustrated phone calls between Aoife and bus company, a bus appeared. The driver appeared, he was wearing oversized gardening gloves that were black with dirt, his hair was dripping with grease and slick back over his forehead and his eyes were black and crazy. Again, we were the only passengers. We all rode in silence for an hour until he demanded $10 each from us, threatening to leave us on the highway if we didn’t pay. Eventually we made back to our campsite, relived we were still alive (again.)

Our fourth day and Grand Teton was our last day and we spent it casually, on gentle hikes and lying on the beach. It was then back to SLC the next day, where we painfully tried to kill some hours. Aoife departed that night and I slept in the airport, leaving the following morning. It was relief to think about returning to my home, with a warm bed and hot meals but also a terrible disappointment to consider the wonderful tranquility and pace of life I had grown accustomed to.  It was the trip of the lifetime and it has only inspired me to do more with all aspects in my life. I’m still paying it off, but it was very, very worth it!