Thirty minutes ago I was starting straight into the eyes of a juvenile black (even tho he was really brown in color) bear. Nearing the last leg of our journey to the top of Stuard’s peak and back, Britta and I rounded a corner only to be surprised by this little fella. Thankfully, we were following the rules of the wild & talked the whole way so it (thankfully) wasn’t surprised by our presence. He was standing up tall on his massive back two legs waiting for us to round the corner to check out what was making all that noise. We said “Hello Bear!” and slowly started to back away as I grabbed the bear spray off Britta’s bag & took the safety off. Now for our dilemma. We were 30 yards away from connecting to our last trail that would take us back to the safety of the trail head and mi baja. Did we continue on our present trail that would take right back into the area we just saw the bear, or did we backtrack 1.3 miles to a trail that would take us 30 yards in the other direction of where we just saw the bear? Either way, the bear sat at the intersection of 3 trails and we’d have to pass through there eventually. In the end we decided backtracking a bit, crossing the stream, and then going through a wide open field, a little ways off the trail was our best decision. We could still hear the mighty little bear crashing around in the brush not nearly as far away as we would like, but at least here, if it decided to come any closer, we wouldn’t be surprised by it. This was apparently a good choice b/c we didn’t see the bear again & the adrenaline of our sighting was enough to get us the last mile back to our car.
Rewind just about 12 hours to 7am that morning. My alarm clock started singing to let me know it was time to get a move on the day. Even though my friend Britta & I were trying to get an 8am start on the day’s hike, the trail head is only minutes from my house so I was able to sleep in relatively late. I packed my day pack & Bosco’s as well, making sure to add plenty of food & water to sustain both of us for what was about to be a long day’s hike.
Britta arrived, Bosco was happy to see her as always, and we were off towards the trail.
I had never summited Stuard’s peak but it was on my summer’s list & Britta was game so even though we knew the twenty mile hike (out and back) with a 4,000 ft gain to the top (which mostly packed into 5 of those miles) would be a challenge, we were up to it.
The view from the top was beautiful and well worth the hike. Vistas of at least four mountain ranges from the summit of Stuart Peak. Probably no other city has such a spectacular yet accessible wild area as Missoula with its backyard paradise, the 61,000-acre Rattlesnake National Recreation Area and Wilderness.
This hike will take you into some of the alpine lake country around Stuart Peak. We unfortunately did not stay long to take many pictures due to the amount of large flies that were using our bodies as their main food source for the day.
So as quickly as we got there we were back off down the trail. Not really, it took us nearly twice as long to go up as it did to get back down, but both ways took a toll on our bodies. Going up, I will not have buns of steel when i wake up tomorrow. The steep decline on the way back down shook all my joints, hips, knees, ankles, to their very core. Right up to the point where I rounded that bend and was staring into the eyes of a bear (we were pretty much the same height). Then my adrenaline took over & I felt like I could run to the top of that mountain if I needed to get away from it.
My life has taken me to some crazy places, especially since moving to Montana. I only dreamed as a little girl that my life could actually turn out this way, that there were so many beautiful things/people/places on this planet to enjoy.
Only thirty minutes ago I was staring into the eyes of a bear…
What were you doing thirty minutes ago?
|Length:||18 total miles|
|Elevation Gain:||4,000 feet|
|Duration:||Two- or three- night backpacking trip|
|Season:||Mid-June through September|
|Trailhead Elevation:||3,900 feet|