If you’d told me twenty years ago that my 61 year old self would even think about spending six days backpacking in grizzly country, I’d have laughed you out of the room. Wasn’t gonna happen. I wouldn’t even consider car camping in grizzly country – I sure as heck wasn’t going to put myself miles and miles from the safety of my car.
I mean, this guy looks friendly enough, but not if I’m seeing him at night from my tent.
So, hiking up the Hobnail Tom Trail in the Scapegoat Wilderness last week – fifteen miles from the car – I had a little conversation with 41 year old Cindy: “See? You just never know. You’re out here, and you’re enjoying yourself – not scared, not exhausted (well, maybe a little) and…even kind of old!”
(To be honest, I did do another backpack in grizzly country 10 years ago. I was proud of myself then, too, but it was for three nights, not five. So I’m improving. At this rate I’ll do a seven-night trip when I’m 71, nine nights at 81, eleven nights at 91…)
The four of us – the same four who took the three-night trip ten years ago – were pretty chipper at the the trailhead. The weather forecast was perfect, and I was not even too freaked out by the big pile of bear poop on the road as we drove into the parking area. (Bill tried to tell me it was a cow pie. It was not.)
We loaded up our packs, and started up the North Fork of the Blackfoot. Hiking up rivers is the way to go; it’s not too steep, and there’s always a nice view.
We stopped for lunch at a pack bridge, and chatted with a guy who was leading a pack train out. He was the last person we’d see for the next five days.
After about 7 miles we reached Blackfoot Falls. It’s a gorgeous spot, but unfortunately you’d need to be on the other side of the river to get a good view of the falls. And not so good for camping, since there doesn’t seem to be any easy way to get to the river at that point. So on we went.
The plan was to take two days to hike the fifteen miles to the Carmichael guard station, where we’d camp for three nights, and do day hikes from our base camp. The moon rose in a clear sky on the first night, and I actually managed to get some sleep – helped by the fact that we hadn’t seen any bear sign since the scat at the trailhead.
Our base camp was in a lovely meadow along Cooney Creek. The creek was the perfect spot to relax at the end of the days, and a grand spot for a slightly freezing bath.
We hiked the surrounding peaks, chatted at the end of the day, and were kept awake by a camp deer who got increasingly braver and more curious the longer we stayed.
It’s late in the season for wildflowers, but there were a few stunning patches, and I had time to keep tabs on a spider who had spun a shiny web near our camp.
We even managed to re-enact the scene on the Mountain House freeze-dried meal packages. Have you ever noticed the happy, perky, good-looking young backpackers on those packages?
Here’s the not-so-young version:
My coffee cup even had a good time. Not that I think it’s ever been afraid of bears.