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The Cordial Grizzly

He wasn't exactly a teddy bear, but he merrily went about his business on the Highline Trail and gave us a few grins
One of the most frequent questions visitors to Glacier National Park ask is: "Where can I see a bear?" The tried and true method is to quickly pull over anytime you see two or more cars at the side of the road with the occupants fixing their gaze in the same direction. At the visitor centers, rangers give helpful information but for obvious reasons may not be too specific and probably won't divulge everything they know. It can also help to keep your ears open and strike up conversations with other visitors; few visitors will want to keep their bear experience a secret! That is how we got a lead on the Cordial Grizzly. We overheard some park guests discussing their delight at seeing a young male grizzly that had been making morning visits to the Highline Trail over the past few days. (I'm not sure how they determined that the grizzly was a male, maybe I don't want to know).

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Anyway, it didn't take any other coaxing to get us to hike the Highline Trail the next day and sure enough, about 11 am, we spotted a grizzly below us, working his way up the slopes just south of Haystack Butte. He wasn't in any particular hurry, and slowly climbed while stopping frequently to dig a bit. He seemed to not have a care in the world as he would flash us what looked like a grin and stopped to playfully roll around in the beargrass. A lot of his digging seemed to be directed at hornet's nests, as we were close enough to often see a swarm of angry hornets around him as he dug.

 Below left:  our first glimpse of the bear, downhill from the Highline Trail, just south of Haystack Butte.  Below right:  Playing around in the beargrass

At one point, he got on the actual Highline Trail and started walking toward some southbound hikers who hastily retreated up and off the trail. He turned off the trail well before getting near them and continued upward.

Eventually he ended up in the notch between Haystack Butte and the Garden Wall ridge, still digging up hornet's nests. At this point, we didn't want to make him feel like we were total groupies and we had to get over Swiftcurrent Pass and down to Many Glacier, so we left our cordial bear to perform for the large crowd that had gathered. If only all grizzly bear encounters were like this!

I hesitated to post this, as it is obvious that one should never TRY to get this close to a grizzly bear. This guy however, got close to us. After he crossed the trail going uphill, we tried to put some distance between him and us by going away from him, north on the trail, but he ended up following us northward. As you can see from the last photo, we made sure we weren't the closest hikers to the bear!  

Below:  Grizzly digging around the rocks on the right, hikers with cameras on the left

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