Grizzly Bear Encounters in the North Cascades & Washington State

My ex gf (no, a grizzly bear did not eat her) and I were hiking in late spring last year in the north cascades of Washington state on the Panther Creek trail. We were the only ones on the trail accept for 2 trail guys clearing blowdown off the trails.

Our hike was loop trail from Colonial Creek campground to HWY 20 – anyways we got to the pass and there was still snow and a fair amount, though it was mostly packed down.

I hate backtracking and I am a confident outdoorsman, so we followed the trail on until we lost it at one point. I knew basically where we were though and we bushwacked it down the side of the mountain from there.

I might add I had a compass and a map, which my GF ended up dropping – oops, but I basically knew where we were. We eventually picked up the trail again once we got down to the river (Panther Creek).

On this part the river was quite loud and there were areas that were open due to avalanche chutes knocking down the trees.

Was around one of these open areas we came around a corner in the trail and suddenly heard the sound of twigs snapping down by the river. I think we may have been downwind and also, as I remember, at that point were not talking (big no-no in grizzly bear habitat).

Anyways, I stopped and saw this good size grizzly bear running up the the hillside from the river area to the trail we were on. I was not scared, but definitely had a feeling of like WOW and exhilaration!! I am 6’4 and my gf was 5’4 and she was pretty surprised, too. I did lift my arms up above my head and gave a loud HEY there!! as he was running full tilt. I guess I wanted him to make sure he knew we were there as we obviously surprised him.

I am not 100 % sure it was a grizzly bear though. It did look like one with the color, although black bears can be blond, and the build and ears. He was moving though, so its hard to say 100%.

It was both our first encounter ever meeting a bear nearly face to face in the wild and one I won’t soon forget. Once he got to the same trail we were on, the bear meandered quickly on down the trail out of sight and up the steep side of the mountain.

I told my shocked gf the good news is they do not look at you as food normally and don’t want anything to do with us and he would run off and we would not see him again. I told her that although we had to go same way the bear, I knew he would be gone and he was.

Regardless, I picked up a good size stick, which would likely do nothing but make you feel a lil better. We did not see any more bears that day, although we did see many more bear tracks in snow and mud.

We made the longer then expected hike down to the road by dinner time and ended up hitching a ride to the campground.

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Grizzlies in Salmo-Priest Wilderness/Colville National Forest

Just two days ago, my boyfriend and I were finishing up a three day loop through the Salmo-Priest Wilderness area and Colville National Forest that passes through Washington and Idaho. I had been very cautious the whole trip whistling, singing and talking but had started to get less alert at this point as grizzlies sightings are rare in this area.

It was the hot part of the day and we were chatting with about 2 miles to go to our car when all of sudden we heard this huge rumble of movement in the bushes and cracking branches just to the right of the trail. It sounded as though something large was running, though its direction was unclear.

I whipped out my bear spray and stood ready for defense when we saw branches violently shaking up a tree and thought PHEW! It’s probably a black bear and so we took a step farther up the trail when there was another rush of movement. We steadily took a few steps back when we saw the beautiful gold brown form of a mama grizzly bear retreating through a clearing and up over a small ledge about 30 feet away with a little cub in tow. The cub paused on top of the ledge and stared at me for a few seconds before continuing beyond our view with its mother.

We could still hear the rustle in the tree and realized it must be another cub so we had better get out of there before mama comes back to rescue it.

We went back the trail a few minutes and waited on a stunning mountain meadow with a spectacular view for the grizzly cub to climb down and retreat to a comfortable distance. After a little while we very slowly continued on the trail singing rounds as loud as we could with brief intervals to stop and listen.

We happily did not encounter the mother grizzly bear again and made it back to the car in one piece and good spirits.

We think the grizzlies must have been taking an afternoon nap in a nice little shaded area (we were on the north slope) and didn’t hear us talking and moving until we were just next them.

All the elements were there for a really bad grizzly bear experience and I am so glad the circumstances were just right to leave us with a good story and no injuries or wet pants. Besides, our main reason for going to this area is because it is the only place in Washington that Grizzlies and collection of others animals reside or visit.

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