Taking the Road Less Travelled

There be bears

From the ridiculous to the sublime, Montana’s Glacier National Park was my Mustang’s next stop. Bordering Canada, it’s a sprawling 4,000 sq km ecosystem of mountains and forest, carved up by rivers and punctuated by retreating ice sheets. Dotted around the park are photos from 1910, when it was established. Back then it boasted 150 glaciers; now only 25 remain. Experts predict that all of them will have melted by 2030.

glacier-park-montana
Glacier Park, Montana

Keen to spy one I headed deep into the mountains, over the 80 km-long Going-to-the-Sun Road. The only west-east highway in the park, it is a spectacular feat of engineering. Hugging the cliffs, it climbs to 2,025m at Logan Pass, where it crosses the Continental Divide, then begins a helter-skelter descent down to the small hamlet of St Mary’s, with a lookout to Jackson Glacier en route.

But ice isn’t the only attraction. The next morning I drove to Many Glacier, at the quieter end of the park. I set off on foot to circle Swiftcurrent Lake – and almost immediately stumbled on some fresh bear scat, littered with berries. A grizzly was on the trail.

I paused. Then continued cautiously, the scent of wet fur lingering at every turn. But it wasn’t until I got back in my car that I saw my frizzy prizes. First a black bear and her cub crossed the road just in front of me. Then, only 200m on, I spotted something moving in the long grass by Lake Sherburne. I took out my binoculars, hands shaking. There, like a shaggy cow, was a large male grizzly hunting for berries. He lifted his head, sensing my presence, then went back to eating.

I stayed for nearly an hour, watching him tugging at the little purple fruits until I realised he was getting closer and it was time to retreat.

swiftcurrent-lake
Swiftcurrent Lake

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