CDT August 16-22: Togwotee Pass to Yellowstone NP

GRIZZLIES, GEYSERS AND A VERY NICE HIKE:  On August 16 I reached Brooks Lake, a large lake in the Teton Wilderness, I read signs posted by the Forest Service warning of grizzlies and how to deal with encounters. I was extra cautious while hiking. This included daily practice quick-drawing the bear spray, talking frequently to a possible unsuspecting bear, not cooking in camp and hanging food 300 feet away from my tent at night. Being confident with the potential for bear encounter allowed me to enjoy the mountains, river valleys and mostly mellow trail.

On August 17 I had the pleasure to meet three Wyoming wildlife biologists who are studying grizzly bear in the Teton Wilderness area. Their work involved setting live traps so they can examine the animals and evaluate their health and other attributes, including learning how many grizzlies live in the area. So, yes, the grizzlies are out there, and my biggest fear, as I cooked my supper and the tiny cabin occupied by the biologists, was that I would meet a bear at such a vulnerable moment. Being on my feet with all my gear on my back gives me the option to move and avoid the encounter. I hoped.

The next day, on August 18, the weather was threatening as I set up my tent on a small, forested plateau. I was concerned about the many grizzly tracks and scat I observed right on the trail all day over the 20 miles I hiked. I was really surprised I did not see a bear hat day, given what I saw. That changed in a moment as my heart raced. The sound was unmistakable. I heard the cracking of wood typically made by large animals as they amble through a forest. I looked, saw a large dark colored animal, not yet able to distinguish it between bear, elk or moose. Only 150 feet away! It WAS a grizzly, and I was standing next to a fully set up tent, bear spray quickly drawn as practiced. What do I do now, I thought?

The bear saw me and made the decision for me. Smartly, it grunted and turned back the way it came! Away it went slowly and I somehow learned how to breath again.

Was I going to sleep in this camp? No way was my answer! I disassembled my tent with a sense of urgency not felt since April 18 at the Mexico border. In the increasingly rainy twilight I hiked north on the trail, while thanking the bear for turning back south. In one-half mile I found a “bearly” suitable campsite. Rain, thunder and lightning acted as additional cover from the grizzly in case it resumed it’s ambling northbound and somehow found me again. The grizzly never acted aggressively when in my presence, and I gave it little additional thought. Still, I was thrilled to experience my first grizzly encounter, and a careful smile was on my face as I reviewed the evening in my mind as I drifted to sleep under flashes of lightning. Awesome! Below is one of the tracks:

May the next encounter with grizzly be in a less vulnerable situation, please!

I entered Yellowstone the next morning, and chose another tiny ranger cabin to eat breakfast. Before breakfast I reached a meaningful point, the Snake River. After almost 1800 miles I dipped my hand in water that would eventually flow into the Columbia River in Portland, my home city. This felt so close to home!

I hiked YNP over five days. The CDT route was pleasantly mellow and I hiked pain-free until I tweaked an old plantar fascia injury. Par for the trail, I guess! No worries. The most notable aspect of Yellowstone is the presence of numerous geysers and fumerals, especially in the backcountry where they are not spoiled by the ravages of industrial tourism.


Another animal encounter was led stressful than the grizzly: A bison, apparently beaten in the rutting game, trudged slowly towards me on the trail. I risked taking cover just a few feet from the trail, camera in hand. Being that close to a bison was so unique and memorable.

It was another unforgettable moment on a 2800 mile journey.

As of August 24:
Miles hiked: 1809
Miles remaining: 851
Complete: 68%


10 thoughts on “CDT August 16-22: Togwotee Pass to Yellowstone NP

  1. What an adventure! Glad you are feeling better and to love photos you share along the trail.

  2. I know you would have been disappointed if your CDT adventure did not include some sort of encounter with a grizzly bear. Now that you have had one, I don’t feel bad hoping against hope that there won’t be any more, but (sigh), there is still Glacier National Park to get through. So keep up with the good bear avoidance practices. I wish I was there to sing Broadway tunes on the trail to help you scare them away! XOXOOXX

  3. I like John’s suggestion, or else bear bells that announce your presence. I saw both “Man in the Wilderness” and “The Revenant” and can’t forget Tristan’s brave last stand in “Legends of the Fall”. Do you think Brad Pitt (Tristan) or Richard Harris (Hugh Glass) thought to carry a soda can? Bet not.
    Great photo of that weary bison. You are in much better shape than he is.

    • I read a book about bear encounters and avoidance which suggested mechanical sounds are not as effective as human voices for alerting grizzlies of approaching people. In most areas I am hiking bears are accustomed to human presence and they prefer to ignore or avoid us. The sound of our voices is effective, assuming we remember to sound off.

  4. Gosh Roger can’t you walk a LITTLE faster and get out of BEAR COUNTRY? Really worried about you. Hope you see the Bear first. I remember talking about bears with you before you left Portland. I know you are a smart hiker and careful too. Good thoughts are coming your way. Warm regards Marian/Bob

  5. Yo Roger,
    Are you you weren’t just talking to yourself anyway.
    You’re on the home stretch.
    Thanks for the update
    Matt & Shelly

  6. Hi Roger/Greg.
    Thanks again for sharing your fabulous experience. Stay safe
    Love to you, Bill

  7. Roger: When I lived in Alaska and hiked in the wilderness especially in Denali and along the Kenai Peninsula, I and my mates would jerry rig “bear scares”, which are simply a loose pile of stones or rocks placed in a tin or aluminum can (like an empty ginger ale can) with a lid to cover it, and just shake that puppy the whole time we hiked. We were told that a bear heads away from noises–moves toward food. It worked while we were awake but it is a different story when we were asleep (who’s going to shake the can in their sleep.) Anyway, it worked.

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