We are happy to be back in the Grand Tetons! It is one of our favorite places to hike. We boon-docked here last August, and this time we are dry camping in Gros Ventre Campground, which is located right near the Gros Ventre River.
We got there around 6:00 p.m. After we set up, we took a walk down the path to the river just before sunset. We were pleasantly surprised by the first moose cow we came upon.
It wasn’t long before we saw another moose cow and two bulls across the river. I got a little nervous and wanted to head back to camp.
The next morning we got up early to begin an 11-mile hike to Surprise Lake. One of our first views on this beautiful morning was the Grand Tetons.
This was an impressive and challenging hike with an elevation gain of 3,143’. It was also the first hike that I encountered not one, not two, but four bears!!! Scott may be comfortable with the possibility of seeing bears on a hike, but I am still working on dealing with my adrenaline rush coupled with heavy breathing. We began our initial ascent on Lupine Meadow Trail.
One of the first signs we saw warned us of it being bear country, even though we already knew that. Last year we encountered one moose but no bears.
I was ready to go. I even wore my distance glasses so that I could spot wildlife more easily.
On our initial ascent, we encountered the first bear not six feet off the trail. I was in the lead and Scott said, “Sue. Stop. Bear.” I walked right past it without even seeing it. I quietly made my way behind Scott while he snapped this photo. I had my hand on the bear spray can as my breathing accelerated. Scott was in his glory.
Not too much farther up on the trail, we encountered our second bear. This time, I spotted a young cub. Again, my heart began to race as I made my way behind Scott. He instructed me to grab the bear spray as he snapped away. I couldn’t even think about taking out my phone to take a picture.
At this point, I was concerned about going up any farther. We were close to Surprise Lake, so I shook off my fears and we continued up. We finally made it to the first of two lakes. It was quite peaceful and beautiful.
We continued up for about a half a mile until we reached Amphitheater Lake, Elevation 9,698’.
We continued walking up beyond the lake and found some amazing views.
Soon, we began our descent. As we approached Surprise Lake again, I wanted to stop and sit for awhile. As we got closer to the water, I heard something making noise in the bushes not far from us. Scott was oblivious to the sound. I told him to stop and listen. All of a sudden, we could see the bushes by a tree moving. I saw dark black fur on top of the greenery. Scott turned towards me for a split second and missed the BIG BLACK BEAR that peered at me from behind the tree. It was a BIG bear! My heart started beating rapidly, but Scott didn’t see the bear and was not alarmed. I think that he knew by my actions that there had to have been a bear by the tree. Instead of hanging out by “Surprise” Lake, we headed down the trail. Scott was in the lead trying to talk me into calming down, to no avail. We had picked up our speed, and all of a sudden, I tripped and went flying into the air. I landed on my right forearm and I screamed for him to pick me back up. I was shaking with fear, expecting the big, black bear to catch us.
Eventually, I calmed down. It was the THIRD bear that we had seen on one hike. Soon after, we came to a switchback, where we saw about eight hikers waiting below us, calling to a bear. That is when we noticed it semi concealed by a tree.
The excitement was over and we continued making our way down the trail. I was very alert for furry wild animals lurking in the brush, but all we saw for the remainder of the hike was the beautiful landscape below us.
We survived. We are alive.