“Jane!” Mark said. “Go back up the hill!”
We had been goofing around down at the Shoshoni River’s edge in Rex Hale Campground in Wyoming just outside of Yellowstone. Mark was perched crazily on a big rock, and I was just getting ready to snap his picture when he yelled to me.
I looked to where he was pointing and gasped as I saw a mama grizzly bear and two cubs. They were on the opposite shore of the river, only about 50 feet from us. Mama Bear was standing on her two back paws sniffing the air and then she locked her gaze on us.
Immediately every story I’ve ever heard about the ferocity of mama bears flashed through my mind. Indeed bear warnings were posted in all the latest campgrounds we’d been at. Unfortunately, my feet moved faster than my brain, and I slipped and fell on my rear. I grabbed at the shrubbery to prevent me from sliding down even closer to the bears. I regained my footing and sprinted up the hill wondering what Mark was doing and what the bears were doing.
I heard Mark calling to me and looked back hoping to see him right behind me. Nope. He was still down on the rock with his camera taking pictures. He decided not to run because of safety procedures that have been drilled into us since we’ve been in bear country: “Bears like to chase fleeing prey; don’t run. Stand your ground and use your bear spray.” I can attest that it’s instinctual to run. I’d never seen a grizzly in the wild before this day. They are terrifying. Mark stood still but managed to snap a few pictures while slowly backing off, bear spray in his pocket.
I signalled to him that I was safe at the top of the hill, and he soon joined me. We watched as the Mama bear herded her two cubs back into the brush for a few minutes. Then they reappeared. What followed was an extraordinary hour of us watching the mama and her cubs as they ate and played along the river’s edge. I ran back to our Winnie-Drop and grabbed my good camera with a longer lens hoping for some better pictures. Here’s what we got:
And here is a short video Mark was able to get:
Rex Hale Campground is surely a highlight for us. Besides the bears, we watched a bald eagle soaring across the mountains around us and were treated to a night sky just bursting with stars.
And best of all, we survived the grizzly encounter.
Kick up some dust!