Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Ptarmigan Tunnel Glacier National Park August 4, 2010

This is the junction where we began our trek to the Ptarmigan Tunnel.  It was steeper then the trail to Iceberg Lake yet it was still winding and narrow and lush and loaded with colorful wildflowers.  We hiked at a slower pace and kept in a tight knit group, announcing our presence continuously.  We met four other folks returning who had been through the tunnel and said it was spectacular!  We were ready for more spectacular! 
About two kilometers into the hike, movement off to the far left caught my eye.  There was a grizzly mom with her cub following behind.  WOW!  My heart skipped a beat and I stopped in my tracks.  They were far enough away that we felt safe staying where we were and watching.
Then from behind a bush came another cub!  WOW!  I zoomed in as far as I could to get this shot.  We figured this was the mom and two cubs that the Ranger ran into just a few days ago.   We watched them in amazement.  The Mom spent her time eating while the cubs bounced around and played.
Mom then headed further along the side of the meadow away from us.  We stayed and watched to see where she was going and to watch her babies follow her.  The space between them grew then she stopped and turned around waiting for them.
Then from behind another bush came a third cub.  WOW!  OMG!  We were all speechless!  We stared in awe!  They stuck together and bounced along to catch up.  They looked so playful and furry and were having fun.
Mom lead her cubs further down the trial and we watched as she led them onto the trail which is shown at the bottom of the photo.  The trees were very sparse and we had a great view.  We could see further down the trail that a lone hiker was coming along and was probably unaware about an encounter that was soon to happen. We blew whistles, waved our poles and hollered as loud as we could.  We then saw the hiker wave poles and retreat back quite a piece back along the trail.  We then noticed the hiker up along the ridge beneath the mountain following along pass the bears down on the trail.  We watched the hiker and waiter to hear their story.  What a story she had to tell!  She was thankful for our warning.  She said she could hear us plain as day.  She ended being only a few feet away and said the bears knew she was there but seemed oblivious to her being there.  She felt they would probably move on across the path and head down the mountain and that we would be safe if we carried on.  We had already waited there an hour and felt it wasn't worth it to take the chance.
We were all in agreement that we had an awesome experience already and we should call it a day and head back.  While all this was going on we were not paying attention to what was taking place behind us.  We turned around to begin the hike back and within 2 minutes came upon a mother moose and her calf.   WOW!   
We watched in amazement as they fed.  When the calf was done eating, it played around and then crossed the trail in front of us.  We should have left when the going was good.  Now the trail separated Mom from baby!
The baby stopped and stared at us.  It was the cutest big thing.  We stayed put until either one of them crossed the trail to the other side which finally happened about 20 minutes later.   Baby went back to Mom and they carried off further into the bush.
That was our sign to carry on.  This was the only other wildlife sighting and we just snapped a quick shot and moved on with no issues here to deal with.
Instead of the 8km extra mileage we planned to add, we only added 4km. I felt no sense at all of disappointment in not reaching the Ptarmigan Tunnel.  I hear it is a sight and its amazing and spectacular and has lots of WOW factor.  Well, so was what we just experienced!  This turned out being a perfect day and I would not have wanted it to play out any other way.  It will be a day that I will remember for ever!

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