To continue the exciting adventure (this one involves bears, it really is exciting)…
We went to the grocery store on the way, found some of Greg’s favorite beer (there seem to be a lot of these!) in CANS! and got some rice and beans, etc, and headed to the trailhead. It was 90F when we set off, and it was very warm hike. Getting to elevation was actually very nice, since it cooled off up there. The National Forest Service has cabins in Montana which are old ranger stations which you can rent for super cheap. There are typically 4 cots, a table, somewhere to store food, a woodstove and wood (a supply of chopped as well as wood to chop and replace what you used) some pots and pans, and a outhouse. These things are super. We’ve stayed in them before and I was super excited. The hike up to the Mystic Lake Cabin involved a lot of uphill, a beautiful meadow, and we were so excited to finally see the lake! Alas, the way to the cabin is over the river and through the woods (literally) and so by the time we got there we were about a mile past done. It’s 5.5 miles in, mostly uphill, and we had packs with our food and clothes and sleeping bags. My brothers are way more hardcore and their packs would be lighter. We’re on vacation, we brought beer.
So we arrived at the cabin, which was great, and Greg went fishing, I pulled out the knitting, and soon enough we were hungry. Popped the beers in the river to cool off, cooked some rice and beans, and had a fantastic night. The rice and beans were beyond delicious. We were hungry, first off, and that always helps, but making something somewhat real in the middle of the woods is very satisfying. Up until this point Greg has sworn he doesn’t like card games or Scrabble. However, with nothing else to do, we played gin rummy and found that in actuality, he does like at least one card game! Yeah! This means I can stop playing solitaire. And lends hope towards Scrabble.
We had debated a hike the next day, but it was so nice there, we decided just to hang out. Greg went fishing, I knit, played solitaire, and my favorite activity of the day, starting the stove. This stove is awesome. I rarely see cast iron stoves and even rarer ones that work. I was beyond excited to see that I could make water boil on this stove. The wood wouldn’t catch at first, but since I had all day, literally, I kept at it and eventually, we had fire. I cannot even explain how excited I was about this. I kept taking movies of the stove burning, I kept looking out to see if Greg was coming to show him my conquest, I boiled pot after pot of water, it was great. We reheated the rice and beans in the skillet, I had a great time with this stove. It pleased me beyond the point which it should have. But look at this thing, it rocks!!! Like my Philias Cadorette spinning wheel, I am endlessly pleased by the attention to detail. They could have made the handles less exciting, could have omitted the ships, not written THE GREAT MAJESTIC!! all over it and it still would have boiled water just fine. But they did, and it’s all the more awesome for that.
We played rummy by headlamp, and eventually fell asleep. We didn’t bring a watch. We didn’t have one, and apparently my cell phone only tells you what time it is if there’s a signal, which in the middle of the woods there was none. It was so great to not know what time it was. It didn’t matter. We got up when the sun rose, went to bed when it went down and we were tired of playing cards with headlamps, ate when we were hungry, it was very… natural? organic? I guess just very nice. That second night we went down to the lake to watch and we found a bald eagle fishing in the lake, some elk on the other side, and I was beginning to think “there are no bears here.” The eagle was really cool to watch. We were laughing that eagles are so bad-ass that they evolved to have the white head and be easily spotted in the trees, like “dude, you can’t get me, I’ll scratch your eyes out! Just try it! I’m SO COOL.” Ben Franklin wanted a turkey as our mascot, but we agreed that a turkey just wouldn’t have the same, je ne sais quois.
Here’s the exciting part. As I said, we’d been all outside for days now, no bears. I insist on talking loudly when we’re hiking to alert any bears that hello! I’m coming. When I’m walking down to the river by myself, I preceed myself with “hello! Here I come!” over and over. I like to announce myself. I don’t want to startle anyone. Just before we reached the meadow on the way down, perhaps we hit a lull in conversation, perhaps the brook was too loud, perhaps we (unbelievably) weren’t stinky enough after not showering in 4 days, but somehow, just as I’d finally thought “hiking out here is so RELAXING!” crash! Bushes being trampled by a brown blur (the grizzly kind), about 50 yards ahead of us. I, despite my training, yell bear! and look around for cubs. Greg has more foresight and watches the bear, which simply crosses the path at high speed and heads up on the other side. It didn’t want anything to do with us, but scared the bejezzus out of us. We backed up the trail, waited a few minutes, and proceeded down again, banging sticks, yelling about how all we wanted was some coffee, and our car, could we please just get to our car, we’d like some coffee. The perfect bear sighting. Scared the crap out of us, but no confrontation, everyone behaved as the little pamphlet says they should (both us and the bear) and the rest went uneventfully, if totally paranoid. We yelled for the next hour and a half. And the couple we met on a hike up (with makeup and the question “so where does this trail go?”), after a warning about it, could be heard “whoop!”-ing every few minutes, which we thought was hysterical.
Got to the car, and went to get some coffee.