A Grizzly Bear Stares Us Down as Elk Munch Leaves

After a dinner of fine grass-fed steaks cooked on the grill, (about as good as steak can get, and I’ve had Kobe as well as Smith and Wolensky beef), we ventured out for a wildlife watch. These of course can be disappointing, but as we drove over the dirt road toward a vantage point, I had a good feeling.

We set ourselves up with binoculars and cameras on the top of a bluff overlooking a grove of diamond willow, aspen and choke cherry trees. Nobody spoke above a whisper, and the only sound was the buzzing insects and an occasional bird. A wide stream meandered through this lush green grove, surrounded in the distance by the dry yellow fields dotted with large rolled up haybales. We had a perfect vantage point and began scanning the wide view for animal life. “Look carefully into the green,” Steve advised, “look for differences in the green, that’s where you’ll see the animals.”

After a few minutes of careful scanning, I spotted two elk in a grove, eating leaves from trees. The male had a large rack of furry antlers and he was joined by a female, also dining on leaves. They were far away but with my binoculars and a good camera, I was able to snap their photo. But the best was to come.

We watched the elk until they wandered out of view, and then suddenly we heard Steve whisper loudly–“Bear!” A grizzly bear popped out of the woods into the water. He stood up, a face framed in silver, and looked right up at us from about 75 yards. It was an incredible moment, as we all watched this ferocious animal staring right at us, and then he ambled through the water and crawled into the brush. We trained our binocs on the surrounding bushes and heard some crashing in the woods, but we didn’t see him again.

Then we allowed ourselves to be silent again. Sitting with four others overlooking this vast panorama of nature,not making a sound, it was like a scene in an African oasis. We let the quiet envelope us and we scanned the streamside and the distant meadows for more signs of life.

Then a pair of beavers swam across the wider part of the stream, swimming strong and leaving a wake heading for their lodge at the water’s edge. Far off in the distance, we saw whitetail deer grazing on grass, and more elk running away toward a distant grove.

A big bull elk crashed through the woods and emerged into a clearing, and we watched it make its way and then disappear in the green. We thought he might have been running from the bear so we moved a little further to the left, to a higher bluff.

The quiet and the richness of this wildlife and this special place would be with us for a long time. And Donnie decided she’d rather spend the night at Steve and Alison’s place than alone in a distant cabin right near where we saw that grizzly.