Slough Creek Trail, on the way to backcountry camping, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. This photograph was taken on a hot, hot day at the end of July. It’s usually better to hike earlier in the day, but the relative flatness of the trail, plus some logistics we had to take care of meant a late start for our first attempt at backcountry camping. The trail heads through beautiful natural meadows, and passes distant fly fishermen focussed on persuading curious trout to come ashore.
Arriving to our backcountry site, sweaty and bitten by mosquitos and horseflies, we bathed in the cool water of the Hornaday River. We had set up the tent, and had started preparing to cook, when a hiker stopped by the campsite. He had a story to tell – he’d seen a grizzly nosing around the next campsite along the trail, about 800m or so away. He said “the bear wasn’t afraid of entering campsites”.
The truth is, bears are rarely afraid of entering a campsite – the mixture of delicious food and other novelty smells – like propane or soap, is just too much to resist. That’s why it’s important to store all food and toiletries either in a steel bearbox, provided at some campsites, or high up in a bag, on a bear pole, where even the hungriest and most inquisitive grizzlies can’t reach it. While the advice from the passerby was welcome, and useful, it meant that our first night in the Yellowstone wilderness was a bit more nervous than it needed to be. In the end, we saw no grizzly, and if one passed through our campsite during the night, he or she left no trace, and didn’t bother us.