07.08.2010 - 07.08.2010 29 °C
My plan for today was to hike up to Iceberg lake, roughly an eleven mile round trip. The Iceberg Lake trail starts in the Many Glacier region and I checked in at a Ranger station to see if there were any special warnings about the route. There were none, excpet to be aware that Many Glacier is very populous with bears so I should be sure to make lots of noise when talking.
Speaking of bears, this seems like an appropriate moment to mention the highly contradictory advice given about encounters with bears. On one hand you are warned be noisy on the other be quiet and make your way slowly. Some leaflets say you should make yourself large and intimidating, others say that to do so would be a threat and that you should just drop to the floor, play dead and presumably be a toy for the bear as it maimes you. Other leaflets say bear bells work well to warn bears of your approach, but the Rangers say they are useless. If a grizzy attacks it is probably doing it defensively so just put up with it for a while, whereas black bears don't attack to be defensive. I just hope I have enough time to asses not only whether I've been detected, but whether I should drop dead or fight hands and fists. It was at this point as I was going through the leaflets that I was glad I had my pepper spray on my hip and planned to make that my first port of call if I was confronted with a bear.
So, saturated with knowledge I head off along the trail. It wasn't too long before I bumped into a couple who were hiking the same way, who had bumped into another family and suggested I join them for the hike for our collective safety. Safety in numbers seemed like a good idea. They were interesting people, one was a union lawyer and the other worked for the charity Action Aid. Soon enough the eight of us came across another group of people and we became a trail of humanity collecting together to protect ourselves from the bears.
The hike up was pretty straightforwards and was well worth the two hours twenty minutes it took to get up to the lake. The lake sits high in the mountains and what is so great about it is that huge chunks of ice just float around the lake aimlessly, having fallen from the mountain glacier. After my spaghetti lunch we made our way back. On the way down we saw a few people stopped in the path looking up. It turned out that about 500m up the side of the mountain was a grizzy bear with a cub. It having a cub was not good news as regardless of their differences on most topics they universally agreed that a bear with a cub as most dangerous. The bears were moving towards our route, down through the trees so although we wanted to enjoy the sight, we didn't want to be there so long that our sight got much better! I found out on the way down that this trail had been closed for three weeks and opened for the first time today, this wasn't now too much of a surprise.
The hike over with I sat in my car thinking what to do next. Well Canada was just ten miles north and it was just too close for me to resist making the journey, crossing the border and getting my passport stampted. I got to the border, but I didn't want to drive over, so I went up to the border guards and asked them if I could walk. They retorted saying that both they and the Canadians frown upon people walking across the border. What did this mean? If I went over and got over would I not be allowed back? I didn't want to take my car over because I needed permission of my rental company, which I hadn't got. The US immigration said that if all I was doing was driving over and coming back there would be no trouble and the border is not GPS correct. The border guard did this with a great deal of pride as if suggesting that the Candians were stupid to have put their border station in the wrong spot. Was that stupid or the fact that the Americans had let it happen? I don't know. Something else tat I noted there were the car park full of idle US Border Patrol vehicles - I won't let Arizona know about this when I get to the Grand Canyon - they may not be best pleased.
I jumped into my car and drove up to the border, declared my pepper spray and asked if my passport could be stamped, which it was. There was a small shop on the border amongst the Alberta wilderness, had a look around and sent a couple of post cards. Most of the shop consisted of bone China of a young looking Queen of Canada and plates celebrating William's 21st birthday, nothing of the heir to the throne however.
A number of people I've met, once I spoken to them about my travels, suggest I must have a real travel bug and that I passed it onto them. I can't say I feel as though I'm exhibiting any symptoms. I feel less as though I'm travelling America, rather that I'm living here and have become a part of American society at large.
I'm pretty pleased with myself right at the moment. Not only do I have a Canadian stamp in my passport, but I have now driven the entire length of the contiguous United States, from New Orleans in the Gulf of Mexico all the way to Canada - that's a very long way and I can't help but find it a little overwhelming to think of where I've come from and all the things I've seen and experienced.