A hike up Silver Star Mountain on a perfect summer morning
is always a rewarding experience. The slopes are adorned with expansive displays of purple, yellow and
white wild flowers, and the hazy views across to the jagged,
glaciated peaks of the Rockies are enough to wake the
soul. It all makes you good to feel alive as you slog up the
steep, dusty Milky Way hiking trail to the top.
Half way up, Jan noticed a small patch of huckleberry
bushes. Being from a working class upbringing in Northern England,
my instinctive reaction to any form of free food is to simply eat as much as
possible, very much in a Homer Simpson vein. Closer inspection revealed
luscious, ripe huckleberries all along the side of the trail, easily picked and
devoured in one swift, efficient arm movement. Needless to say I was last to
the top with a stomach and pocket full of hucks, and purple, sticky lips.
Huckleberries are the favorite food of black bears, and we’d
seen some ‘scatological’ evidence of their recent indulgence on the hike up. It
was no real surprise then that on the trail down, as Kathy walked over a slight
rise on a grassy, open ski trail, a bear was feeding about 50m in front of us,
very near the track. I’ve had very few close bear encounters, but a sudden
increase in heart rate is a common factor to all. Even hiking in bear country,
knowing their inevitable proximity in the surrounding trees and bushes is
enough to cause jumpy, nervous reactions to every sound of breaking twigs and
rustling tree branches. And this time I remembered I had a pocket full of
freshly picked, juicy huckleberries!
This was a fairly big black bear that was quietly poking its
nose around in the low bushes, no doubt munching away on tasty wild
strawberries, hucks, and whatever else it could sniff out. It heard us and
slowly raised its head, looking us up and down in a vaguely detached manner. After a short pause, it was back to the delights of nature for our bear
friend, leaving us stood nervously on the trail wondering how to continue
downhill without disturbing its breakfast and raising its ire.
It fortunately wasn’t too tricky to navigate across the ski
trail and pass the bear with a wide berth. As we went past, it gave us another
long disinterested stare, and turned around and ambled in to the bushes,
snacking along the way on the forest’s fine fare. This was obviously all in a
bear’s normal day on Silver Star.
A few minutes later we were back in the village, eating
sausage rolls, spinach and feta pastries and drinking excellent coffee in Bugaboos,
while excitedly planning a return trip in winter. New lifts, new terrain and an
inviting, quirky village are the main attractions. And the prices in January
ain’t bad either. Bring on the snow.
And I still had a pocket full of huckleberries