Grizzly Bear Encounter and on to Helena


Miles Driven Today:   278     Total Miles Driven  1594

The next two days are really about getting up to Glacier National Park with some stops along the way to break the journey up.

Today, after our free Residence Inn breakfast – nice as usual, but bad coffee again – we made a brief stop at Walmart to replenish some food supplies and headed NW along I90 from Billings.

Perhaps I should mention the driving conditions.  We find driving here very easy compared to the UK and Europe.  The roads are very empty in this area and pretty straight, whether they are highways or on the lesser routes.  We prefer the lesser routes but sometimes like today, when the miles are high, it makes sense to keep to the interstate.  It’s easy driving.  We just set the cruise control and off we go.  Our car seems to be giving us about 42mpg.  A gallon of petrol is about $2.50 per gallon.  A fill up is around $25.  It’s much cheaper than the UK, around 55p per litre.

It was a bit busier around Billings and Bozeman today but once clear of the towns, the roads are empty. We do see lorries but nowhere near as many as in the UK.  Reason being those great big freight trains probably.

So, our first stop today was at the Montana Grizzly Bear Encounter, a wildlife rescue refuge just before Bozeman.  We got there just before midday.  They have 5 or 6 rescued bears of different ages there.  They let them out into the habitat exercise arena on their own mostly, although some of them get on and can come out together.  When we arrived they were just letting one of the smaller female bears out from her den.  They first go round and put food on various trees, logs and rocks,  Anyway, for a small bear, she seemed huge.  About 300 lbs and 5.6″ standing upright.  The oldest bear, a male, is 1000 lbs and 6.7″ standing up.  The worker gave us a long talk about the bears and how they came to be there and how they care for them.  All the time she talked the bear was working her way around the exercise area finding the food and gobbling it up.  She seemed perfectly happy and well cared for.  We also heard what to do if we encounter a bear whilst hiking.  Rather hope we don’t.  We haven’t got our bear spray yet.  Will have to get it tomorrow.

Spent about an hour there watching the bear and then headed off again. We stopped along the way for a picnic lunch.  The scenery was lovely as usual and we crossed the Yellowstone River and the Missouri River today.  Both pretty wide.

Got to the Helena area about 3pm and drove up to the Macdonald Pass to the west about 18 miles, and parked at the Continental Divide viewpoint.  This runs along the high ridges of the mountains in this area of the USA.  Interestingly, all rivers originating on the west of it flow to the Pacific and on the east to the Atlantic.  It is a bit more complicated than that but simply put, that’s it!  It was on the Divide that poor old Captain Meriwether Lewis realised that the dream of a waterway linking the Missouri to the Columbia was not coming to pass. ” we proceeded on to the top of the dividing ridge from which I discovered immense ranges of high mountains still to the West of us with their tops partially covered with snow.”    Standing there, on that hard climbed ridge, he realised that the Rocky Mountains were multiple ranges, and still ahead, not, as believed, like the single range Appalachians or Adirondacks in the east…. it must have been a bit of a daunting moment.  Never mind, “we pressed on….”

Went to the Super 1 supermarket in Helena to get bear spray because I had read on the TripAdvisor forums that they sold the cheapest/best spray.  Couldn’t find any and then had an hilarious conversation with a man on the customer services desk that went along the lines of:

Me: Do you sell bear spray?

Him: Bay Spray?

Me: Bear Spray

Him: Bee spray?

Me (Loud and slow) Bear Spray

Him: Hair spray?

At this point I decided mime was the way forward so I put my hands up in a paw like motion and growled as if a bear, then said: Bear Spray.

He looked terrified and blank and we went round again and then,… he got it….. No, we don’t sell bear spray.

Bob was in absolute stitches.  He nearly collapsed with laughing.  I guess its just the Super 1 near West Glacier that sells it then…

Checked into the Residence Inn in Helena.  Tonight the mixer is free desserts from 2 food trucks.  One is hot cobblers and the other is ice cream.

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