Experiences, anecdotes, tips, how-tos, hiking, nature, motherhood, memories.

Adventures in Camping with Kids

Camping with kids is like pitching a tent upside down. Both are bound to fill with laughter and raindrops.

--Victoria Marie

Saturday, April 1, 2017

When a National Park Temporarily Closes a Trail

If National Park rangers close a trail, they are not trying to ruin your vacation no matter how much mom complains. *Ahem!* The trail is closed for a reason.

Case in point. There was grizzly bear activity noted in an area we wanted to hike one day during our stay at Glacier National Park. Whenever grizzlies are spotted at Glacier, rangers close the trails in that section. But rather than listen to Mom cry in the van, Dad took the family to listen to a ranger talk about bears.
NO! We did not see one in person. This
       grizzly pic is from google images.

Grizzly bears are more aggressive than black bears. Black bears climb trees. Grizzlies are too large and have long claws. They cannot climb trees. Grizzlies rely on their sheer mass to protect themselves and their cubs. Grizzlies can reach over 700 pounds. Black bear are only about 300 pounds.

We have seen black bear in Sequoia National Park in California when we were on a nature trail with a park ranger. A cub was off in the meadow. We couldn’t find the mama. The ranger immediately turned us around and we went back the way we came.

We’ve seen black bear here in New Jersey on the Appalachian Trail. What looked like a full-sized bear was tearing through a dead tree in search of insects not 30 feet from the trail. No way to turn around this time. My son and daughter and I were backpacking for a few days. We were miles and miles from either car we had parked by access points on the A.T.

I led the children off the trail giving the bear another ten yards’ distance. We made sure we could still see the Appalachian Trail markings so as not to get lost. Quietly and slowly, we moved through the forest, so as not to disturbed the bear’s feasting. Usually—and that’s a BIG usually—black bear will not attack unless they feel threatened. I would never want to meet a mama grizzly or any grizzly for that matter!

You’ll find an excellent and free black bear/grizzly bear identification booklet with photos on Montana State’s website. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on the “Bear Identification Tutorial” box.

But back to our temporary trail closures at national parks. Trail maintenance is another reason trails may be closed. And many times you can’t see what’s wrong right at the beginning of the trail. Trees come down, trails wash away leaving no footing near cliffs. Deep snow closes trails. The danger of deep snow in spring or early summer is that snow next to the earth may melt first causing water to run underneath a top crust of snow. This weakens the snow crust, making it easier for hikers to step and break through the crust and become stuck. We’ve seen these “snow melt” ice crusts cutting across trails out west in the United States. It’s always best to avoid stepping on snow whenever possible once temperatures start to rise.   

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