Cracker Lake Trail is a 12 mile hike deep into Glacier National Park through grizzly territory. The 1,400 foot elevation gain may be less than half of what we experienced in Big Pine but is still considered “strenuous” by many hiking metrics. In the course of the hike, we encountered waterfalls, glaciers, a wide range of ecosystems, a bull moose, and a grizzly bear.
Cracker lake gained its name over a apocryphal lunch between two prospectors. In consuming their meal of, you guessed it, crackers, they set out to establish a copper mine in one of the most scenic corners of the world: modern day Glacier National Park. What they didn’t know at the time was that it would be, ultimately, unsuccessful.
Fortunately, their digging enterprise is almost invisible on first blush. Upon reaching the lake, one is more interested in the etherial aqua of Cracker Lake, tinted by the glacial silt picked up by the melt off from Siyeh Glacier. Mount Siyeh rises over 4,000 feet above Cracker Lake, accompanied by Cracker Peak and Allan Mountain. The arc of mountains shelter a valley of wildflowers, fowl, and a bull moose fondly referred to as “Crackerjack.”
The theme of Cracker Lake Trail might as well be “I need a wildlife photography lens.” When we arrived at the lake, Crackerjack was chilling at the far edge of Cracker Lake. We could see him well enough to confirm that we had, indeed, seen a moose. Yet, my lens had nowhere near the zoom capacity to do any justice to our antlered neighbor.
That would hardly be the greatest pictorial injury. As we neared the conclusion of our descent from Cracker Lake, we started hearing odd cries. There was what clearly resembled a wolf’s howl. Ten minutes later, there was some yelling from people. My hiking companion peered about and spotted something completely unrelated to the noises we had been hearing: a bear. It was foraging along the mountainside above us. Fair enough away that my initial grab for bear spray converted to an equally desperate grab for my camera. Was this it? Was this The Grizzly? The answer may remain in contention. After all, I don’t have a wildlife lens. All my pictures are agonizingly blurry.
But it was a bear. And we did see it.