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lions and tigers and bears, oh my!


mcjeeper and stukboy
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Hello from Pennsylvania,

My husband and I will be traveling to Portland on Feb 28th. Our plan is to find some of the year 2000 caches, maybe visit one of your beautiful mountains, maybe hit the power trail near Bend, maybe the Oregon star and definitely visit HQ for find 6,000. We plan trips without actually making set-in-stone plans (besides the tour of HQ). There is nothing more relaxing than that for us.. drive, cache, find a motel, sleep, repeat :)

Anyway, thank you for the pinned topic re coming to the NW for a visit. I do realize some of the caches won't be available due to snow (GCD, right?). I am encouraged to see that some of the 2000 caches HAVE been visited recently so hopefully snow won't be a complete deterrent.

Here is my serious question... we all have fears, some rational, some not. For example... I am very afraid of snakes so when we did a similar trip to FL/AL/MS/LA last March, I bought snake gators. No, we didn't see a single snake but I felt less nervous caching in the swampy areas. In addition to snakes, I am nervous about bears. When we hike in PA, I take comfort in the fact that my husband carries a pistol. No, not to randomly pick off squirrels or rabbits... ONLY for protection if one of us (or our kids') life was in danger. Obviously, we won't be bringing our pistols on vacation. Is there a chance we will see a bear when hiking to Hembre Ridge, GC12, GC16, GC17, Tunnel of Light, or Iron Horse this time of year? Would it be a good idea maybe to buy bear spray? I realize that I am going to be voluntarily putting myself in their environment and I respect that but I would like to feel safe, not petrified, while hiking. Now you are thinking to yourselves... "this girl needs a new hobby... an INDOOR hobby", ha!

Thanks in advance for your advice/input.

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I'm afraid I don't really know about bears on any of those hikes. But for GCD, you might actually be able to manage it... it would be worth swinging by, if you're up in the area to go to Tunnel of Light, anyway (the trailhead is not that far away from Hyak). We've had very little snow this year and it's possible that the trail to GCD could be clear when you visit (albeit wet and possibly muddy). Although it looks like no one has logged it since October, so I could be completely wrong. Either way, it wouldn't hurt to drive by and at least check out the conditions while you're there.

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Western Washington does not have poisonous snakes,same for northwestern Oregon. We do have grass snakes and they will scare the bejesus out of you as you as they beat a hasty retreat.

 

As long as your not between the food source or the clubs, about all you see of black bears is the south end of a north bound bear. Making noise helps keep them at bay. I would worry more about cougars than bears and mostly I don't worry about cougars. Bear attacks are not common and cougar attacks even less common.

 

I guess you could hike to Hembre Ridge, but it would be a pretty long hike. It really is a park and grab, not a hike. GC16 was a nice hike, I have not done GC12 or GC17 and those I would worry about snow until at least end of May or early June and even then you might see some snow going to GC17. Same with GCD, but I might be wrong on that one.

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No worries on bears, particularly this time of year. They are way more afraid of you, and they are quite sluggish right now, if they are out at all. I hike in bear country all the time (often alone) and don't take any special precautions for bears or cougars. No spray, no bells, no guns.

 

As mentioned, this is a record low-snow year, so GCD might be doable if you don't mind the hike and some minor snow. Snoqualmie Tunnel and Iron Horse are in the same area, a bit lower elevation, and possibly doable also (depends on if we get any snow between now and your visit). GC17 was my favorite of the Oregon oldies - lovely hike and magnificent view.

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No worries on bears, particularly this time of year. They are way more afraid of you, and they are quite sluggish right now, if they are out at all. I hike in bear country all the time (often alone) and don't take any special precautions for bears or cougars. No spray, no bells, no guns.

 

As mentioned, this is a record low-snow year, so GCD might be doable if you don't mind the hike and some minor snow. Snoqualmie Tunnel and Iron Horse are in the same area, a bit lower elevation, and possibly doable also (depends on if we get any snow between now and your visit). GC17 was my favorite of the Oregon oldies - lovely hike and magnificent view.

Is the tunnel open? It is usually closed this time of the year, but, given the low snow totals, it might just be open.

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No worries on bears, particularly this time of year. They are way more afraid of you, and they are quite sluggish right now, if they are out at all. I hike in bear country all the time (often alone) and don't take any special precautions for bears or cougars. No spray, no bells, no guns.

 

As mentioned, this is a record low-snow year, so GCD might be doable if you don't mind the hike and some minor snow. Snoqualmie Tunnel and Iron Horse are in the same area, a bit lower elevation, and possibly doable also (depends on if we get any snow between now and your visit). GC17 was my favorite of the Oregon oldies - lovely hike and magnificent view.

Is the tunnel open? It is usually closed this time of the year, but, given the low snow totals, it might just be open.

Great point. It's probably closed, which will make getting Iron Horse more difficult. They'd have to hike up from Annette Lake trailhead instead of going through the tunnel. And it wouldn't take much snow for Iron Horse cache to be unfindable, since it's on the ground.

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If I were to see a bear I'd feel incredibly lucky. I've only ever seen bears once, 30 years ago, near Mt. St. Helens, and all I saw was his rear end retreating off of a dirt road into the brush.

My sentiments exactly. I have seen bears a couple times while caching. Both times I was alone, and both times they took off as soon as they saw me. One was eating blackberries right on the trail, and ran into the woods. Since the cache was further along that trail, I just kept hiking, right over the spot where he'd been sitting, hoping he wasn't waiting to ambush me. Another time I was biking, and only saw the back end as he crashed into the woods to escape me.

 

I've also had one memorable non-caching encounter, up in Jasper NP in Canada. Young bear wandered out of the woods in front of our car and sauntered down the road in front of us. After a bit, he crouched and pooped on the asphalt in front of the car. This appeared to answer the age-old question, "do bears sh*t in the woods?" Nope, they do it on the road. :o

Edited by hydnsek
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I have seen bears twice. Once was many years ago in Olympic NP, the other was from a chair lift at Whistler during the Summer. Both times all I saw was the back end. You may be afraid of bears, but they are much more afraid of you. The only time they are really not afraid is when Momma is with her babies.

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Bear attacks are extremely rare. You are much more likely to be injured in an automobile accident while driving to the hike than being hurt by a bear or a cougar while hiking. If you are still worried, here are a couple of links for you to look at:

 

http://seattlebackpackersmagazine.com/bear-attacks/

http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/cougars.html

http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/bears.html

 

As others have already noted, there are no poisonous snakes in western Washington or northwestern Oregon. Spiders in our neck of the woods are also virtually always harmless (there are a few brown recluse spiders around, but they are not common).

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and now for the cursory bear joke...

 

The National Park Rangers are advising hikers in Glacier National Park and other Rocky Mountain parks to be alert for bears and take extra precautions to avoid an encounter.

 

They advise park visitors to wear little bells on their clothes so they make noise when hiking. The bell noise allows bears to hear them coming from a distance and not be startled by a hiker accidentally sneaking up on them. This might cause a bear to charge.

 

Visitors should also carry a pepper spray can just in case a bear is encountered. Spraying the pepper into the air will irritate the bear's sensitive nose and it will run away.

 

It is also a good idea to keep an eye out for fresh bear scat so you have an idea if bears are in the area. People should be able to recognize the difference between black bear and grizzly bear scat.

 

Black bear droppings are smaller and often contain berries, leaves, and possibly bits of fur. Grizzly bear droppings tend to contain small bells and smell of pepper.

 

..and an observation...

I believe wearing bear bells turns you into a dinner bell. :blink:

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Just checking in... it looks like the area hasn't had a significant snowfall since I first posted. Yay! Bad for skiing, good for caching. It is my understanding that the cool tunnel used to access the ape tribute cache (and others) is closed Nov through May. (We plan on attempting using the alternate route.) What about the road leading to the trail head for GCD? Cachers in November reported that it was closed. Are there certain roads in the mountainous areas that close from a certain month to a certain month, similar to the tunnel? Or, is it strictly based on the weather conditions?

 

I guess I will have the same concerns for the roads leading to GC12 and GC17. Thanks!

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Just checking in... it looks like the area hasn't had a significant snowfall since I first posted. Yay! Bad for skiing, good for caching. It is my understanding that the cool tunnel used to access the ape tribute cache (and others) is closed Nov through May. (We plan on attempting using the alternate route.) What about the road leading to the trail head for GCD? Cachers in November reported that it was closed. Are there certain roads in the mountainous areas that close from a certain month to a certain month, similar to the tunnel? Or, is it strictly based on the weather conditions?

 

I guess I will have the same concerns for the roads leading to GC12 and GC17. Thanks!

The forest service roads don't have specific closure dates like the tunnel. Instead, they are dependent on snow conditions - some are XC ski trails when there is enough snow. Right now, your chances are fairly good for GCD, altho I haven't been up there to check. Can't speak to the Oregon locations, altho their snow situation is similar to ours (dismal).

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