The weekend of 6 Aug 10, Eric and I went to check out the Absaroka Mountains outside the
east end of Yellowstone. I decided I wanted to try to see grizzly bears on the high mountains
feeding on Army Cutworm Moths. They gather in large groups to feed on the moths, and I
decided I wanted to see that. As a result, Eric and I armed ourselves to the teeth (well, he
armed himself to the teeth, and I figured he wouldn't let me get eaten), and we headed out. I
did take the bear fence I had bought a few years ago for our trip to Alaska.
I did a lot of research to try to figure out where the bears would be, and I found one
overarching fact: I don't think the bear researchers want you to know where they find the
bears. I read a lot of research reports, and they all told generically the types of places where
they find bears, and they gave locations on very generic maps, but there was no mention of
GPS coordinates, specific mountains, or anything else that would really help you find the
places where they see bears. Okay, that kind of makes sense, so I figured there would be
hikers with trip reports that mention seeing the bears. There weren't. It's weird, but after
literally hours of searching, I couldn't find any trip reports that mentioned seeing bears feeding
on moths. I found a couple of sites that mentioned bears may be on a certain mountain, or the
mountain is prime habitat, but there was no mention of someone actually seeing the bears.
So, I took the little information I did have concerning habitat, and I scoured the map looking for
a good place.
this mountain. There was a road that would get us up high, and I had read good things about
the bears up here. After an extremely long drive through Yellowstone, into Cody, and then up
the teeth jarring 4 wheel drive road to the top of the mountain, we made it to the top late in the
afternoon. The views were spectacular, and the mountain was much prettier than I expected.
The bear signs, though, were virtually non-existent. We saw some places that could have
been dig sites, but we couldn't be positive. Regardless, we didn't see any bears. We camped
up on the mountain as the wind howled and storms blew all around us.
The next day we decided to head down and try backpacking into somewhere. We ended up
hike up Mount Crosby, but once we got there and looked closely at the trail description, we
decided it was steeper than we wanted to deal with. There were also a lot of cars at the
trailhead, so we were a little concerned that it would be crowded. After sitting there a while,
though, we realized that most everyone was exploring the mining town. So we packed up and
headed up the Wood River along the the East Fork Trail towards Bear Creek Pass. Two
people had written in the trail register two days earlier that they had seen a large grizzly on
Mount Crosby, and our trail was running along the base of Mount Crosby, so we were keeping
our hopes up.
After hiking several miles up to the base of Bear Creek Pass, we set up camp at one of the
only sites we had found along the whole trail. The hike was really nice...pretty, flat, and
pleasant. After getting camp set up (with the trusty bear fence), we made some dinner and
then enjoyed the views above our camp, trying to find grizzly bears on the surrounding peaks.
We didn't find any, and we eventually turned in for the night. Before climbing into the tent, I
started hearing elk. Looking on the hill beside our camp, I saw a large herd of elk just 50
yards from our camp. It was really cool watching them meander the hillside right at dusk just a
few yards from our camp. After that, we had an uneventful night.
We got up the next morning, packed up, and headed back to the car. We had an uneventful
hike back, and didn't see any one, single bear. I went out specifically trying to find a grizzly
bear in the backcountry, and we really didn't even see any signs of bears. We had the trail
almost completely to ourselves. The only people we saw were near the trailhead looking at
the mining ruins. It was interesting, though, because literally every person we saw was
carrying a firearm. Most of them were carrying large revolvers, and some were carrying rifles.
It was obvious that these people were antsy about grizzlies around the trailhead, and we had
been looking for them in the backcountry and hadn't seen anything.
The Absarokas were much prettier than I had expected, though. I thought they were
completely wooded, but there were pleasant meadows, grass covered mountains, and scree
covered slopes. I didn't really want the range to be as pretty as it was...after all, it's a long
drive from Salt Lake, and there are supposedly a lot of grizzlies out there! But it was really
pretty, so I may have to do more hiking out there. I'm not sure if I want to go back to
specifically look for bear again, though...maybe if I don't, that will mean I'll run into them all
over the place...