The information about the Harding Icefield Trail classified it as ‘strenuous’ and warned that it’s bear country. For these reasons I had decided to pick a saturday for doing this trail, because on saturdays rangers lead guided hikes. However upon arrival I soon found out that the ranger-led hike was probably going to be a slow one, as the group was quite big and people were re-packing their bags and going to the bathroom for about 30 minutes and still there was no sign that we were going to depart. Two guys said they were not going to wait for the group any longer and I went up with them. The first part of the trail is mainly forest and at some point you get to a lookout point which provides the view on the left, if you look to the left, that is.
If you look to the right though, you see this:
…which was pretty spectacular.
At this point most people turn around. If you continue along the trail it’s another couple of hours up to the cabin and after that another half hour to the end of the trail. If you go up, be prepared for very cold wind, rain, fog and for hiking through snow. I found it incredible. Everything is so vast over there. For an impression, look at these pictures. I didn’t make any during the second part of the hike because I needed all my energy to keep up with the Americans. (Even faster than the Americans was the youth skiing team that was training for the Olympics, going uphill in an enormous speed carrying their skiing gear. They were incredibly athletic.)
On the way down, when we were halfway, I teamed up with another guy who was hiking down in a slower speed, which was a relief for me. After some talking we were silent for a while. This was probably the reason that we saw something stunning: when we were almost at the end of the trail, we came across a bend and I saw something dark in the bush next to the path. We stopped and a black bear walked onto the path, looked at us, decided we were not interesting and continued crossing the path. Behind her: a cub. Wow! It all happened so fast that we didn’t even think of getting our cameras, but recently I found a YouTube-movie which shows a black bear crossing the trail on (I think) the exact same spot.
I had never seen a bear along a trail before and neither had my companion. It felt like a treat (the fact that it wasn’t interested in us felt like a treat too). I consider it the reward for making it on the most strenuous hike in this holiday.