SI Vault
Emmett Watson
October 30, 1967
One night last August two girls, camped 10 miles apart, were killed by grizzlies. Can it happen again? The answer is a nervous 'yes'
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October 30, 1967

Menace In Our Northern Parks

One night last August two girls, camped 10 miles apart, were killed by grizzlies. Can it happen again? The answer is a nervous 'yes'

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They considered going back, but they had only one flashlight and they were afraid of losing the trail. So they built up a big fire and ringed their camp with logs. Then they dozed, intermittently feeding the fire. Denise Huckle got in her sleeping bag under a log near the fire, taking the dog into the bag with her and holding it in her arms. Later in the night the grizzly was seen on the logjam. The dog remained quiet, except for some growling when the bear went back to the lake.

"None of us really slept," Ray Noseck said. "We just kept putting wood on the fire." Paul Dunn said he stayed so close to the fire his feet were hot. In the darkness they could hear the bear circling around them in the brush, sometimes coming very close to the fire. They lay huddled in their sleeping bags, blankets over their heads, while the long night wore on.

Northeast of these nervous campers, across a gigantic ridge of the Livingstone Range and across 10 miles of the rugged mountain terrain of the central park area, another grizzly prowled silently around a more populated campground. Julie Helgeson and Roy Ducat had started their Saturday hiking trip a little later than the others. They also worked at the Glacier Park Lodge. Julie, a slender, brown-haired sophomore at the University of Minnesota, was another outstanding student, remembered by the park-concession personnel as one of the best of the young people employed in the park. Her parents, from Albert Lea, Minn., had been visiting her at Glacier only the week before. Roy Ducat, a sophomore at Bowling Green University in Ohio, was working as a busboy at the Glacier Park Lodge. Early on Saturday afternoon they hitchhiked a ride that took them to a trail known as the Garden Wall Trail that ran north to the Granite Park Chalet. They were in a country of sub-alpine firs, scattered alder and birch trees and high meadows covered with wild flowers. Very near on one side were Mount Grinnell, Grinnell Glacier and Mount Gould, rising 9,541 feet in massive bluish rock ridges and snow peaks. They were almost on the crest of the Continental Divide, in one of the most celebrated viewpoints in the mountains, with an unobstructed outlook across deep wooded valleys toward the peaks in the west, south and north. It was a long and winding hike but not particularly hard, running through country where bighorn sheep and white-tailed deer were common sights, and it took them to Granite Park Chalet about 7 in the evening.

The chalet is a stopping place for hikers who do not want to carry many supplies. Other trails lead on from there, including one that follows the crest of the divide to the Canadian border 15 miles north. The chalet was crowded, 59 people staying there that weekend. Julie and Roy left their sleeping bags at the chalet and went out to locate a campsite. They selected one only a few hundred yards away, down a slope in front of the inn and within sight of it. Other parties camped near them.

The young people ate sandwiches for their supper about 8 o'clock, and Roy Ducat, mindful of the regulations given to all park employees, carried the scraps of the meal 200 yards from the campsite and buried them under a log. It was now dark, and about this time, in the shadowy area below the peaks to the west of them, Michele first saw the grizzly at Trout Lake.

Roy Ducat said that he and Julie did not see or hear any bears where they were. He waked once in the night, climbed out of his sleeping bag, got a drink of water, returned and fell asleep. He waked again to hear Julie say, "Pretend you're dead. Play dead." Then a heavy blow knocked him five feet, and he saw the outlines of a bear against the starlight. The bear bit him on the shoulder. It left him and bit the girl, who cried out. The grizzly moved back to Ducat, biting and mauling, and then turned back to Julie. She screamed twice, loud enough to be heard back at the chalet. Then there was the sound of her being dragged away, the bear moving rapidly, her screams diminishing in the night.

Bleeding and in shock, Ducat made his way toward the chalet. He met Don Gullet, who was camped near an outbuilding used by trail-building crews. "We've been attacked by a bear," Ducat said. A large party formed, carrying flashlights and torches. Ducat was carried on a spring cot to the chalet, where a call for help went out over the park radio. Twenty minutes later a helicopter, carrying morphine and other medical supplies, and a ranger with a .300 Magnum took off from West Glacier.

The copter flew northwest 49 miles over the Apgar Mountains and Livingstone Range. Gary Bunney, the ranger, said, "If anybody was a hero it had to be John Westover, the pilot. It was pitch dark, and you could only occasionally see the outlines of a mountain or the faintest sign of a horizon. The people built fires and used their flashlights to get us down."

Ducat was taken to Kalispell to a hospital; Bunney led a search party for Julie. They traced where she had been dragged, lost the trail and then heard her moaning. She was taken back to the chalet, terribly lacerated. She died of wounds in her throat and lungs at 4:13 in the morning.

At that very moment, 10 miles away, the campers at Trout Lake were beginning to think that their ordeal was almost over. They were still huddled close to the fire, the bear prowling dangerously nearby, but the sky was growing light. It would soon be morning. "I was the first to see the bear," Denise said. "The dog squealed. I looked over the log and the bear was loping straight toward the camp. The fire was big, and I could see the upper half of his body. Then, about four or five feet from me, he stopped. I was back under the covers. All of a sudden he grabbed one of the packs, and we could hear him ripping the pack."

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