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The ranger said, "Well, when his illness makes him go berserk, we'll do something about him," and made it plain that the matter was closed. His attitude made Mrs. Berry seethe. In all the decades since her family had homesteaded on the north shore of Lake McDonald, they had rarely reported a troublesome bear; they preferred taking their chances on coexistence. Kellys and grizzlies had been living together amicably since the 1800s, and Mrs. Berry felt that the ranger ought to know that and ought to have taken her complaint more seriously.
The next weeks were spent in a state of tension. The grizzly came back periodically and the residents of Kellys Camp drove about with rifles and shotguns on the seats of their cars and kept careful watch on their children and their pets. Several times rangers arrived with guns, but they were always a few minutes behind the wary animal.
When Aug. 1 arrived, the inhabitants of Kellys Camp recapitulated the bear's pattern: since the middle of June it had visited the place some 15 times, starting at first in a cycle of every three days, extending this to four and now arriving every fifth day. But then a ranger dropped by and told some of the residents, "You shouldn't be having any more trouble. Your bear's at Trout Lake tearing up camps." For the first time that summer, Kellys Camp relaxed; both danger and notoriety had now passed by. Before the season was over, the crazy bear was to become known as "the Trout Lake bear."
To get to Trout Lake from Lake McDonald the hiker had to hit the trail not far from Kellys Camp and climb 2,000 feet in two miles, a rate that quickly eliminated any but the most serious of hikers (but hardly warmed up a bear). Once on top of the ridge, it was an easy 1,500-foot descent through the forest to the lush stand of vegetation that made the place popular with another sort of wildlife: bears, both grizzly and black. There was hardly a spot in Glacier Park where more grizzly sightings had been made—in fact a trio of visitors to Trout Lake once reported being treed by no less than five grizzlies simultaneously, something of a record for the National Park Service.
The lake lies in a bowl rimmed by mountains that tower thousands of feet above and duplicate themselves almost perfectly in the clear blue-green of the water. Camas Creek flows in the north end and out the south, and at the lower outlet several hundred huge tamarack trunks are crunched together into a logjam that will support a man's weight almost all the way across the water. To one side of the logjam a small clearing has been hacked out of the spruces and thick bushes that march down to the water's edge; in its center the Park Service has installed an iron grating for cooking, and the spot is popular with campers, who pitch their tents, drag a few cutthroat trout out of the lake and enjoy an epicure's feast in the forest.
The campsite was also popular with bears, especially with the Trout Lake bear. Although no physical contact was made between man and bear, there were times when the peculiar animal would follow campers for hundreds of yards, always staying 20 or 25 feet away, and scare them half to death. Almost always the victims of such encounters berated themselves later, the tenderfeet for not knowing that grizzlies are relatively harmless and the oldtimers for realizing it and still being afraid. There was something about this persistent grizzly that alarmed even the most knowledgeable. Grizzlies had been snooping in and out of the campsites of North America ever since the first primitive man had pitched the first camp, but they had not made their intrusions while the campsites were occupied—and certainly not while people were in the middle of meals and other activities. The oddly shaped grizzly did not seem to know fear. It stormed into camps and bowled over fire tripods, tents and packs. It stayed exactly as long as it wanted to stay. It ignored the shouts and screams, and sometimes the rocks, of annoyed and displaced campers.
The rules of the National Park Service specify clearly that such a bear must be shot, but somehow the skinny animal managed to remain alive. Now and then an ashen-faced camper would make a report to the rangers in person, and others would scribble capsule comments on the trail registers. But no one was reading the trail registers (they were to be gathered at the end of the season and studied) and no one seemed to be listening to the first-person reports.
Eight or nine crow-flight miles from Trout Lake, but separated from it by the 9,000-foot cliffs and spires of the Livingstone Range, a stark and colorless mountain chalet hunkers down against the winds and snows of winter and opens its doors for guests only two months of the year. The place is called Granite Park Chalet, and it stands at the confluence of several busy footpaths which lead, like the spokes of a wheel, in all directions. Four miles down one of the trails is Going to the Sun Highway; that is the closest one can get to the chalet on anything but foot or horseback.
The bulky old building has endured half a century of winter's buffetings. By January or February of each year it is usually all but buried under snow and ice, and the last patch does not melt away until July or sometimes August. But in the short warmth of summertime, the chalet lies in spectacular surroundings, like a speck of common sandstone set in a ring of diamonds and rubies. The building itself is nothing more than an oversized blockhouse, an inflated version of a Swiss mountain hut. Except for a few additions and small outbuildings, the structure is a 48-foot square, two stories tall, with a heavily timbered roof and fieldstone sides. The chalet lies just below the timberline, at 6,600 feet, in an area where trees and brush and flowers lead an ephemeral existence. The mountainside is like some of the deserts of the Southwest, drab and almost without color for nine or 10 months of the year and covered with a brilliant carpet of flowers in the summer.
In this timberline setting several species of fauna somehow manage to thrive. Columbian ground squirrels are common and occasionally one sees a golden-mantled ground squirrel. Now and then an elk will shoulder its way through the region, but the big-antlered animals are not common here. Of the larger mammals, only the grizzly appears with absolute regularity. The bench some 500 yards below the chalet is alive with some of the pi�ces de r�sistance of the grizzly cuisine, and in certain seasons of the year the soil of the bench is pockmarked from the busy, nocturnal diggings of the hungry bears. In the middle of this ursine happy hunting ground, to the great relief of the concessionaire, B. Ross Luding, the government had established a public campground.