• Peter D. Bouloukos

Blue Creek, Polaris, Montana next to Maverick Mountain.

Blue Creek is a long winding alpine creek next to Maverick Mountain Ski Resort in Polaris, Montana. It's located in the Beeverhead-Deerlodge National Forest the parking area is right between Elkhorn Hot Springs and the Maverick Mountain driveway to the lodge and base area. Simply stated, this hike was packed with wildlife prints, very active area to include Grizzly, Black Bear, Elk, Deer and Moose prints. I would not recommend doing this hike solo and the above Grizzly prints (11" or an estimated 800 pound Grizzly Bear) were not the only ones we found. This was just the biggest! The other one I remember was about 7.5" or roughly a 500 pound Grizzly. From the scents on the trail and scratch marks on trees, I would guess three male grizzlies are in the area and a few female at least. In June, when Grizzlies are feeding predominantly on plants and are wet, their fur smells like wet grass and laid scent smells like spoiled keg beer to me. I can't think of another way to describe it. The bear's odor is simply stronger than the surrounding vegetation and not that hard to identify when you know it. On this specific Blue Creek hike I smelled a heavy scent in the parking lot and along the trail maybe every two hundred yards. The below tree is a scratching post used by a male bear to lay scent, they are known to pee next to the tree after they rub themselves all over it. Next, sound plays a significant role in the lives of bears. Bears are surprisingly vocal and have been documented to emit a wide range of different calls and other sounds. They are known to whine, moan, yelp, grunt, snort, chuff, and hum. From what I have learned cubs seem to more often hum. If you hear snorting and chuffing during a close encounter with a distressed bear...don't run. Experts all say: Avoid, Avoid, Avoid! The best way to prevent an unpleasant bear encounter is to avoid them all together. Bears usually avoid people, and most people don’t even know when they’ve come close to a bear.To ensure a surprise or unpleasant encounter with a bear doesn’t occur, avoid moving through bear habitat silently and alone. Travel in groups (the larger the better) and make lots of noise by talking or singing. Please put the iPod or now iPhone away and pay attention to surroundings. I can't tell you how frustrating it is to see younger hikers listening to music on the trail or jogging with headphones. Your sense of smell and hearing are as important as your sight, more so if you are looking down at the trail constantly for footing purposes. Now, there is also roaring, which is common when bears fight each other or are upset or perhaps startled. On the Blue Creek hike roughly three miles in headed West just beyond Maverick Mountain is a rock outcropping on your left. It forms to a peak of a hill, we were at our planned turn around time as their was very little information on the Blue Creek hike in this part of the Pioneer range in Montana. Well, we heard a Grizzly Bear roar, as if he was waking up from a nap in the rocks and upset by our presence with two active dogs and two adult humans. Obviously we did not wait around to see Mr. Grizzly, we maintained our hiking pace and did not show any sign of panic. We did not run but did get more talkative and had more than one deterrent on this hike as well as two active dogs. It was very surreal to hear that sound and I would imagine we were 70-100 yards downhill from a rather large grizzly bear based off of the prints we saw and the bellow of the roar. The bottom line is this: If you encounter a bear, remain calm and ready bear spray (or other deterrent). Stay together if you are in a group; you will appear larger and more intimidating if you stick together. Try to figure out whether the bear is a grizzly or a black bear. If you encounter a bear on the trail, or in a campsite, stop what you are doing and evaluate the situation. Identify yourself by speaking in a calm, appeasing tone. Back away slowly, preferably in the direction you came. Walk, don’t run, and keep your eye on the bear so you can see how it will react. In most cases, the bear will flee. If you are in your campsite or other place bears shouldn’t be, and you are sure the bear is a black bear, consider trying to move it out of the area. Ensure the bear has a clear and safe escape route with no people or obstacles in its way. Stand tall and look it directly in the eye. Yell at the bear and firmly tell it to leave: “Get out of here, bear!” Keep a can of pepper spray ready (with the safety removed) in case the bear approaches too closely. I have had a black bear in my yard in Harvest Creek between Oak & Durston. I used a deep "No Bear" to move the one year old between the houses and probably down towards the creek. As some of you know Bozeman High had a bear two falls ago. Youtube the video if you have not seen it yet. Now all experts say to NEVER attempt to move a grizzly bear! If you upset a grizzly who is protecting a kill or a mother with her cubs and are charged, upon or near physical impact experts say to play dead covering your neck and head maintaining a wide base with your feet so you are not easy to flip over. Good luck! Remember, on this particular hike we could easily smell grizzly, it stands out far beyond what I might describe. It also was two experienced hikers with two dogs that work together as well as multiple deterrents. This was a beautiful hike mostly along Blue Creek, we were hardly more than 50 feet from water. The trail is nice, clear and easy to navigate, one reason why we saw so many animal markings as they use the easiest route just like we do when they are comfortable. This was June 25th, 2017 and we encountered recent snow melt and the meadows were just starting to bloom. I would imagine this would be one of the more incredible wildflower hikes but do this one with numbers and I would not recommend kids based off of my experience in the wild. This was really unique and we probably pushed it a bit far. Again, we also didn't have much information. One reason why I am blogging today. This hike goes from one Forest Service parking entrance to another so if you want to do 6.5 miles it will require a decent drive along the road system to get from point A to point B. Here is the info I was able to find online: Blue Creek Trail is also used as a stock trail. Meadows the trail passes through are very wet in spring. Take a topographic map with you when you hike this trail. Length: 6.5 miles Trail Begins: Forest Road 484.4 Trail Ends: Trail Junction 167 Area Map: Interagency Visitor Map: SW Montana USGS Map1: Maverick Mountain USGS Map2: Elkhorn Hot Springs Township 4S; Range 13W; Section 31 Here is the link from Polaris/Maverick Mountain, Montana on Google Earth: https://earth.google.com/web/@45.44908388,-113.12611013,2140.13320409a,406.9860825d,35y,93.96350206h,44.99804275t,0r/data=ClQaUhJMCiUweDUzNTk4YmM5OGI1MWIxYjk6MHhjMTJjZDMwOWY3NjM1MTRkGR7dCIuKt0ZAIcR4zas6SFzAKhFNYXZlcmljayBNb3VudGFpbhgBIAE

#BlueCreek #Polaris #PolarisMontana #DillonMontana #MaverickMountain #ElkhornHotsprings #PioneerMountainsMontana #SawtoothMountainsMontana #BigHoleRiver

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