You are here

Reader Participation Day: What Was Your Most Surprising Encounter On a National Park Trail?


Tommie (middle) was flabbergasted, and so was I. Jim Elder photo. 

Surprise encounters can add spice to hiking in our national parks. Consider this one, for example. Last August I was hiking the Hidden Falls Trail on the far side of Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park when I bumped into my old friend Tommy. We were next door neighbors for nearly 30 years, and even though I've moved to a different neighborhood now, Tommy and I still stay in touch. Neither of us knew that the other had made any travel plans, and it was a tossup as to which of us was more stunned by this chance meeting more than 1,700 miles from home.

This was not my only memorable encounter on a national park trail. Another one I'll never forget is our encounter with Naked Guy and his friend.

It's your turn. Tell us about a particularly memorable thing, person, or situation you've come upon or met up with while using a national park trail or walkway.


Mine isn't as interesting as some but.... My husband and I were hiking to St. Mary's Falls in Glacier National Park and came upon what appeared to be a stuffed animal squirrel.  Someone had placed it on the rocks and we assumed they were watching to see people's reactions.  Imagine our surprise (after joking and taking pictures) when the squirrel ran away.  He sat so perfectly still, almost not breathing.
On the same hike, a deer stepped onto the trail directly in front of my husband.  They stood within 10 feet of each other.  My husband raised a hand and waved at the deer.  The deer in turn waggled his ears and then took off!

The big question is how that "attitude" came about while there is apparently a push for bringing more young people to appreciate the Parks.  Somebody needs their ____kicked and I don't mean just the Ranger!  How does that stuff trickle down?

A NP Ranger at Mesa Verde who chastised my daughter for one foot barely stepping off the trail.  It was entirely "over the top."  She was a very conscientious child, wasn't being unruly at all.  Sad that that is one of our strongest memories of the park.

Just remembered another one.  (There are so many, it's hard to choose.)

After hiking to the top of Yosemite falls I was sitting on the edge of the cliff looking down and just watching the valley below.  Suddenly I started to hear what sounded like a flute playing.  For awhile I wasn't sure if it was really music or just the breeze.  I finally spotted another lone hiker sitting some distance away at the edge of the precipice -- playing some haunting music on a flute.

I don't know if he ever knew that I was there, and finally after about half an hour, he packed the flute away and headed off up the trail away from the falls.

It was a purely magical moment.

Two encounters at Glacier are quite memorable.  The first, while on the trail to Bullhead Lake my daughter and I came around a corner and fournd a family that was arranging their kids on a rock outcropping to get a picture.  I stopped and asked if they were trying to get a picture with the grizzly bear behind them, for about 200 ft behind them on a higher ledge was the bear.  They had not seen the bear and quickly got their kids down from the rocks and moved away.  We snapped a quick picture and also went on our way.  Another time on the trail to Ptarmingan Tunnel, I met a young lady who was headed to Iceburg Lake and hiked and talked with her until the trail split.  I continued up to the tunnel and on the way back, a little bit above Ptarmingan Lake, I looked down below me and saw a dead mountain goat that I did not notice on the way up.  I looked around for any predators but did not see any and hurried down the trail.  About 1/2 mile down the trail, I came upon the young lady from earlier in the day headed up to the tunnel.  I mentioned to her about the goat and to watch out.  The next day, by chance, she was at the same trailhead for my hike that day and said that when she saw the goat there was a grizzly bear feasting on the goat.  I was very lucky or unlucky, depending on how you look at it, not to have been that close to bear.

When I was 14 (far, far too many years ago!!!) & on vacation in Yellowstone with the folks, I was hiking a backcountry trail in Yellowstone on my way to photograph yet another lovely lake.....About 2hrs into the hike, I crested a ridge in the trail and happened on a delightful sight - 2 of the cutest Grizzly cubs playing on the trail about 100 yards ahead. And no sign of Mother anywhere. Needless to say, I curtailed the hike & quickly reversed my course before they had even noticed my presence. Always wondered just where Mother was lurking......

It's a toss-up between two wildlife encounters. The first was one morning at Agate Fossil Beds NM.  I decided to walk out to the quarries to pass the time before the visitor center opened.  About a mile away from the parking lot, I was startled by a sudden hiss and rattled and nimbly jumped backward from a big rattlesnake I'd surprised.  He hissed at me for awhile, giving me a chance to snap some awesome pictures, before he moved off into the brush.  After a couple more minutes, I started to continue up the trail, but hadn't gone more than ten feet before I was rattle-warned back again.  Wearing only sandals and not being able to see the snake this time, I decided discretion was the order of the day, I turned back to the visitor center where I shared my pictures with the ranger on duty.
The 2nd encounter was near Windigo Vistor Center in Isle Royale NP.  While waiting for a ranger-guided program, I walked the nature trail by myself.  While crossing a particularly brushy area, I was surprised by something suddenly crashing out of the brush ahead of me.  It turned out to be a sizable moose cow, who leaped across the trail and down into some brush below the trail, remaining visible.  I walked the rest of the trail and got back in time for the ranger program, which turned out to be a walk on the very trail I'd just finished!  So when we came back to the spot, I was able to point out the still-visible moose to the rest of the group.  I'm just happy it wasn't Isle Royale's only other large mammal species that I'd encountered that day!

When hiking up Avalanche Lake trail in the Tetons we heard what sounded like an Alpenhorn. We heard it again several times. Finally we met a hiker coming down carrying an Alpenhorn. He was from Switzerland and had hiked to the lake to give a concert at sunrise. We had heard him playing for each hiker he met. He did the same for us and was thrilled that we had visited his homeland.

Add comment


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide

Recent Forum Comments