Walt McDonald

Hiking Grizzly Country with Bells

Fawns know to lie still, and grouse chicks
swallow their tongues when grizzlies pass.
We hike with bells and walking sticks,
talking out loud about how nothing's changed,
decades of lightning strikes grown back
as if fire never happened.

Silence can't guarantee safe passage
in this dark forest. Bears, beware,
here come the old folks. Sniff this,
we're the same as forty years ago,
though not as wild. No surprises,
so out of the way for a week.

If you're watching beyond that curve,
go back to gobbling berries.
Our lungs are faithful to fate—
no guns, no tundra to crush,
no reason to fear we're dangerous
to anything but us. In Glacier Park,

Heaven's Peak's a steep cliff
less than 9,000', snowcapped
a mere ten miles away. Gasping,
we hold hands at 65 and stare—
even with lightweight boots and packs,
too hard a climb this year.

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