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July 2016 Leigh Lake
By Kathy Jones
| Trip Leader - Kathy Jones. Trip Members - Martin & Kelly Beumer, Katrina Easton, Gretchen Siegler.
July 22-25. After a bit of boat inspection paperwork, we finally got to the String Lake boat launch at about 2:00pm and were under way at 3:00pm. The portage from String Lake to Leigh Lake went well, and we were off to campsite 12B on the eastern side of the lake. About the time we began to paddle to camp, the wind picked up, creating some moderate waves. It was an exciting paddle, but we all made it to camp safe, sound, and dry. The rangers came by that evening to check our permit, make sure we had our food and gear properly stored in the bear box, and to warn us about the bear in the area. They reported that the bear had been well behaved so far, and responded well to clapping and loud voices to get him (or her?) moving along. We all went to out tents that night with our bear spray close at hand.
On Saturday, we enjoyed a leisurely morning in camp before heading off for the day's activities of hiking and paddling. In the late afternoon, I decided to go for a stroll on the hiking trail towards the north end of the lake. I grabbed my bear spray, but didn't grab my camera. DUMB!!!!! After about 15-20 minutes of walking, I came across a group of hikers who had spotted the bear. It was down by the lake cooling off and getting a drink. We followed the bear as it made it's way through the trees and down the hiking trail. We stayed a safe distance behind with our bear spray ready, but kept an eye on where the bear was at. After awhile , it climbed up the hillside and disappeared. Once back in camp, Gretchen discovered that the bear had reappeared, sniffing around our bear box. A few shouts had him on his way. Katrina, Kelly, and Martin saw the bear further down the trail as they were hiking back to camp.
On Sunday, we packed up and left camp early to paddle over to our next camp on the western side of the lake. The water was smooth and calm as we enjoyed a wonderful morning of paddling. As we were approaching our camp, Gretchen's sharp eye spotted our friend the bear once again. It had made it to the far side of the lake, but was thankfully heading away from our camp. Our only visitor at camp 15 was a curious deer who nibbled on plants around camp while I relaxed in my hammock reading. Camp 15 was great. Located on a high point, with views of the eastern side of the lake as well as Mt. Moran.
Monday morning was calm and beautiful as we packed up to head for home. We made quick work of the portage, and paddled quietly down String Lake, hoping to see an elk or moose. No luck this time. We hit the take out just in time, as the parking lot was filling with the "paddle board hoard." It was a wonderful trip and we won't soon forget our bear encounter.