A Grizzly Story

We drove along a deserted highway, surrounded by stunning scenery. We were looking for the Park Ranger's area. But we were too early, in the season that is. Instead we found a parking lot with a few cars in it but no sound, no sign of any human. As we stood discussing whether it was wise to go hiking in Kluane National Park in May, during Grizzly cub-rearing season, when Mama Bears are more protective than helicopter parents, another car pulled in. A thin man got out, swiftly and expertly put on his gear, chatted with us for a few minutes, and hiked off, bells tinkling from his belt. We had no bells, but I had my voice, an effective bear deterrent, according to the brochure our B&B insisted on us reading before they even let us set foot in their backyard (with their black lab, bear protector) in Whitehorse. We followed the experienced hiker from Hamilton, whom we quickly lost sight of, and I talked non-stop. We hiked up a hill, enthralled with the scenery, and the only sight we had of a bear was bear scat -- until we turned around and hiked back to our car, that is.

Bear tracks covered our boot tracks, going in the same direction as we had, for a few metres along the path. But when we had branched right, this bear had gone left.

The silly people with me were disappointed; they wanted to see a Grizzly live, in person. Didn't matter we had no rifle, no dog, that there was no Park Ranger, no cell phone, nothing to save our sorry asses if the Grizzly had her way with us.

Today, after seeing the near-Grizzly-encounter on CBC Toronto News, I was even more happy that those bear tracks were as close as we got. As the photographer said, he shouldn't have been so close to the bears. Living in cities, visiting domesticated wild areas of our provinces, we forget that much of Canada, though breathtakingly beautiful in flora and fauna, is also unpredictable and dangerous, that it's no zoo out there with animals knowing their place, that even those with wilderness experience can suddenly find themselves becoming bear food.