In the presence of bears
Water laps at the edges of the boat as the tide ebbs, the comforting, familiar sound of the Glendale River adds perfect a background to the scene before us. I’m standing in the water knee-deep, holding onto my boatload of British tourists stationary in the river, keeping our position between Luke’s boat upstream and Shawn’s boat downstream. Our three boats float quietly together, all of us focused on the creature standing on the opposite riverbank. We’re watching a beautiful sub-adult female grizzly bear named Bonnie go about her business as if we weren’t there at all.
The sights and sounds can almost overwhelm the senses here some days, but this morning is calm and quiet; rain is softly falling in Glendale Cove, onto Bonnie and her viewers on this slightly soggy spring morning. All we can hear is distant bird song from the forest, the occasional bald eagle that flies over, calling out to us as it goes, camera shutters snapping away and Bonnie’s contented munching on the estuary sedge grass.
We sit quietly, the enthralled viewers barely moving a muscle as this little grizzly allows us to join her for breakfast. Bonnie tears off mouthful after mouthful of the sedge grass, occasionally flicking her intelligent brown eyes towards us, making sure we’re behaving ourselves. She pads almost silently through the long grass, out onto the stones of the riverbank and sits down, nose high in the air, reading the messages on the breeze.
The tide is quickly retreating from the river now, and reluctantly Luke, Shawn and I pull ourselves and our guests away from the beautiful little bear and start heading down river. My guests make remarks about how they can’t believe we sat silently and watched her for almost half an hour, but then again it’s always surprising how fast the time goes in the presence of bears.
They know no concept of time as humans do – it’s meal time when they’re hungry and the tide is right, it’s play time when they feel playful and it’s nap time when they’re tired. Spring and summer for the bears are spent fattening up and possibly finding a mate when the time is right; fall is all about eating as many salmon brains and eggs as possible and winter is for hibernation. When they wake up the following spring, they awake as a slimmer, older and wiser version of their former selves.
At least one species of British Columbians have it figured out...
I’m back up here for my second season as a guide at Knight Inlet Lodge, and as always, Glendale Cove and all its inhabitants never cease to amaze. In my first 10-day shift of the season I’ve seen eight different grizzly bears, a handful of black bears, the rear end of a fast-retreating wolf, four transient killer whales, almost a hundred dolphins and on my last day of the shift, was lucky enough to find two humpback whales bubble feeding just outside of the cove – a rare sighting up here.
Rain or shine it’s beautiful here – this place enchants the people that visit with the birds and the beasts, the mountains, the ocean and the rainforest itself. I consider myself to be entirely addicted.
Words can’t do it justice – you’ll just have to come and see for yourselves.
Looking forwards to seeing you on the dock.