Friday, July 11, 2014

bearish, Canada version

America's Pacific Northwest, British Columbia, and US 101 all rank high in the Stunning Scenery category. Gobs of people visit for good reason, I feel lucky to have seen a good chunk of it with my vision impeded by nothing more than a bug-spattered visor. But as I gazed over the wondrous west coast of Vancouver Island from Tofino's South Beach, the hot pebbles scorching the bottom of my feet, I couldn't help but realize that I've reached my limit on the Appreciation of Nature. It's like eating your favorite meal twice daily for three weeks straight; it ceases being delicious, and simply becomes fuel. I'm pretty close to my planned turnaround point anyways (Campbell River), and I'm looking forward to seeing the Cascades and Crater Lake on the way home, but stopping to take little beach and forest hikes is done. I was actively thinking this thought as I headed back down the 800 meter path to the Visitor Center when someone on the path in front of me told me there was a bear directly ahead. Nature always has an ace up her sleeve.

There was indeed a bear right off the path. Two bears, mama and baby, and a real baby this time. On the way to the beach I had seen some scat on the boardwalk and thought, Wonder if that came from a bear, and kept going. That'll teach me to ignore the signs. I'd probably be toast in no time had I lived in frontier times. Little clogs of tourists were backing up on either side of where the bears were. I hung out with a friendly family from Holland, who had an absolutely petrified red-headed kid. I tried to cheer her up - "It's wild America!" (I forgot we were in Canada) - and let her use my binoculars, but she was so terrified that she was in tears. The bears had scaled a tree right next to the boardwalk, maybe two stories up, and were just sitting there, but the scene on the ground with the humans was becoming a bit of a circus. I wanted to get away, and I'm sure the bears wanted everyone to leave as well. Eventually I joined forced with the Dutch and we walked past. On my way past I flicked a glance up and Mama Bear was looking straight down on the boardwalk. If I had realized she was that close, I probably wouldn't have walked past. In retrospect, it was a dumb thing to do. She was huge. But check out how colossally stupid people are. I passed a guy with a fancy zoom lens. This was the conversation.

Me: I bet you can get a really good picture with that.
Him: But you can't see anything from here.
Me: If you walk fifty feet up, Mama Bear is staring straight down.
Him: Oh, really? (Starts walking forward)
Me: Ummm...

Jesus people. There are signs all over the entire area with advice on what do to when faced with a bear (or wolf, or cougar), and take their picture isn't on the list. It was truly a buffet down there. Lots of little kids, and one dude who claimed to live near bears stood right under the tree to take photos. I went back to the visitor center to make sure a warden was on the way, and continued to the Bog loop hike to search for ferocious carnivores of a different kind, miniature sundews.

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