Some of you may be concerned that I forgot about the story I`d started last time. This part of it cost me so much money that like a repressed memory, it`s hard for me to recall the details.
Whistler, BC was the site of this stop on our Canada tour. Most commonly known for the snowless winter Olympics and the picturesque town for Ski and snow bums, we had discovered it was also a major destination for summer adventure seekers. The snow runs become hair-raising mountain biking trails, fisherman cast for fish smaller than the worm used as bait, and the bears meander through the mountains eating berries all day long. Having been scarred as a child reading about a bear who slapped the face off a hiker in Canada, I decided to face my bear phobia with an adrenaline infused day watching them from the safety of a car.
The website claimed several bear sitings the previous days. A world renowned bear expert would lead us over the mountains and through the woods all from the comfort (safety) of a large car capable of plowing over a charging bear running after one of the Offspring. I happily charged one million Canadian dollars on the American Express for this once in a lifetime opportunity. The only problem I could anticipate was the 6 Am meeting time. We prepared our breakfast of hotel home-brew and packages of nuts the night before.
At 5:45 we drug our own hibernating Offspring to the meeting site, Spouse and I nursing our coffees. Our world renowned expert had sent his replacement for the day- a retired ski bum. Retired from her years of skiing and smoking pot, she had mellowed in to a hawk-eyed, bear spotting species conservationist. She nodded a greeting and commenced the tour without speaking. I took this as a sign to conserve our energy. It was going to be a banner day for watching bears in their native environment.
We started up the mountain in her SUV. She rolled down the windows, pulled out her binoculars and scanned the hill sides for crazed or grazing bears. The SUV must have been more to accommodate her driving than our safety as she never took down her binoculars to examine the road. We meandered slowly (thank the Lord) along the road, toward the trees, in the trees, out of the trees, directly down a black run on the mountain, over a stacked log or two, through deep mountain trenches filled with running water, and eventually back on the road. In short, she scared the bears right back to wherever they go at night.
For five hours we combed the sides. No longer worried about losing my face to a bear, I began to steer clear of the Offspring in case they turned on me in revenge. Even Spouse was losing his enthusiasm. When I began to lick the sides of my coffee cup our guide decided to shift the focus from bear watching to signs of bear evidence. She must have been pretty sure our day was a bust as we were now allowed out of the car unfettered. Although comforted by the absence of bear scat, I held on to hope and screamed in terror every time the wind whistled through the pines. The Offspring were now throwing rocks off the sides of the banks in a desperate attempt at entertainment.
Our guide pointed us in to the trees. She looked lovingly at a lone fallen tree. Her face transformed in to that of an angel beholding the face of God.
“A den” she sang in praise.
We ran toward the den. I hoisted Offspring #2 in the air for a photo-op of her in the den.
“NOOOOOO!!!!” screamed our guide suddenly possessed with the personality of a demon. ” We can`t disturb this site!” It looked to me based on all the signs warning of its presence that it potentially had been disturbed before. But- we`re rule followers and I was going to angle for a return of at least $500,ooo if we didn`t see any bears- or other wildlife, or even birds- so I didn`t want to do anything to jeopardize my negotiating position.
Luckily Spouse was tall enough to drop the camera in the top of the den. So folks, for those you wondering what it looks like inside a bear den- here you go. The money shot. Literally.
JK- nothing happened.
I tried to sell everyone on the benefits of six hours driving up and down a mountain in silence. No one was buying.
Naturally we saw several bear free of charge.
While the next group of gullible tourists were up on the mountain looking for the bears on a Weight Watchers diet, the fat bears were eating junk food out of the garbage in the town parking lot.
Unfortunately for Mama bear, OS#1 was driving and ran over one on the way out.
Not really, OS#1 drives so slow the bear out ran us as you can see.
For those of you worried about the plural of bear- according to Websters, the plural of bear is either bear or bears. I`ve used them both for good measure.
So the lesson is that yes- there are bears in the woods but don`t pay to see them.