Well, one visit was not enough and June 2005 had us back in the northern reaches of British Columbia to experience the Khutzeymateen grizzly bears once again. We planned this year to be on the very last trip so we would have a better chance to see mothers with cubs. Read on to see if we were successful.
The journey started the same as last year staying at the Eagle Bluff Inn right on the harbor while falling asleep to the gentle lapping of the tide. We were up at the crack of dawn, being fed a wonderful home-cooked meal by our host Mary and then off in a taxi to the airplane harbor. Last year we had a real treat flying via Inland Air Charters on a DeHavilland Otter that had been retrofitted with a turbo-prop. However, this year as there were to be 10 guests, we had to use 2 DeHavilland Beavers to shuttle all our bodies and equipment over to the Khutzeymateen valley. And as last year they did a wonderful and safe job of getting us there.
The flight in builds your anticipation as you skim over several ridges and a fiord before gently landing on the smooth waters of the Khutzeymateen valley. Once there it becomes an orchestrated dance to move the inbound group off the float plane and reload the outgoing group. It is now time to settle in and get down to serious bear watching as our guide Tom wastes no time in getting started.
One of the attractions of this valley for the bears is food source. Early in the year the sedge grasses are green and plentiful and become the bears' main focus. But when the grizzlies are looking for a change of pace and it is low tide, clams are on the menu. We followed this female as she spent hours digging for the tiny morsels. The most amazing scene was when she would dig one up, place one paw on the edge and then use one of her claws to split open the shell. The clam had no chance, but what a study in contrasts.
A moment of peace for this beautiful creature after a busy morning of digging and eating. Even though this is a place of protection, there are constant threats to these powerful beings. As they have roamed this part of the world for centuries and evolved their genetic markers, the one item missing in their code is awareness of park boundaries. Currently the British Columbia government has reinstated a trophy hunt for grizzlies despite the fact that 80% of the population supports a previous moratorium. If you wish additional information or want to support efforts to save these animals, please contact the Raincoast Conservation Society at www.raincoast.org or the Western Canada Wilderness Committee at www.wildernesscommittee.org. And remember the words of Henry David Thoreau, " In Wildness Is the Preservation of the World" . If we do not take our stewardship of this earth seriously, we are putting ourselves at peril.
While the bears are the main attraction, the Khutzeymateen valley is one of the most gorgeous spots I have seen on this earth. I could spend an entire day just cruising up and down the fiord on the deck of the Oceanlight II and be in seventh heaven. From the cloud-shrouded peaks, to the morning still waters, to a quiet and peaceful green meadow the power of this place draws you in, warms your heart and sets your senses alive. As I did last year, I will let the scenes speak for themselves.
As this was the last Khutzeymateen trip this year for the Oceanlight II, Tom gave us the option of sailing back to Prince Rupert and the entire cast of characters onboard agreed. We headed out the Khutzeymateen inlet and down the Inside Passage to an anchorage named Pearl Harbour. A nice stroll on a close-by island, followed by a salmon bake and then watching the sunset glow for our last night was the perfect cap to our adventure. Here are some images of that journey. Now, if you are wondering if we saw a Mother with cubs, there is still more to come........
Clear skies greeted us in the morning on our last day, as well as a beautiful female making her way along the shore. As we followed her I came to the realization that over the past three days these powerful omnivores had let us into their world, not to just observe, but to experience a cycle of nature that has existed for centuries and has provided the balance needed for survival. There is a sense of magic in it all and a realization that leaving something alone may be a greater gift to this world then most of the accomplishments the human race can lay claim to. My hope is for this ecosystem to remain intact, along with others throughout the world, so we do not forget that we share this globe as caretakers and stewards of the land.
Eagles Among Us
What do you think of when someone says, " Look-bald eagles!" . For most of us it is the sight of a large powerful bird overhead with a crown of white soaring in the thermals. A real treat is to see two or three together. Ironically in Prince Rupert the symbol of America is perched in just about any direction you look. They are in the trees at a main intersection, they are on the pier, they are flying past your restaurant's window at dinner time. When we returned, there was enough time to stroll around and photograph these magnificent raptors.
And if you are still waiting for scenes with a mother and cubs, lets go back to the Khutzeymateen and finish our tale.
Mom with Cubs
Well I have saved two special moments for last. As our goal was to see a mother and cubs, the treat of two separate scenes with this trio was exhilarating and struck a peaceful chord in my soul. The pictures speak for themselves. Enjoy and come back for our next adventure.
May our paths & errands meet