6 tips on staying safe around bears…

Posted by on Nov 20, 2017 in Blog, Canada, On the Road, United States | No Comments
6 tips on staying safe around bears…

As soon as we left the arrivals hall in Vancouver we went to hire a car and charged straight for the US border. Overnighting in Vancouver is EXPENSIVE, so we were keen to get to the States as we had 4 days to kill before the bikes were arriving from Bogota.

We made it as far as Bellingham in Washington, that just happened to inhabit an REI Outdoor store. After a heady shopping spree we collapsed in a hugely overpriced Motel 6. Overnighting in Vancouver probably would have ended up cheaper overall.

Heavy spending must have been at the forefront of our minds. The following day we drove straight to Seattle to find another REI Outdoor Super Store – the term “frustration shopping” which had been coined in Colombia, came fully into its right on this day, as we drooled over high-tech outdoor gear and gadgets.

Fully armed with bear spray and mosquito repellent, we hit the road towards Mount Rainier National Park in Washington State. We picked up the South East Enumclaw Chinook Pass road towards Naches which is a historical trading trail meandering through a dramatic landscape of majestic cedars and firs. With the help of the awesome iOverlander App, we found our spot for the night at the end of a forest service road in the woods near a creek.

We spent the evening by a live camp fire and the night beneath the stars.

Driving was a welcome change from taking a beating by the elements on the bike, but I must admit I was a bit worried about foxy…she was tied down in some crate on a very strange route from Bogota to Vancouver via Lima in Peru, Toronto and Calgary before reaching final destination.

It was a relief to see the bikes still in one piece when we yanked open the crate. All of our things however, was pretty mixed up. My sandals in Axel’s tool box, his spanners in my beauty box and so on.

It didn’t take us long before we were up and running and we hit the road north towards Whistler.
Now, I have visited the Alps in Europe many times, and of course I love them. I’ve spent months in the Andes, and they are stunning, but I hadn’t imagined that the Rockies to be so magical. There is something truly iconic about them.

We looped from Prince George, across through Jasper National Park and via the legendary Icefields Parkway road towards Lake Louise. Westbound from there we took the Trans Canada Highway and aimed at the Kicking Horse River and Beaverfoot Forest Service road, to find a raved-about spot in iOverlander, enticingly named “Epic place at Wapta Falls”. When we got there, it was fully colonized by other overlanders. Typical, worst kept secret!

Disappointed, we rode down the forest service road and took a few turns off into the wild. The path got narrower and we didn’t meet a single person on our way. Finally a small clearing in the woods sprung up. There was a small, used fire ring and leftover firewood. The whole area was covered in wildflowers, young fir and wild strawberries. And apart from the usual wildlife bustle, it was indubitably the most tranquil spot so far. Unquestionably still and peaceful.

Filtering 6 liters of water from the glacial river

We got our water from the nearby glacial river and probably would have stayed indefinitely if it hadn’t been for the dwindling food stock.
One thing you have to get used to when wild camping in Canada is the constant presence of wildlife. Gophers, chipmunks, eagles, deer, elk and yes…bear! On several occasions we had been stirred out of our sleep by the brouhaha of stomping and chomping nearby. With equal dread and excitement we would peek out from our tents to ascertain if were about to get eaten. We enjoyed the sight of a large gathering of migrating elk and deer, much to our relief and awe.

However, one afternoon in our wild camping paradise, we heard boisterous lumbering in the undergrowth and out popped a black bear. He paraded through the far corner of camp, had a look, shrugged his shoulders and withdrew to the woods. Axel and I looked at each other, foreboding with a cocktail of stress hormones coursing through our veins.
Thankfully, that was the one and only visit we had from Mr Bear that day.

Bear encounters in these parts of the world are extremely common though, attacks are rare thankfully. Here are some top tips on staying safe around bears.

The following day, (or was it the day after, I don’t remember), we reluctantly packed up and got on our way. Unfortunately, Axel suffered a flat tire on the newly prepped Beaverfoot road. A sharp rock had wedged itself deep in the back tire. He plugged it a couple of times, but eventually, we had to admit defeat as the air kept escaping the tire, with it, our sense of humor. Emergency camp was agreed and set up outside a logging town named Golden. We passed the sign as we descended a dirt road down to a spot by a fast moving, glacial river. The sign read; “Waitabit Creek” which turned out to be quite the irony.

Now, Waitabit Creek seems to inhabit the largest population of mosquitoes in all of Canada
As the sun was setting and dusk loomed, the place turned into a frenzied blood sucking fest. It proved hard to even breathe without inhaling a mouthful of mossies…never mind going for a wee.

What I later learned about Waitabit Creek, is that it is renowned for it’s bombastic populace of mosquitoes. It is common knowledge that many divorces are instigated here. Many strong bonds broken and tested, dreams shattered and hopes destroyed. All because of the mosquitoes. Yes kids, its that bad. Axel and I was about to find out what we were made of.

Next time, find out if Axel and I made it out of Waitabit Creek…together.

See you out there!