Have you ever seen a Grizzly 20 feet away?

Trip Start Jul 14, 2008
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Flag of Canada  , British Columbia,
Sunday, September 21, 2008

We'll get to that ...

This past weekend, I used up 2 vacation days and travelled back to Campbell River on Vancouver Island.  I had new friends to visit and 2 exciting activities to complete:

- snorkling in the actual Campbell River with the spawning salmon
- viewing Grizzly bears in their natural habitat along the coast mountain part of the mainland

Friday afternoon.  I enjoyed a leisurely drive along the east coast of Vancouver Island after docking in Nanaimo via the ferry.  Stopped in Parksville for lunch and made it to Campbell River by about 4pm.  Checked into my hotel and took a walk along the pier where I got a few good photos (prefixed in photo title by "F").  Met up with some friends (which included a newly wed couple, Anna & Rene) for dinner at Boston Pizza.  Good company & conversation.

Saturday morning (Note: photos from today are prefixed with "S" in the titles):  Excited!  I've booked myself an activity whereby you can snorkle in the actual Campbell River with the spawning salmon.  We donned wet suits (my 1st time wearing this much neoprene & 3 layers to boot!) and rode the rapids/current of the river for about 2.5 kms where we saw the fish and rocks fly by - it was exhilerating!  We did 2 runs (or 2 times).  I did not manage to get photos of the fish 1) because I was just moving too fast and the fish were not staying still (heehee); and 2) there were not a lot of salmon to be seen.  

Aside
:  we've been hearing reports of low salmon count and I guess that it must be true.  Ordinarily the river should be teeming with salmon.  Fingers are crossed (in the community) that the last run of Chum (in November) will produce greater numbers until the spring season comes along.

I still had an amazing time on this activity. 

Since it only lasted for 1/2 day, I used the afternoon to take a drive further north to a community called Sayward.  It is about 1 hour away and is home to Kelsey Bay (another picturesque location) where I enjoyed a hamburger made by Grace and is reputed to be the best in the world.  I don't know about the best (because you always have to compare to Lick's Homeburgers) but it was REALLY good.  Grace is friendly and she can share all sorts of interesting facts about the area including the fact that they can experience tsunamis here!  Who knew?  I didn't ... but you can, and there is a clearly marked evacuation route and everything!  Although I only photographed the transportation of lumber via water, it was a nice way to spend the afternoon before returning to Campbell River.  For dinner tonight I discovered a GEM called Dick's Fish and Chips.  Oh my gosh, is it ever good here!!!  You can get Cod or Halibut or Salmon or a bit of each that is cooked to succulent perfection where the flesh is juicy and tender and the batter is a perfect crisp!  To add to the decadence is the chocolate milkshake which is definitely as good as Lick's - the old-fashioned parlour kind.  Friends and family, be warned.  Once you pay me a visit, we have to go to Campbell River and you have to eat at this place ... trust me, I will not get sick of the place.  Don't just take my word for it ... I overheard some Brits, who returned for dinner after discovering the night before, state that it was the best fish and chips.  And, well, you know the Brits ... :)

Sunday (Note: photos from today are prefixed with "Su" in the titles):  Even more excitement!  I am scheduled to join a tour that features viewing Grizzly Bears in the wild.  Just as with my whale watching tour in August, I chose Aboriginal Journeys to be my guide.  Whenever you get out to these parts, I'll be advocating the use of this company.  In addition to my normal support of local businesses, their prices are fair, the journeys are safe, and Garry is a riot in addition to the immense knowledge that he shares of the area.  We journeyed by boat (the nice green on which I'm posed) through the Discovery Islands, up the Bute Inlet, which is a 66km long, deep fjord that cuts into the coastal mountain range of BC, and docked at Orford Bay.  We are now on Hemalco First Nation (one of the Coast Salish tribes) land.  Another guide greets us on shore, gives us a safety talk, loads us into a minibus and we end up at a place where the Orford River and another stream (can't remember the name) meet.  Chum salmon (also called "Dog" salmon because of the fierce look that they develop and the aggression that is present during the spawning season) are present in the water but impossibly difficult for me to photograph because they blended too well with the rocks and the sun was just glistening on the water.  We were in an unprotected, open area waiting for grizzly bears where only 1 man had a big gun ... I'm not nervous ... I have my karma with me, right! :)  We were not disappointed.  In the 2 hours spent at that spot, we saw 10 grizzly bears.  I photographed almost all of them.  There were times when the bears were on the opposite bank of the river/stream from us, other times when they were in the middle of the shallow waters trying to catch salmon, and more times when they were on the same bank as me ... walking across my path.  As with all of my wildlife experiences, it is exhilerating to be in the presence of these creatures!

Enjoy the photos! ... I think that I'll have a quieter weekend next week ... heehee ...
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