Monday, September 19, 2011

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

(Actually, there were more than three bears.)

This is the story of something that happened long, long ago and far, far away. In other words, it happened here, about three weeks ago.


August 24, 2011. It was any normal morning. After two weeks on the job, I was starting to figure out the routine—up at 6:30 to get a shower and get upstairs by 7:00. Help with the breakfast prep, serve breakfast, clear tables, and begin washing dishes. Once everyone else left and the kitchen was in reasonable shape, we could eat our own breakfast.

By 8:30, I had finished my own breakfast, taken some things downstairs, and was coming up again to help with the rest of clean up. As I walked into the dining room, the girls turned around and asked me if I wanted to go on a plane ride in about an hour. With Glen and two guests. To see bears.

A plane ride? As in, a float-plane, bear-viewing trip? Sure, I’ll go!

So at 9:30, more or less, I trekked down to the beach with my backpack, a sack lunch, water bottle, sweater and coat both, gloves, hat, camera, and bug spray—oops, the bug-spray-can sprayer didn’t work, so I left it behind. Jael went with me and helped me find a pair of hip boots before Glen, the guests, and I got into the float plane.

After take-off from the bay in front of the lodge, we flew north up the lake. The mountains were green at first…

Then brown and barren...

Then white.

We kept climbing, and the mountains rose with us, growing taller and colder in the gray morning light. That is, I thought they were tall, until I saw another mountain rising into the clouds ahead of us—it looked twice as tall and ten time as large around as any of the others.

Below us, the ice sheets ran along smoothly, before breaking off into sharp ripples. Huge crevices looked like bird tracks scratched into the ice.

I took pictures every few minutes, until I noticed my batteries were running low. Then they died. I swapped to my other batteries, only to realize that they were also low. Oh, well—may a picture of every tenth mountain, rather than every third one? Oh, look—a lake: a lovely, mustard-green lake—I need to take a picture of that too!

And by the time I got that picture, we were climbing steeply with a peak just to our left—on my side of the plane! We flew past still taking pictures, banked and started back. Oh, and there was a second peak on the other side—I just hadn’t seen it because I was too busy looking at the first one.

We circled again, passed a steep wall of red cliffs, and started descending into a fairy valley, with a river running up to a small lake, and a glacier running down into the lake.

And in the lake, these:

We couldn’t land in that lake, because of the glaciers, but we flew across a small ridge to a neighboring lake and landed.

First bear!

As we taxied in, Glen pointed out a mother and two cubs about half a mile down the shore. We beached and waded to land—still dry, thanks to our hip boots.

After anchoring the plane to a pine tree, we sat on the beach and ate lunch, spotting another mother and cubs in the brush half a mile in the other direction. We’re surrounded!

Not to worry, though—Glen was carrying a .50 caliber pistol. Thus armed and guarded, we packed up the rest of our lunch and started along the shore toward the point where we’d seen the first group of bears. They were long gone, but we spotted bear tracks in the mud, wolf tracks following moose calf tracks, and more bear tracks. As we got closer, guess who popped out of the bushes and scampered along the beach for us?

And her cub.

I’m so glad I have a good zoom (she’s still a good hundred yards off).

They went on, and after a while, we went on. We stopped by the bushes to change our hips boots for hiking shoes and started across the ridge toward the glacier.

As we came over the crest, the glacier came into sight…

And this guy came into sight right below us. We stopped to take more photos, of course. My batteries, fortunately, still worked. Then we went on again, picking our way down a rock slide to the edge of the lake.

We saw plenty of big icebergs, out in the middle of the lake, but I wandered down to look and this little guy. Just as I took the photo, the ice squeaked and broke in half.

We hung out a while, before starting back. As we started across the ridge again, we saw our friend Mr. Bear on the hillside above us, very absorbed in the berries. After a few more pictures, we hiked on, heading back to our landing spot.

We found our hips boots, under the bush where we’d left them, but not quite in the same condition as we’d left—somebody had decided to have fun, chewed on a couple, and ripped the top off another. Oh, and somebody left muddy paw prints on the tail of our float plane.


Audrey said...

P.S. The wind was picking up as we flew back, so I almost got airsick before we reached home. Almost--but not quite!

Anonymous said...

Loved the pictures and glad you did not get airsick. Grandma Jo

Andrew said...

Goldilocks in hip boots... go figure.

Anonymous said...

I have clearly been spending too much time reading the wrong sorts of blogs, because I got hung up on "hip boots". After a few minutes of trying to grasp those words coming from Audrey, the little light of alternative (and more proper meanings) clicked on.

Audrey said...

Apparantly I ought to call them waders or used some other term to avoid confusion, but I was trying to be specific and use the right name, as writers should. And yes, they are hip boots, not just regular boots.

Most people use them for wading along a stream while fishing, but they do start leaking after a while. One of our more interesting jobs here was trying on different pairs and wading out as far as we could to check them for holes. We had to throw out about half-a-dozen boots.

Anonymous said...

Loved your writing and comments from Andrew and Emma. I know what hip boots are and how they are used versus wading boots or rubber boots. I can see you wading to shore in your boots but coming back to find them chewed up had to bring on a new challenge. i am in awe of moose for dinner. Love you, Grandma JO

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