I enjoy pretty much everything there is that has to do with the outdoors. Some of my most peaceful moments have been while walking through the forest, sitting on a beach, or boating (minus the loud engine). Accordingly I have a great respect for nature and enjoy learning about the plants and wildlife therein. My plan is to continue that learning process and hopefully enhance it by sharing what I learn. I intend for this blog to serve many purposes, but in the immediate future it will be a place for me, and hopefully others, to share ideas about reducing our individual impact on this planet, protecting wild spaces, and in general just to comment on the things we enjoy most in the great outdoors. I welcome all opinions as otherwise you cannot consider every aspect of a subject. However, I would ask that every opinion be expressed in a respectful way and considered with an open mind. Often there is no single right answer. Thanks.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A different outlook...

I should start by saying that I thoroughly enjoy hiking and always have.  I am fortunate to have an Uncle who is an avid, experienced hiker and at the age of 13 I was able to accompany him on the Cape Scott Trail and subsequently the West Coast Trail when I was 14.  Life gets busy and finally in the summer of 2009 I was able to venture out on a multi-day backpacking trip again.  This time we tackled the North Coast and Cape Scott Trails and my husband came along for his first big hike.

While hiking is one of my favourite things, it is certainly not my husband's cup of tea.  There are many other pastimes he would rather pursue, but he is a good sport and, without too much trouble, I was able to talk him into hiking near the Bugaboos in August 2010.  Many of our friends think we (mostly me) are crazy to endure the discomfort of blisters, sore knees, rainy weather, boring/disgusting food, and small tent space.  Most recently a friend commented that my Uncle must be a bit of a 'wild man' to be willing to take us into areas inhabited by cougars and bears.  Being that I consider most of my Uncles to be 'wild men' in their own right I was amused that hiking near cougars and bears would be considered a criterion for that title.

My friend then asked if I would take my children into areas like that.  Without hesitation I answered "Yes I would".  It was an easy answer for me, and in fact I have taken my children on short walks in areas where there have been posted cougar warnings.  I chat with them about the danger, and ask that they remain in sight always.  I run to catch up, or call them back as I need to.  I grew up in Campbell River and on occasion there would be cougar sightings near our home, or near the elementary school only a couple of blocks away.  I do not recall fear being my primary emotion.  I believe that education and awareness are the best tools to combat fear.  This statement holds true for many things in life, not just wild animals.

I hold animals such as grizzly bears, cougars, and black bears in high regard.  They are impressive, beautiful creatures and yes, these animals can be dangerous to humans.  Accordingly, they are deserving of respect and before you venture into their territory it would be prudent to do a little research.  For me the benefits of hiking adventures far outweigh the risks.  I also want my children to grow up with a knowledge and respect for nature's wild spaces and the living creatures therein.

Near the Bugaboos there were warnings of a grizzly bear in the area, on the North Coast Trail we saw cougar tracks, and many signs of bear.  We saw bears at a distance one evening on the beach and, near the lighthouse on Cape Scott, we saw a black bear just a short distance up the trail.  My Uncle stopped short and most of our group of 6 calmly pulled out the bear spray, while a couple of us pulled out our cameras.  We did not panic, we did not run, and we did not start firing bear spray all over the place.  We simply stood there and watched the bear while he/she watched us.  After posturing a little bit and staring at us for what seemed to be a couple of minutes he/she turned and walked away into the woods.  We waited a couple of moments to give it a head start and then we carried on.  By the time we got to the place where the bear had been standing we could not tell where it had gone into the woods, nor could we hear any sound.

I get the sense that many people see bears and cougars as wild animals that lie in wait for the next unsuspecting human who will unwittingly become their next meal.  I do not see it that way at all.  My sense is that most cougars look for deer and other small prey, while bears are omnivores and would much rather eat berries and fish than try to wrestle with a human.  Yes, there are exceptions to every rule.  Perhaps the animal is sick, perhaps it is hungry.  Maybe it attacks because it feels you are a threat to itself, or to it's young.  Anytime you decide to venture out into the wilderness you are taking a risk.  Anytime you get in your car and drive on a highway you are taking a risk.  Take the time to educate yourself before you go out, and perhaps you will not feel that around every wooded corner there is a carnivorous animal waiting to bite your head off.  I choose to hike despite the risk because in my mind the reward is far greater.

How many of you go hiking/camping?  Over the years how many times have you seen a bear, or cougar, if ever?  Would you know what to do if you did see one of these animals?

1 comment:

  1. I've gone camping a few times, never seen a bear camping. I have seen lots of bears on the golf course I used to work at in Whistler. Can't say I really knew or know what to do when you see one. We would generally admire them from afar and try not to catch their attention :| They sure are beautiful creatures!