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September 26, 2015

Bears And I Continued

By Maryanna Gabriel

"If you go out into the woods today prepare for a big surprise..." 
Teddy Bears Picnic composed by John Bratten

What spooked me was, as usual, people. 

Our cook tent was loaded with grub and what most especially made the whites of my eyes show was a big
.... festooning shreds (photo credit unknown)
can of bacon grease out in the open that the cook kept lying about. What better way to attract bears in a wilderness setting. Yikes. I could not convince our camp director to do something about it. I decided that my future husband and I were going to camp as far away as possible and so we did. One evening after a hard day of reconnaissance surveying we returned to our site to find one side of our tent slashed to ribbons. As I sewed the festooning shreds back together I tried not to imagine the size of the paws that made the cuts. Now I lay me down to sleep? Forget it. Every crack of the forest, and there were many, put me into a hyper-alert state as I imagined myself being a midnight snack. There were a few more bear stories but needless to say I survived the summer. The nightmares continued for years. Finally, after one fearsome night terror I dreamed I picked up a rifle and shot the bear. The bad dreams seemed to subside after that.

I continue to have a healthy and wary respect for bears for they are unpredictable. It is not by their nature, but by ours, and how we have habituated them. 

September 19, 2015

Bears And I

By Maryanna Gabriel

I have had some interesting jobs in my day and dendochronology (counting tree rings) and looking for points
.. a black bear fell asleep (photo credit unknown)
 (arrowheads) was one of them. This was in northeastern British Columbia in a wilderness area called Bull Moose Mountain. We had been hired to determine the First Nations impact in the area from an archaeological perspective. It was quite a summer. I remember being in a trapper's cabin with an old timer discussing the Bigfoot which he had maintained he had seen. We flew by helicopter to where we needed to be with an ex-Vietnam pilot and he liked to scare the bejesus out of us by spinning the bird and cutting the engine, dropping us from the sky until our stomachs were in our mouths and we begged for mercy. One day, we were camping in a log cabin. It was my birthday. The chopper came and hovered deafeningly above the cabin. Then he lowered a bottle of champagne to the bedroom window and flew off. That was pretty fun. I digress. I wanted to tell you what happened with me and bears. We were surveying a wooded area, demarcating where we needed to excavate and at the exact point where we decided to be, a black bear nonchalantly ambled to it, lay down, curled up into a ball, and fell asleep. It was unanimous. We were leaving. But that was not what spooked me. 

September 12, 2015

Bubbles Of Happiness

By Maryanna Gabriel

It turns out the bus passed me at the 4 kilometer marker. Oh well. I at least had the satisfaction of knowing I had walked 22 kilometers on my birthday. I had driven through a forest-fire, smoke-filled interior, that was so thick that Lake Okanagan was not even visible. I followed the smoke through the Rockies to busy Banff and joined my family at Lake Minnewanka. Blowing bubbles with my grandson and later bubbly of a different sort was a perfect way to celebrate. My route home brought me through a windswept and sparkling clean interior to Vancouver after the worst storm of 10 years was starting to subside. Traffic was halted as lights were knocked out by power failures as I gritted my teeth through a branch strewn city. It does not take much to bring us to our knees. I was soooo happy to catch a direct sailing home. I want to tell you next what made me afraid of bears. 

September 7, 2015

Lake O'Hara

By Maryanna Gabriel

When I awoke from my short sleep by the river I felt better. I pulled out my little camp stove and made tea as I listened to the sheer luxurious roar of sound. Some days one just does not know what is on the agenda but I seemed to know I was heading to Lake O'Hara to the eastern region of Yoho National Park. At 9:00 a.m. the parking lot was buzzing. Two yellow school buses were pulling out, the reservations having been made long ago. I hesitated a long time. I even drove away but then I circled back. Finally, I pulled out my day pack and began walking the road. I did not know if I would make the 11 kilometer ascent. All I knew was that I wanted to see this famous place. 

I was surprised to find myself alone. Where was everybody? Up I went, past trickling streams and creeks as I once again nervously contemplated my ill preparedness should a bear show himself. Nervously I eyed the trees and immediately wished I was not so observant. Up, up, I'd say easily 18 feet up, were the scratch marks. "Griz," I mutter to myself my stride increasing. I wondered how long it had been since I walked 11 kilometers and as I scanned my memory I went back more years than I cared to remember.
Lake O'hara (photo credit Parks Canada)
Near the top I passed the campsite. I had made it. I looked longingly at a campfire with people gathered around it and pressed on. As I approached Lake O'Hara I found myself slipping under the spell of the beauty of this wild setting. Little mossy places, delicate rivulets, tiny and exquisite growing things in such a pristine wilderness. I understood why people were being limited. It would not take much to trample this all down. As I arrived at the lake I  immediately recognized why it is so well known. It is turquoises and emeralds, in a snow capped mountainous setting that is at once extremely intimate, the colours of the water engaging, the topography mesmerizing. I stared at some ducks and took in the dear little log cabins on a peninsula with lovely geranium baskets. I walked up to the lodge, glass windows revealing a white table cloth setting and a sign that said High Tea would be served that day. I was anxious about the bus down and after asking a young woman balancing a gorgeous looking carrot cake loaded with logan berries on a cream cheese icing, I remembered it was my birthday. I tried not to whine. I found out the wait would be too long. I had my family to meet in Lake Minnewanka and my time was at hand. I began the descent down reasoning I would beat the bus. 

September 5, 2015

Roaring Morning Glory

By Maryanna Gabriel

Hoodoo Campground In Yoho

Takkakaw Falls
Being in Yoho has been on my list for a long time. I have always had Too-Much-Of-A-Hurryitis when I am travelling in the Rockies. This beautiful national park backs up onto Banff, Jasper and the Kootenay, part of a magnificent quartet of national parks, that I was now making my goal as a birthday present to myself. As I pitched my tent in the Hoodoo Campground I noticed all of the bear signs. Suddenly I remembered I was terrified of bears. Earlier scary memories of being being in archaeology camps came to mind. Years of sleeping in campers has made me soft. Gritting my teeth I slept two inches from the car and awoke at 2:00 a.m. I anxiously peer out. Nothing but stars. Finally at the first crack of light and with a sense of reprieve, I crawl out of my bag, eager to be moving. Gratefully I turned on the car heat and headed into Takakkaw Falls which is a 254 meter high waterfall in the Yoho, one of the highest in Canada. My car nosed up switchbacks until I stopped at the roaring confluence of the Yoho and Kicking Horse Rivers, the air a crisp, cool, blast of wonderful sound. The Yoho is creamy in appearance, carrying glacier sediment, and the Kicking Horse is clear, and as I watched the waters join in tumultuous milky glory, the sun started to glisten on the glaciers and the mountains towered over me like a most wonderful cathedral. I continued upward past other waterfalls and came to the Takakkaw Falls.
The Water Travelled  Down The Valley
A sign tell me this means "It is magnificent" in Cree. An old log cabin greeted me, a testament to the 1900's when people came up on mules and horses to have high tea. I shiver in the sharp mountain air and find a scarf. The air is pungent with the smell of the Christmas tree forest I find myself in. I see I am at the tree line. I look up. The falls are a stunning cacophony of glorious sound. They are glacial fed, the glaciers themselves fed by the Waputi Icefields beyond.

I slowly and reverently make my way to the base both startled and grateful to find myself alone. I am able to reach out with all senses. The formation of the boulders catch my eye seemingly placed there by some divinely inspired gardener, the water pooling and rivulets streaming around me in mossy insistence. It is as if a crystalline purity is here, a diamond magnificence, almost a presence. I had the sense of the Yoho being a beautiful princess to the monarchy that is Jasper and Banf. I felt sure the Cree would have stories about this place. I stop in my tracks and gasp at the view of the falls as the water travelled down into the valley, the sun continuing to rise and reflect on the rushing river. Later I pull over by the side of the Yoho River and listening to the sonorous sound, I fall into a deep, deep, sleep.