We hadn’t gone all that far when we saw some stationary vehicles up ahead on the road, had there been an accident? As we approached we could see that everyone was looking to the right at some wildlife, caribou perhaps? We stopped anyway, as one does in these circumstances to ensure that we don’t miss something. After a while Roger pointed out a black blob in the undergrowth of the verge where the trees had been cut down for the road. It was difficult to make out quite what it was until a brown snout and little piggy eyes attached to the black mass emerged from behind a bush, a big black bear foraging for grubs in the undergrowth, totally oblivious to the adjacent humans on 4 wheels! Not content with ignoring us, it’s mate trundled along as well! We couldn’t believe it. Our little convoy escorted them along the roadside for I don’t know how long, we were mesmerised. They were travelling in a definite direction and we were 4th car back so never quite got a good view of anything other than their bottoms, which was still pretty exciting. Eventually I persuaded Roger, being much more polite than me, to overtake and stop up the road, past the other vehicles and wait for the bears to come to us which he and they duly did. We managed to get some wonderful views of them and took lots of poor pictures in the excitement. My phone storage was nearly full from all the super photos I’d taken so we had to use Roger’s camera again. It also has a better zoom which quickly became redundant! We have deleted many of the 70+ photos we took as some were not very good content, some were quute out of focus and in some the bears managed to hind behind a twig!
A wildlife tour bus pulled in front of us, driven by the park gate keeper’s brother! This, presumably, was a good sign. There ensued a game of leapfrog for the remains of the hour or approximately 2 mile stretch of road. It was so compelling we couldn’t draw ourselves away. We kept vieing for position with the other cars and the tour bus as it was so amazing to see these magnificent creatures at such close quarters in their ‘natural’ habitat. Locals would beg to differ. The dexterity they exhibited with their huge claws was quite surprising. Despite their size and reputation they were searching for bugs under rocks and stones, not flesh and blood. Their worst misdemeanour was to create minor landslides from their discarded hard core or even dislodging rubble with their own mass.
Their progress was sure and steady but there was a river ahead, would they just disappear into the woods? The bus waited at the start of the bridge, apparently aware that the bears wouldn’t disappear down into the valley. Roger was aware of this movement (or lack of) and felt sure that familiarity meant that the bears would come over the road bridge. If he was right, the bridge was empty, so the best spot may be on the other side but still on the road so we took the chance and advanced to our outpost. Nothing happened for a while but the other vehicles didn’t move either so the bears must still have been around. Eventually our gamble paid off, onto the road emerged the first bear and it started to cross the bridge, lumbering along without any heed to the apt watchers, particularly us to whom it was heading. We were tense with excitement, our main question being which side of the Jeep it would pass, driver’s on this occasion. We had a full, uninterrupted and close up view of our visual prey as he/she passed us by before disappearing back into the shrubbery.
Wow! But where there is one bear their must can’t be far behind and, as if on cue the second bear emerged on the far side of the bridge. They ambled across the road, apparently undecided which side of the Jeep to pass. Much to my excitement it came between me and the bridge side which was quite a little squeeze. I had my window wound down where I had been bravely enduring mosquito bites in order to see clearly and take photos. As the bear approached I was troubled with the dilemma of whether to wind up the window as it was extremely close, I could hear its breathing, or sinking my fingers into the beautiful thick black enticing fur coat passing within my reach out the window. In the end I did neither, just held my breath. As this beast disappeared into the undergrowth to join its mate, we looked at each other in pure excitement and awe, how lucky were we!
We decided this was the epitome so wrenched ourselves away and continued our drive back towards Medicine Lake and the setting sun. The fish were rising all over the water yet there were no fishermen. I then noticed that the density of rising was increasing, quite rapidly. What an amazing amount of fish but it transpired to be raining! This couldn’t dampen our spirits nor the fact that we had probably missed our evening meal but it was a small price to pay.
If we got a move on we may be able to get back in time for a take out meal. So on a totally euphoric high we drove down the mountain road. Around a bend we came across some parked cars where people were out with their cameras, must be something attractive but safe on the left hand side. We pulled up on the right but couldn’t see what was capturing the interest. I got out to have a look at the magnet. It didn’t take much for me to identify the black bundle behind the bushes, another black bear! But why were people out of their cars thrusting cameras at what is potentially a very dangerous animal? I got back into the Jeep pretty smartish. We were well back from the action and on the wrong side of the road so decided to advance and cross over to the active side of the road. As we passed the black bundle I was staggered and delighted to see a little cub!
We pulled in and watched behind to see if anything would emerge from the undergrowth. Meantime, people were out of their cars to photograph one of the most potentially dangerous bear situations, a mother with her cubs! I’m not sure if the length of their camera lenses was inversely proportional to their brain size but there were some very big cameras despite the close proximity of the animals. Even our little camera lens wasn’t required here. A little cub emerged from the bushes and proceeded forward as if to cross the road under the bumper of a parked car. Another car was approaching from the other side and would not be able to see the cub until it was possibly too late. Roger leapt out the Jeep to flag down the oncoming vehicle! I was rather concerned that the mummy might not appreciate his altruism! Fortunately the other car pulled up and he got back into the Jeep unscathed. We peered out the back window and watched 2 cubs and mum lollop across the road and disappear into the bushes. Another amazing viewing, we thought we were lucky before.
We were definitely leaving it too late for a meal so headed back to the hotel cabins. As we approached our turning into the drive a car was stationary at the side of the road, what now? Merely a pair of elks which didn’t even justify stopping for after our evening experience however, when we pulled into the car park we had to actively encourage them to get out of the parking spaces. Whatever happened to ‘ do not approach the savages’? We shifted these rather beautiful creatures out of the way in a rather blase fashion. After all, we’d been on a bear hunt, and found not one but 3 and 2 babies!