In 2003 Charlotte and I took a trip that would affect our lives ever after. And just recently, 10 years later, we retraced much of our journey to see what had changed and what had remained as we could remember.
The place? It's called the Great Bear Rainforest and is located on british Columbia's mid-coast.
The area was under assault from logging companies and other impending industrial threats were in the wings. The archipelago is a remarkable assemblage of forests, islands, big and small inlets, and of course awe inspiring wildlife like Bears, Otters, Sea Lions, Seals, Wolves, Birds, and the thread that weaves them all together Salmon.
There are several First Nations settlements in the area and the landscape is interlaced and marked with the 10,000 years plus history of their cultures and lives intertwined with those of the wildlife associated with the family of clan affiliations - Orca, Eagle, Raven, and Wolf.
Our first trip was on a very old motor/sail vessel the Duen, captained by Michael Hobbis. On this trip I was using my trusty Nikon F100 35mm film camera and a new Epson digital camera that made 6 megapixel images. The following images are either directly from the Epson or scanned from slides from the F100.
There were three crew - the Captain (Michael), the first mate/cook/"Zodiac" driver (Yuri), and the trip naturalist (whose name currently escapes me). Here's a shot of Yuri at the tiller of the inflatable.
The same inflatable boat was used for our shore excursions into the estuaries where we explored and looked for wildlife.
On that trip we saw a Grizzly Bear female with two cubs, one wolf that materialized out of the mist and then dematerialized as I raised my camera, and the expected Ravens, Gulls, Seals, Sandhill Cranes, and so on. The trip was in September so there were Salmon in the estuaries and their bodies on the shorelines as Bear and Wolves had caught, feasted, and left behind the remains.
After the above image was made we had wandered over to the other side of the estuary looking for bears when one lifted its head from behind a large tree stump on shore about 75 yards away. It turned out to be a female with two cubs that had been laying down feeding on Salmon and nursing her cubs when she probably heard us or got our scent. She walked around the base of the stump and started ambling slowly toward us. We backed ourselves back to the zodiac as Michael stood between the bear and the rest of the group with his bear spray unholstered. As she continued towards us we got in the boat and attempted to start the motor. The motor started but the propeller fell off the shaft and sank in the shallow water at the shore. As we grabbed paddles and tried to gracefully put some distance between us and the shoreline Michael managed to grab the uncooperative propeller with a gaf hook and then radioed Yuri to move the Duen to come and pick us up. The bear had lost interest in us by this time and ambled back over to where the cubs were - up on the downed log they had all been behind to start with. No useable photographs were made once we started our retreat so the only memories are those we carry in our thoughts.
One of the few photos of the two of us on the trip was made as we floated in Kynoch Inlet in front of the aptly named Kynoch Falls - we would, this summer, have the opportunity to make a new version of this capture.