Monday, March 09, 2009

Never Cry Bear

The mean annual temperature for Saskatchewan is -6C. It is -28C. John thinks that the cold is unusual. I think that it is about par for the course, seeing as how the unusual is usual for our lovely province. Hopefully this will be winter's last hurrah because it is really starting to get to us all. The sanity of Saskatchewan is at stake here! I do have a solution for us. I think that any day in March that the thermometer goes below -25C most people should not have to go to work excluding resort owners due to the large amount of inquiries that the holiday would generate. People should be able to stay snug in their beds and plan their summer vacation and or reminisce past summer vacations....

The float plane came to a perfect landing, gliding across the water and leaving a gentle wake which was the only thing that disturbed the glassy sheen of Lake Andrew. The mechanical hum of the engines were out of place in this remote uninhabited and pristine forest. Quickly the supplies were thrown from the plane onto the shore and the two holiday couples followed their gear onto dry land. I felt a wave of apprehension as the plane roared down the lake, lifted off and then became a speck in the sky. We were totally alone unless you were to count the wildlife. There were fish in the lake, busy beavers and singing loons. There is nothing quite as lonely of a sound as the cry of a loon and the hum of a float plane far of in the distance.

Two red canoes were tied to a make shift dock that some previous camper had built out of dead fall. A platform behind some shrubbery made out of some more dead fall tied together served as the toilet. These were the only amenities. The lake would serve as a tub although, in June, a very cold tub.

We took in huge gulps of the sweet fresh air. It was now evening but we knew that we had lots of time to set up our camp. It was June 20 and in the north as well as the south it is one of the longest days of the year. The deep dark of night does not overtake the light this time of year in the north. We were far north. Yes. This was some consolation to me. I figured that if a bear was going to come for us we would be able to see him. We would be able to shoot him before he ate us. I had been preparing myself for any scenario regarding bears for weeks prior to the trip. Kim and I had got the guys to get the necessary permits for the gun and the shells even though the guys pooh poohed us for our nervousness and continually assured us that the bears in that area were so not habituated to humans and so shy that we would never know they were there.

We spent the evening fishing. It was all and more than any fisherman or woman could dream of. We soon had caught our supper. Nothing can compare to the aroma of fresh Northern Pike frying in butter over a smokey campfire. I would pick this meal over any other meal offered me. Those delicate tender flakes of buttery goodness melting in my mouth excite my imagination. Best of all, there was no need to ration. The fish was in such abundance that we could stuff ourselves to the max. There is not a restaurant in the world that can provide the ambiance that nature did the week we were there.

After dining it started to get misty out and we hurried to get our tent up before the mist turned to gentle rain. We managed to get it all together before any of our gear got damp. The guys went out and cleaned up camp and hung our food supplies up in a tree well away from our sleeping area. Kim and I arranged the four sleeping bags. We put John and Phil on the outside and myself and Kim sandwiched in between. We figured that if the bears came they would not have to shoot over us. The guys having finished their chores came in for the night. As it was still light out at midnight we had no need of our lantern. We asked the guys to have the gun ready, you know, just in case. In order to humor Kim and me and with the hope that the gun would offer us enough secure feelings to facilitate sleep, John brought out the gun. He asked Phil for the ammunition. It turns out that our dear Phil had forgot to bring the ammunition. I advised John to maybe bring an axe inside for, you know, in case the bears came. This idea was vetoed. My dear husband said "If you think that I am crazy enough to go at a bear with an axe, woman, you need some extensive psychiatric therapy." When I asked him what the new plan was in the event of a bear attack he said "Run! And further more" he declared "I will survive you all cause I can run faster than any of you." He added "Now go to sleep" SLEEP? There was no way that sleep was going to come. With my eyes open I could see vague shadows moving along the tent wall. Whenever a tree moved it was so easy to think that it looked like a bear silently walking by. After awhile I decided that it would be a good idea to close my eyes. I would rather not look death in the face and if it were to come the best I could hope for was that it was to be swift and painless. It was impossible to convince myself that a bear attack would be either unless by some fluke Mr. Bear manged to sever my head from my neck with one chomp of his powerful jaws. With my eyes closed the sound of the rain running down the canvas sounded like a bear snuffling around the tent. My imagination ran wild for the next two hours. I longed for sleep.

Sleep did eventually manage to overtake my tired and overworked brain but not for long. Shattering the quiet of the night a horrible cry woke three of us. "BEAR" it screamed "BEAR, BEAR, BEAR" it squealed. It was Phil. John figures that Phil had decided to share with us what his overworked imagination had produced or in other words, dreamed. Perhaps it was the guilt of the missing ammunition. Perhaps it was a bear. We will never know. Suffice it to say that during the week we were there, nary a hint of a bear was to be witnessed. Bear tracks were not to be found in our camp. Bears were no spotted along the shore line. Bears were not heard chuffing along in the forest. There were simply no bears anywhere. Thank goodness.

What did I learn from all this you ask? Well, I am sure in my heart of hearts that I could outrun John due to the adrenaline rush and I did learn that we agreed on one thing: Flight not fight!


Sue said...

This was a wonderful and entertaining read! What's really funny is that I have heard this story before and it still made my heart jump when Phil started yelling, Bear, Bear!!
You should get some of your short stories published. Thanks for that Chris!

Momisodes said...

Wow. What a story and what a trip!

I'm not sure I could have slept either. I would have jumped at every little noise I'm sure :) Although, it does sounds like quite an adventure!

Jientje said...

For a moment there, I had the feeling I was right there with you, looking at the shadows and listening to the sounds of the wood. I love the way you write Christine!

The Invisible Mo said...

Nice story telling! It reminds me of the time I was camping with the boys on the way to New Hazelton, BC. If you remind me when you're here I will relate it to you. I even have some pics if you like.

diana said...

your words painted such a vivid picture that i could smell the musk in the air and taste the pike. you should write more stories.

and what an adventure. i'm always afraid of bears, too. especially if we were camping in a tent off by ourselves somewhere.

once we were in a campground, with many campers near by, and a bear came through the grounds and woke everyone up from their slumber during the night. i remember peeking outside and watching it sniff through our neighbor's site. it left without incident. but it took me hours to fall back asleep.

Karen said...

oh, that is too funny! and a very nicely written story.

One time Jim and I were working at a campground in north Georgia for the summer. we had not seen any bears, but had heard rumors that there were some around. My sister and her husband came to came for a few days in their pop-up camper, and we teased her mercilessly that a bear was going to get her through the canvas sides of her rig.

The first night they were there, we went to their campsite for dinner. Jim and I were sitting with our backs to the woods at the picnic table. My sister's eyes got big as saucers, she said "OH MY GOD! it's a BEAR." and we laughed. Just then, we heard it grunting behind us!!!! I ran to get in the truck and they all laughed at me. I said "I am not stupid, I have read Reader's Digest and I know bears will maul you.


sandra said...

Great story,but I could never camp in a place like that. It's way too isolated for me. You're much braver than me.