Triple M Triathlon - Misty, McBride, Mamquam: Bike, Canoe, Ski. Part 3 - Bush and Bears.
Dates: June 25th - 27th
by Christian Veenstra
This is part three of my solo ski trip around Garibaldi Park, accessed self-propelled from my doorstep via Pitt Lake. Read about the approach here, or the alpine portion here. This section describes what happened after I finish the alpine portion and discover that the Bucklin Creek FSR isn't anywhere close to what I'd hoped for...
I may have cursed a bit - I'd just finished linking together 4 ski traverses in a little over 48 hours, less than 3 of which was spent sleeping, and I'm starting to run somewhat low on food. I was expecting to plop onto a logging road along which I could easily tromp back to my base camp and relax, but instead I find that the road appears hundreds of meters lower than I anticipated, I'm at the top of a cliff band, and even if I can manage to reach it the road looks super overgrown from what I can see. Oh yeah, and I've got an hour until sunset. Ok, first thing first - I send a satellite text to my partner and trip contact, Line, and let her know about the delay. And request confirmation on the coordinates of the end of the road. Then I start piecing it together:
After a bit of confusion (is this "the" road, or an old skid road? where's the road surface?) I figure out that that not only is the road overgrown, but it has been completely deactivated. And I'm not talking about some kind of lazy deactivation where they make a tank-trap or two and call it good. Whoever deactivated this road spared no expense and put their whole heart into it.
My adrenaline hits the roof, instincts take over, and I prepare to make my stand. I let loose some sort of primal battle-cry and stab at the darkness with my skis/poles (which I've strapped into a single package for better bushwhacking) in an attempt at keeping teeth and claws at bay. Then nothing. The sound stops and then there's just... silence. Ok prefrontal cortex, it's your turn now. Still defending with my right I unclip the bear spray from my pack with my left, slipping the safety off and into my pocket. I let go of my skis (which don't fall over because the bush is too thick for that), flick my headlamp onto max, and pick my skis up again. A slight rustle. I see nothing but glare from overexposed bush and alder-pollen drifting in the air very close to my face. The sound again, but no sticks cracking this time. I talk to the darkness and try and re-arrange the bush so I can actually see something. Then I spot two glowing eyes, above me in a small tree I'm almost right at the base of. "Are you making that noise?" "Your eyes aren't that far apart so you can't be that large... what are you, like, a big owl? Can owls even make that noise?". The noise again, and this time I'm sure it's coming from the eyes. Then I spot more eyes, and these ones are further apart. I dim my headlamp a bit and make out some jet-black outlines. Ok, looks like I accidentally treed a mama and (at least one) baby bear... and probably it's not making that noise aggressively. I think maybe that's a noise they make when they're terrified. My brain develops a plausible scenario - bear family runs up a tiny tree to escape the clumsy ape in boots (CAB for short; that would be me) lumbering through the bush. The CAB bumbles his way right to the base of said tree. Bear cub, probably scared witless, partially falls down - making a ruckus and startling the CAB, who (not being able to discern the elevation from which a sound comes) starts screaming and waving his skis around like a maniac. Ok, I sympathize with the bear's situation now... but it's not like I'm going to put the safety back on my bear spray. I jam my thumb under the trigger to prevent an accidental discharge and start bushwhacking slowly (like there's any other speed) first sideways and then backwards while keeping my eyes on the bears (this doesn't make the bushwhacking any easier). I figure I should probably bushwhack a reasonable distance from this place before lying down now. At least I don't notice my aching feet anymore.
I eventually do find a short section of unspoiled road surface on which to lie down. I make sure to take my ski boots off this time, again utilizing the fact that there's nobody around to hear me scream (it really helps), and take another ~ 3-hour nap with my bear-spray in hand. I wake up to a hummingbird investigating my head, eat some ginger candy for breakfast, and continue. The road doesn't look much better in daylight, but my speed does increase, I think mostly because I can spot better lines and confidently bushwhack further from the "road". The distance (and time) grind by and, eventually, I plop onto good logging road - 500m closer than I'd anticipated. No longer requiring dexterity I flip my boots into downhill mode, transferring the rub to new spots, and clomp happily down the road.
Two hours later as I approach my bike/hang a bear crashes out of the bush at the exact spot... but I'm happy to find that it did't get the hang down, or decide to trash my bicycle just for fun. I take my longest break of the trip at 10.5 hours. I finally down that kombucha, eat, doctor my feet, sweat myself to sleep in my tent for a bit, get up and bike a bit of the road to the closest waterfall, and eat some more - even cooking some hot food this time (instant noodles with copious amounts of butter). I can't rest too long though as I've still got a bit of a schedule to keep - I've got Monday booked off work, but ideally I'd be home in time to takeover childcare from Line. If my return trip is faster than my approach I can still make it in time. So I bike/canoe through the night and tow the canoe back through Metro Van in the middle of morning rush hour. Somehow each leg is slightly faster on the return trip, including the transitions. Some of it is just not needing to look around for places to lock up and not getting stuck behind any gates in PoCo or Pitt Meadows, but part is also that I don't feel like I need to leave much in reserve anymore. All told I made it back at my house in under 12 hours - 3 hours faster than it took me to get there, and with a cushy half hour to spare before Line had to leave for work. Clearly could have squeezed in one more objective...
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River of Golden Dreams
Triple M Triathlon - Misty, McBride, Mamquam
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