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Goin' Fishin'

Submitted by rock_rookie on 2005-02-23

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“Hey cool! Check it out!” I was pointing frantically towards the meadow and trying to catch my partner’s attention by squawking in a hushed tone, so as not to disturb this first major article of wildlife I’d spotted so far on our trip. The goldish-brown rear end of a huge elk was a hundred feet from us, masked somewhat by the tall, lush reeds waving to us in slow motion, moving to and fro around the animal in the light morning breeze like pale green pom-poms cheering for Mother Nature’s team. Two sleeps prior, we hiked the marvelous 20 kilometers of wilderness along the Astoria River and arrived at the Waites-Gibson hut, situated deep in the Tonquin Valley. This day was our third in the pristine region, and we were on our way towards Amethyst Lake to try our hand once again at fishing.

Yesterday was beautiful, although mildly disappointing; a full eight hours were spent casting and reeling, casting and reeling, and making up silly chants in hopes of luring the silvery Rainbows to our hooks. Wading thigh-deep into the purple, icy waters, we were teased incessantly by the creatures as they surfaced and jumped all around us. A single brave fellow even followed my line to within six feet of where I was standing – just close enough to make me screech and flail and lose my balance – and I swear he winked at me before he turned and swam away, probably sharing a chuckle with his buddies about how inane our attempts were at capturing them. The fine owner of a lodge at the shoreline was gracious enough (or perhaps he merely felt sorry for us!) to offer an aluminum boat with oars for our use. Paddling out to the middle of the lake proved somewhat futile however, as the wind was blowing hard enough to send us back to the beach in less time than it took to rig up the rods. We laughed and swatted away horseflies the size of Volkswagens, and ended up sunning ourselves on the dock and filling our hungry bellies with the fruit bars we packed rather than the scrumptious fresh fish we had intended. In spite of our luck, the day had been fantastic and refreshing. To be enveloped by the luxuriant Tonquin grasslands and ogled by the amazing Ramparts as they stretched their quartzite crests into a crystal-clear, azure sky, well, life didn’t get much better than that!

Until now, when I stood less than half a football field away from the largest animal I had yet to see. It was quite something, to watch a wild being within its own habitat, grazing, oblivious, thriving in a serene existence, mostly untouched by man. For a moment, my mind drifted out of the present and I was imagining how things would have been centuries ago, before there was a convenient, beaten trail, before the construction of a warm, cushy cabin, before this area was invaded by humans. In that instant, a pang of guilt ran through me, for forcing them to involuntarily share their space with us. I felt prying and selfish, yet I also felt thankful and grateful that these beasts were so selfless and unassuming and had adapted to our being there. My thoughts were snapped back to reality when our scent wafted down into the lowland and the elk raised its head to acknowledge our presence. I was trying to bring the massive shape into focus as it lazily turned to look at us, and I was completely shocked to realize that the stubby nose, wide forehead and small dark ears belonged not to an elk… but to a grizzly!

“Whoa!” I blurted out, the sound echoing in the dewy silence. “That’s a big… that’s the biggest…” I couldn’t finish the sentence. The bear’s ears perked up slightly, and he stopped chewing. My partner and I looked at each other as the grizzly sniffed and registered what he had caught a whiff of, and I fought the brief urge to drop my backpack and bolt. Instead, I muttered to myself as I sifted through my recall about how to behave in the presence of bears, and we quietly agreed to retreat slowly to the river crossing a few hundred yards behind us, making some noise along the way. Once we reached what we felt was a safe distance, we stopped and watched in awe as the bear, apparently not feeling threatened, gazed around and then resumed his foraging. I dug out my camera and snapped what I hoped were photos that would do the incredible animal justice. Close to half an hour passed, and the grizzly had moved less than a car’s length from where he began his breakfast quest. It was evident that this king of the valley was not leaving any time soon, which narrowed the choices for us about plans for this particular day. Neither of us wanted to travel across the portion of pathway exposed to the Silvertip, and the only alternative was to head back to the hut. From there, perhaps we could venture up to the tongue of the Fraser Glacier, or maybe scramble up the east ridge of Paragon Peak. We hoisted on our packs and began walking, chatting about the pros and cons of tackling either – excited about what we had encountered, and not discontented in the least that we wouldn’t be going fishing!


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