Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Columbia River Wildlife
I think the person:golf course ratio in Canada is about 3:1. Not including mini or "fun" golf. Walking up hwy 95 I listened to the water. I found it, a small stream rushing under a cheerful little bridge, dividing a rolling green lawn. A golf course.
After a georgous day in the warm and diving pools at Fairmont hotsprings, we hiked up to find the source of the creek. Interpurtive signs told of blue heron and osprey. Aslin spotted a woodpecker. Here, in the foothills of the Rockies, we dipped our toes in a miniture Columbia River.
The next morning we walked three miles for cinnamon rolls. I pointed out a pair of black-eared deer and Brad pointed at me, “Your eyes are puffy,” he said.
I didn’t get much sleep the night before. Brad woke me just before midnight. “Something’s going through our stuff.” We have three Rubbermaid boxes- one with tools and two with clothes- that we tuck under the van at night, making space for the fold out bed.
I pointed my flashlight out the window.
A ‘thud’ and rustling.
“Do you think it’s a bear?” he whispered. I thought no, probably an evil squirrel. Like the one that ran laps around the living room, and jumped onto Kim’s leg when Aslin was a baby. I did not want a squirrel tossing our clothes around.
I pulled the curtain further back, my light illuminated nothing. Except our cooler, upside down beside the picnic table, 10-feet from the van. Shit. We’d forgotten to bring the cooler into the van. It was one of those moments, when you wish like anything you could go back in time- even just a few hours. Brad’s light found eyes. The brown eyes of a black bear.
I heard eggshells crunching.
Brad assured the kids, “we’re safe, the bear isn’t interested in us. It can’t get into the van."
I was less sure. The doors of the Volkswagen are thin. The rubber around the windows is quite worn in some places. If a bear could smell rice milk in a closed cooler, maybe it could smell granola in the compartment under the bed. On it's rear legs, a bear could tear through the canvas top to get the grahm crackers. Maybe Scott and Mercedes left bells hanging from the pop-top frame for just this purpose. Or maybe the ringing would only annoy the bear. Brad slept holding the car keys and I reminded my self how to use the fire extinguisher. Just in case.
I tried to think happy forest thoughts. Only the Blair Witch Project came to mind.
I fell asleep, dreaming a ranger came to check on us in the morning, to tell us how irresponsible we were. I woke when the bear came back. Or maybe it was a new bear. Do they ever travel in packs? The horn on the van doesn’t work.
I thought of Yogi Bear and almost smiled.
Daylight came. “Who knew bears liked tofu?” Ukiah noted. The bear also enjoyed our cheese, chocolate, butter and mustard. He sat on the tomatoes.
“He comes around every night,” the campground attendant told us. “They had to chase him off the golf course down at the resort this morning.” Now we know.
We packed lunch and headed for another day at the springs and the river. Here the Columbia is small but persuasive, accepting every loose rock invitation to change course. It jumps four feet west, only to redirect itself after a crowd of fallen trees. We hiked for hours, crossing the mighty Columbia (in single jumps) a dozen times per mile.
After dinner Aslin sniffed the van, “I love that soup smell.” I lit a candle, crossing my fingers that bears aren’t attracted to citronella.