A spirit bear standing in a waterfall

An Ordinary Day With Spirit Bears?

It was the first day of our spirit bear trip this fall, and we were walking up a small creek in the Great Bear Rainforest. Sunlight filtered through the lichens and mosses dangling from the tree branches; salmon splashed in the stream. This creek is one of the best places on Earth to see a Kermode, or spirit, bear. The only problem was nobody had seen one here this year.

Nonetheless it was a wonderful place to explore.  And since we had a whole week to try to find a spirit bear, I wasn’t too worried. Instead, I walked slowly, enjoying the sights and smells of the rainforest.  Besides, I figured our chances of seeing a black bear on this day were pretty good. I imagined that this would make a great start to the trip while building anticipation for the big event when we might actually spot a white bear.

Then there was a change of plans.

As we came around a corner in the river some movement caught my eye upstream. Looking through a tangle of branches I saw something white upstream.  A beautiful and healthy white bear stepped into the river and started searching for salmon.  I could not have been more surprised. I could not have been more delighted. There was a flurry of activity as people reached for their cameras.

There are a lot of ordinary days in life, but this was not going to be one of them. There is nothing ordinary about sitting on the bank of a rainforest river watching a white bear.  It is not an ordinary day when that bear calmly walks past you as it searches for fish.

As it turned out there was nothing ordinary about the rest of the week either. We were blessed with some breathtaking encounters with white bears, black bears, marten, whales, eagles, ravens and more. We even spotted two wolves lounging in an estuary.

And part of what made the week so great was the extraordinary people I was with. Bound by a common love of nature and outdoor adventure we snapped photos, high-fived, shared stories and enjoyed each others company. Together we also spent plenty of time sitting quietly by the river listening, watching and enjoying the rainforest. Yes, there was rain and mud to contend with, but nobody complained. Getting wet and muddy was a small price to pay.

A spirit bear and devils club
A Spirit Bear among the Salmon Berries and Devil’s Club, in Gitga’at Territory. Photo by Tim Irvin.

This was the kind of trip that one hopes for as a guide. Everybody went home happy, excited and rejuvenated. But it felt kind of strange to go our separate ways so soon after sharing such rich experiences together.

As a guide I know that not every trip can have amazing wildlife encounters like this one did. That is just how it goes. Nonetheless, there really are no ordinary days in the Great Bear Rainforest; the place itself is simply too enchanting.  As long as you are paying attention, it seems there is always something special in store, no matter how big or small.  And that is why I keep coming back.

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