My Quest for the Spirit Bear
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The spirit bear is described in one of the indigenous Tsimshians’ myths: “Raven made one in every ten bears white to remind people of the time glaciers covered this land”. Tsimshian-speaking people feel the white variant of the black bear has supernatural powers, hence the name “spirit bear”. I couldn’t agree more.
This small spirit bear (also known as the Kermode bear) lives in Northern British Columbia, Canada in the Great Bear Rainforest. This old growth forest takes your breath away just entering the edges. To walk deeper into the forest is a spiritual act just in itself. The floor is the most lush, deep green color and is soft and spongy just to walk on. Rain drops sparkle, dripping off trees that are so large it takes 16 people to wrap their arms around the base of the trunk. Deep in the forest, while waiting for a spirit bear, you might get lucky and hear ravens calling or if you look up, see an eagle keeping watch at the top of the canopy.
My trip began in Prince Rupert, BC in September. Prince Rupert is a small coastal town with a lot of old-town charm. There was even a red phone booth next to the B& B. Many fishing boats line the harbor, a saw mill on the edge of town and recently added a cruise ship terminal make up the town.
After a lovely dinner at the local restaurant, it was off to bed to await the next morning’s flight by float plane to Hartley Bay to jump on the boat. In a stroke of luck, I got to fly shotgun next to the pilot and look out the window at the fjords, huge cruise ships plying the Inside Passage and the forests on the peaks! One had to wonder what the passengers on the cruise ship could really see from the decks.
As we boarded the Island Roamer, the excitement began as we stowed away our gear, met our cabin mates and crew. Off we went with sails hoisted for a bit of color. Randy Burke, the boat captain, put us all off on the zodiacs to get photos of the ship under sail. The skies were very black with storm clouds brewing so the site was dramatic to say the least.
After a day of cruising were at our destination—Dribble Island. Our local First Nations guide, Marvin, escorted us to the bear stand to wait for the elusive spirit bear to grace us with his presence. And that he did! One moment he was not there and the next he just slipped out of the bushes to look at us. Standing on our little viewing platform, we were sort of in his zoo and he was free to walk along the shore, across the fallen tree and pull salmon out of the water to feed on. It was mesmerizing to the point of forgetting to press the shutter on the camera—just watching him watch us. Watching our little bear weaving in and out of the bushes was a very nice way to spend the day. Our group spent two days at the stand and we were rewarded with more visits by the bear.
Days to follow were not a let down after the beautiful spirit bear. Have you ever seen a whale breech so many times you lose count? It happened! How about loons in winter plumage or wolves howling? Then there were the many black bears and grizzlies. Oh, did I mention the spawning salmon that were so numerous you could walk across the stream on them? Well there weren’t that many, but it seemed like it!
At the end of the trip, several people actually cried from the spiritual aspect of the trip. There was the grown man that said he was worried his daughter would never get to see this in her lifetime if we did not take care of the bears. He said his life had been troubled until he got here and he was now able to put it all in a proper perspective. Then there was the lady who, while holding an eagle feather, spoke of how spiritual and humbling the rainforest was. Each time she entered it she felt washed over with nothing but pure love.
That is my story and you can join us to experience this on your own. You might find it life-altering too.
Join us on your own Quest for the Spirit Bear!
— Susie Green