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  • Meeting the Grizzlies

    by Trish Clifford

    Canada has been on my list for a while now, like 15 years a-while. I’ve never really bought into the whole travel-adventure-list regime of thinking, nor proclaimed “Canada is on the list”. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good list, in fact I am an accountant after all, but please don’t judge me. If there’s something I want to do, including a place I want to see, I hang onto it in my head. It stays in my thoughts and I smile when I think about it. That’s how I know “I’m gunna do it someday” (best said in an Aussie accent). Introducing my adventure to Canada with a sprinkle of hiking, loads of cooler weather and hopefully to catch a glimpse of a grizzly bear.

    For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to see a Grizzly Bear in the wild in Canada. I absolutely adore the outdoors and my home Australia has loads of it; so many Aussie landscapes I’ve explored and so many more unseen. That is her vastness and sunburnt beauty. Yet, I have this absolute wanderlust, which is brought on by Canada. And besides, Australia doesn’t have bears. There is the koala but it’s a common misconception that the koala is a bear (oh the horror, I know – Google it). So this wanderlust led to the awesomeness that is Canada, for my partner's and my honeymoon.

    It was a six week adventure that involved some intense planning on my behalf, and some serious pain at work in the lead up to the trip. But as so many people say when it comes to travel and what we ‘pay’ for the experience, it was totally worth it. Why? Because there were three amazing sightings of grizzly bears in the wild. The first was on the way back to our lodging from a visit to Upper Kananaskis Lake. Seriously, that place is out of this world. My heart skipped a little when we saw a few cars stop and cluster on each side of the highway. There he was, just cruising along in the bushes, munching on berries. We stayed for a few minutes, completely gobsmacked that we actually got to sneak a glimpse at such a creature, then left as the car jam got thicker, people got crazier and started to step out of their cars for a closer look at the action.

    The second sighting was a couple of weeks later as we left Canmore and headed through the Rockies up to Jasper. This grizzly bear was just hanging out beside the road amongst the wildflowers as we drove into town for the first time. Our third and final Mr-Grizzly-Canada experience was also in Jasper, just near our cabin at Jasper Alpine Cabins, and a vision that I will remember and recount for life. We checked in and were told that it was a bumper berry season meaning the rangers had pruned the berry plants at the local parks and picnic areas to deter the bears from hanging around the popular spots. However, the berries were still blossoming around the cabins and there had been sightings in the last few days. My eyes said “Squeeeeeee, yes please” and that afternoon - we were enjoying some little wine and cheese on the back deck - when my husband noticed a shadow in the bushes about 20 metres away. Each cabin was separated by a maintained grassy area and the lady next door was outside on the grass chatting on her phone. After a few minutes of further monitoring, my husband proclaimed “I think that’s a bear” followed by me “You what?”... and then there he was as close as 10 metres away from us. So close in fact that we could hear him breathing. My husband proceeded to jump down onto the grass and do some interpretive mime to let the lady on the phone know that there was a bear, somewhat close and that she might want to retreat. Standing on the back deck of our cabin, we stood and watched with as little noise as we could make as Mr Grizzly munched on berries just about 10 metres away from us.

    P.S.: We never felt unsafe at any time, we were respectful of the grizzly environment, except for the annoying human in the cabin beside us that clapped his hands to get the grizzly’s attention and, trust me, the bears were way more interested in the berries than us.

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