–by G.K. Sydney (photos and column)
Recently there’s been a lot of posts on social media and in the news about bears in and around Sooke. Because of that, I thought it would be a timely thing to add my own story to the mix. Try this one on for size.
The other day we went off on another one of our awesome west coast kayaking trips. This time, we went to a beautiful bay in East Sooke and the day was perfect. The water was smooth, the scenery incredible and the joy was huge. Sooke, we love you!
Out we got onto the water with a minimum of fuss along with a few other kayakers and a couple of fishing boats. At first we headed out towards the Strait, hoping to see a passing orca or humpback. We didn’t have any luck except for lots of lovely rollers and breezes.
Soon it was time to head towards the little islands near the shore and take in a beach or scramble over a gorgeous rock outcropping.
With these thoughts in mind we pulled up to the nearest island. About ten minutes before, we had heard a nearby group of kayakers talking and maybe heard the word bear, but neither of us paid much attention. All we were thinking about was how beautiful the day was and the amazing amount of interesting things we were seeing.
Accordingly, Jim moved the boat into a little cove and I jumped out (just going for a twinkle, dear), moving up onto the rocks. In order to get a bit of privacy, I climbed up the large boulders and stood still for a minute to decide how I could get over them and sink down out of sight. Just as I was planning my path, I looked up towards the trees, paused, and said in a calm, shocked voice to no one in particular, “Oh. There’s a bear.”
Now, why was I shocked? We’ve been kayaking and hiking for about three years and living in Sooke, home to so much wildlife, for around one year. But rarely have I seen a bear in all the places we’ve been and never have I seen one when I’m going somewhere on my own. So this close, I mean, right in front of me, just seemed …impossible. Surreal.
And why was I calm? Well, I can only attribute that to just plain dumb. And to prove it, what did I do? I just stood there. The bear was looking at me and I was looking at him. Even more ridiculous, some part of my mind said, “Oh well, so there’s a bear, but you have to go SO BAD, just do it!” As if in response, right at that moment, my new buddy started doing a strange thing. He balanced himself on all fours (aggressive stance?) and started snuffling. That’s right, huffing and snuffling and moving from side to side and making all kinds of weird noises. Scary noises that didn’t need any translation. And then suddenly, finally, my slow – moving brain got the message loud and clear.
Change of gears. Now moving at lightning speed, I was backing down those rocks as quickly as I could, yelling at Jim that we had to hit it! One more frantic minute and I executed a perfect push off the rocks, simultaneously managing a miraculous acrobatic leap into the boat. Even as I was doing that, Jim, who thinks a lot faster than me, was already paddling backwards and getting us out of there. Five minutes later, well out into the water, my breathing slowed, my eyes focused and I calmed down enough to remember the bear spray. And the fact that I hadn’t at all accomplished what I had set out to do.
Oh well, mission aborted. It will be awhile before I try that again. Just happy to be alive to write some more. Still love you, Sooke.
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