We drank local beer, watched the golfers heading out in their buggies and wondered if we could commandeer one, and got to see some northern lights.
We had three nights in Waterton NP. It’s a gorgeous location and even though we had some smoky days we had a great time going on a guided walk and canoeing on Cameron Lake. Some of the tracks were closed due to a bear having approached people at a camping area. From what we were told it’s usually humans that cause the problem, leaving food out so bears learn humans = food.
We enjoyed stunning views on the road from Nelson to Fernie, where we stayed one night. And then it was more clear skies and mountains on the way to Waterton Lakes National Park.
Nelson is a known both as a historic location and a bit of a hippy hangout. We liked it. En route we passed through the historic town of Greenwood, where the film Snow Falling on Cedars was filmed. Some of the film set facade is still standing in the main street.
After a short stop in Vancouver to say farewell to friends, we headed up Highway 3 to our chosen destination for 3 nights, Manning Park. Most of the friendly staff were from Kalgoorlie, which was rather unexpected. Mornings we headed out early to see wildlife, and were not disappointed. Incredible mountain views – I would love to see it in winter.
After our fantastic Great Bear Lodge adventure we had another night in Port Hardy before driving to Nanaimo so we could catch the ferry from Vancouver Island back to the BC mainland. Nanaimo is famous for a rich creamy chocolaty slice with a sugar kick to boot you into next week. I recommend you try one. Fortuitously, the town also had a good local brewery, White Sails. We tried a couple of brews before eating and then heading home to get a good night’s sleep so we didn’t miss our early ferry departure.
Our first mystery outing (*spoiler alert – look away now if you’re planning to go yourself) was a walk on the mainland. When you first arrive, rule number one is that you don’t go off the floating lodge unless you have a guide. On our walk we had Marlo and Sabine guiding us, with frequent calls of ‘Hey bear!’ to make sure there were no surprises. They also had bear spray on the hip. Both were really knowledgeable about bear behaviour and we were shown some cool places where bears hang out.
We arrived at Great Bear Lodge and after getting an initial briefing from owner Marg we checked out our rooms and the lodge interior. And in no time at all we were getting ready for our first outing. Pre-outing we had a bear safety briefing. No venturing off alone, stay on the floating lodge unless accompanied by a guide. No sudden moves, no loud noises. We were in not-quite-salmon-feeding season, so trips involve getting into tinnies and cruising the estuaries of Smith Inlet. This was both terrifying and exciting if you are an adventure wimp like me. There were only 10 guests during our stay, so it was two little boats heading out.
Bear spotting trips happen rain or shine, so it’s good to to have the right outfit. GBL has some serious gear for visitors – warm, camouflage onesie, oilskin pants and jacket, sou’wester (hat). Wear it all, if it’s raining you won’t feel a thing. So for the first trip out, after an early dinner, it was raining. We layered up, but decided not to take camera gear, not knowing what it might be like. Predictably, this was the only outing that we saw bear cubs. A magical experience and a great start to our bear lodge experience.
Staying at a bear lodge was a particular dream of M’s, so after some serious forward planning (14 months in advance), finally the day arrived! Part of the excitement was our first trip in a seaplane – what a wonderful way to travel. Best way to fly. We were in the smaller plane of two going to the lodge, 5 passengers plus the pilot. We had a beautiful clear flight, landing at the front door of our floating accommodation at Great Bear Lodge.
Due to various constraints (time and money – the usual), our visit was on the shoulder of the approaching salmon season (August). Bear spotting was likely, but viewing bears catching fish was entirely up to nature. M was just keen to see bears, and I was keen not to get eaten, so we didn’t really care if no salmon were involved in our experience.
When we arrived, there was a lot of hugging and farewelling going on – the seaplane that brings the new guests takes the leaving guests back to port. It all seemed very friendly, if a little excessive, but it was a magical place to land, and thrilling to know we would be staying here for a couple of days. What a location.
Sorry for the blogging break! While it’s back to reality for me (and that has taken a few weeks to organise), here on the interweb I can pretend it’s still all happening…
As you might have read earlier, we were in Port Hardy to prepare for our flight to Great Bear Lodge. The flight was in the afternoon, so we took a drive to Port Alice to check out the surroundings before leaving on our seaplane flight. Beautiful scenery, and it was a pity we didn’t have time for a proper hike. I can recommend it for a picnic location. Sadly we couldn’t stay for the submarine races.