Saturday, July 12, 2014

Grizzly Valley Hike

At the top of Rogers Pass in BC at the beginning of Balu Pass trail is a warning poster about bears in the area. The trail heads straight up in to a dark cool forest of huge hemlocks hung with lichen and roots that bulge the trail with interesting lumps and tripping bumps. It is steep  and doesn't level out till it breaks out into the avalanche slope several kilometers above.  Here in the open valley the trail is on a steady but comfortable rise...climbing through lush greenery and fern as we alternate sides of the rushing streams that are being fed by the quickly dwindling snow pack. It is simply amazing to look up pass the new lush growth to snow, talus slopes and rocky peaks far above.

The incline kept growing and the scenery just kept becoming more beautiful as we hiked.  Hot, sweaty and feeling my legs now...We crossed one avalanche and numerous snow packs before reaching the mountain top to be rewarded with the most amazing views in every direction.  Massive rock peaks, old glaciers and rich green valleys dotted with flowers made it delightful. Hiking boots have done their job, feet are tired but not sore.

Totally worth the energy to get to such a spot but at that point we had only seen several marmots, granted they were impressively large and a few chipmunks. Butterflies and bugs were plentiful but for a wildllife artist I was hoping for more. It is definitely sheep country but a detailed scan of the mountains failed to reveal even one.

Now I was expecting to see some bears. The trail we hiked was called Balu Pass...Indian for bear. The mts that I was looking up at are Ursus Major and Ursus Minor (latin for bear) or Grizzly mts. At the top of Balu Pass is a grizzly reserve.  So not to be pushing my luck but I was definitely hoping for a bear sighting.

The return trip was beautiful and allot quicker with standing slides down some of the snowy slopes and allot less energy needed for climbing. It was one Km from the bottom into the hemlock forest when I heard the movement to my right.....there about 50 yards from me was a beautiful young grizzly female with two cubs.  Her fur was rich and plush, one cub was dark like mom and the other was light colored. She watched calmly and intently as we walked on past before she proceeded to lead her cubs up the hill.

Have to say it was a pleasure to see the namesake of the valley before leaving. Wish I had a great photo but just have to share it with words. The opportunity to see her and her cubs made the trip perfect.

By the way, on the subject of bears.......
My grizzly painting "Down by the River" is one of three finalists for Artist of Year for BC Wildlife Federation.  Go to their webpage and the public can vote for their favourite.