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Elfin Lakes - Oh Please Don't Eat Me Mr Bear # 5605

Below is a description of the photograph you were looking for, and the circumstances surrounding the photo.
Date: 2004.09.13
Vantage Point: Elfin Lake, Garabaldi Park

Caption: Author at old lodge Elfin Lakes

PhotoDescr: Diamond Head/Elfin Lakes is a very popular destination, so the details of how and where I will not bother with. Believing that I should cultivate some level of skill in handling my gear and myself in foul weather conditions before getting into a life-threatening situation, I decided that this weekend would be right for some skill development time. After checking I hoped that there would be a clearing trend in the stormy weather that was forecast for the Garabaldi Park area. What the heck, if it gets really bad I can scoot into the hut. Elfin Lakes is a relatively safe place to develop some skill and test my gear and myself.

I saw the last Park Ranger on her way out just as I was arriving at the Elfin Lakes campground about noon. The area is dutifully labelled with "Bear in area" signs. At the campground I had my pick of spots. It seems when the weather is foul there are few/none campers at the campground. In the back of my mind I kept getting this feeling that all was not right. I put that feeling off as a product of cool temperatures, overcast skies, periodic light rain/occasional hail and the odd misty patch drifting low to the ground.

Once I had my tarp the way I liked, my tent set up and my food stuffed into the bear bin (the hanging food cache has been replaced) I crawled into my sleeping bag and promptly fell into a deep afternoon nap. The next thing I remember is rain with a bit of hail mixed in, pounding down, plus a bit of a breeze. Everything was working fine. The tarp was hanging in there, but some fine-tuning was in order. The next thought that surfaced was food. Do I really want to get out of a warm sleeping bag, walk in the rain to the bear cache, back to my site, back to the bear cache then back to my site?

Poking my head out of the tent to look around, the answer to my question came into view. About 200 meters out, 20 meters past the bear cache and heading out the trail that leads into the campground was a big black bear. Cooking dinner while a big old black bear was just a stone's throw away did not seem to be a good idea. What did seem to be a good idea was developing my skill set, packing up in the rain under a tarp. I had just under two hours till sunset.

After the bear had been out of sight for some time, I was packed and heading out. Just past the bear cache, I looked up the slope, and there it was contently grazing. The bear seemed not to be aware of my presence and I thought that odd. I would need to cross its path twice, once below and once above on my way to the hut. This would be the greatest distance between us on the route that I needed to take so I spoke softly to make my presence known. Upon hearing me the bear at first seem startled, jerky reaction, on front paws, head down, ears up and pointing forward and me saying to myself..."oooh shit..." Moseying on and speaking softly the bear continued to graze but kept an eye on me. Singing a few rounds of my favourite Stan Rogers song, "Barrette's Privateers" I got to the hut without incident.

Feeling warm and secure and having the hut to myself I kept busy with getting water, setting up my bunk and making dinner. The last bit of light was fading away and with my flashlight in hand I headed for the pit toilet. Closing the hut door firmly to ensure it was latched properly; I stepped onto the deck in front of the hut. Just as I was turning to my left to head down the steps something odd caught my attention at an instinctual level. Down and to my right five meters or so was an odd patch of blackness that was a deeper/richer black than in the surrounding areas. As I tried to focus my totally inadequate flashlight on the blackness I realised/assumed that it was the bear I had seen earlier.

A wave of panic swept over my body and my mind screamed..." I'm gonna die, gonna die, gonna die. Please don't eat me Ms/Mr Bear..." Upon hearing a slurping, sucking chomping sound I realised that this bear was not really concerned about my presence and it was not yielding ground. Panic was quickly fading to understanding, to a sense of privilege, a oneness with the universe, with nature.

This bear was comfortable with this situation. This bear was habituated! This bear had been in this situation before! This bear knew that Dufus Day Hikers would throw alms off the deck, their apple cores, banana peels, uneaten crusts, protein bars etc. It knew that Dufus Weekend Hikers like me would, at dusk, head off to the pit toilet oblivious to its presence while it scavenged under the deck for discarded treats. This Dufus was not going to step off the deck. So with the two of us separated by 3-5 or so meters horizontally and 2 meters or so vertically I let it all hang out while the bear did it thing. Being at one with nature will never again be the same.

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