We saw a bear. We saw 7 bear, actually. We cheated a bit, but we saw bear, dammit!
We spent our first night in a cheap Washington motel, as we got a late start trying to wrap-up all the post wedding insanity. The motel actually had a water view and a magic fingers bed, which was at first confusing, then delightful.
We kept our eyes pealed on the drive up the Canadian Rockies, a spectacular area with mountains cutting swaths out of the sky. We were arriving at the exact perfect time of twilight when large animals tend to roam. We saw many road signs that spouted bear crossing or elk or wolf, but we saw nothing, nary a bird.
We had been driving about 12 hours straight, so we checked in to our lovely Banff resort hotel with steam shower, gas fireplace, private balcony and the most comfortable bed on earth and went promptly to sleep. We did not get up in time to see the animals at dawn. It was a one-hour time difference and we were moving on slow vacation speed, so we did not even get breakfast until after 1:00 pm.
We headed over to Lake Louise, which is quite lovely in emerald splendor. We enjoyed the abundance of a fat bird called Clark’s Nutcracker. We took a Gondola ride in a tram that floats up the mountain in an area that boasts a grizzly sanctuary directly below your feet, but alas, no grizzly.
We drove every windy, desolate road to no avail, until we saw a cluster of cars parked up ahead and a group of people pointing and taking pictures. “It’s a MOOSE!” I hissed when I saw the giant, brown body with antlers munching at the grass behind some trees. It was actually an elk, but still large & glorious. An elk counts as 10 points on the animal spotter meter. There are about 3,000 elk that roam the area, whereas there are only about 100 bear, 150 moose and about as many wolf, so a moose is 50 points, a wolf is 75 points and a bear sighting is the grand prize of 100 points. Ground squirrel are a point each, but very cute and plentiful, so they add up fast.
We did not see a bear until we were in Montana. We decided to road trip it back to Seattle the long way, so we could see a bit of the back woods of the U.S. We had just spent 5 hours in Glacier National Park where the engine light of our rental car turned on, scaring the crap out of us. The car seemed OK, so we trucked on without incident.
We passed by an entrance that said HANG OUT IN THE FOREST WITH BEAR. STAY IN YOUR CAR. DO NOT ROLL DOWN YOUR WINDOW. NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR CAR DAMAGE. We paid 6 bucks each and drove on in. Sure enough, there were bear just roaming around in this wooded area where you can drive amongst them. We got a ton of photos as they approached our car or just rolled around with each other. It was quite amazing and more than satisfying, if only a little embarrassing as the bear rolled their eyes at us.
I am back at work now and experiencing an overwhelming sense of calm now that everything is said and done.