Bushwhacking in British Columbia

Bushwhacking

Bushwhacking in British Columbia

THE FIRST DAY OF MY SUMMER VACATION, IN THE SKEENAS.

 

We are fanned-out and bushwhacking through a square mile or so of riparian bramble—otherwise known as Grizzly Bear Habitat—in an attempt to locate a yellow and blue bundle, the contents of which are an inflatable raft and a foot locker-sized plastic box in which there are many large golden blocks of discount cheese, Crystal Light packets and cardboard cartons of off-brand/generic/discount Power-type bars. The bramble is thick and sharp, the ground is uneven and hummocky, the mosquitos are Hitchcock-thick, it’s 97 degrees fahrenheit. We beat the ground at our feet with our boots, walking sticks, shotgun barrels, rifle butts, hoping for the sound of an inanimate thunk. The gnarliest sections of bush, the sections through which we’re forced to crawl, tunnel, climb, burrow and fist, are dense like a wall. A hairy/tangled/brushy/bushy wall, but a wall all the same. In regards to height, density and penetrability; the thicker sections of bush are more closely related to the object into which the Crash Test Dummies in the Volvo Safety Centre drive, than say for example a trail on which humans walk.

Bushwhacking in British Columbia

THE FIRST DAY OF MY SUMMER VACATION, IN THE SKEENAS.

 

We are fanned-out and bushwhacking through a square mile or so of riparian bramble—otherwise known as Grizzly Bear Habitat—in an attempt to locate a yellow and blue bundle, the contents of which are an inflatable raft and a foot locker-sized plastic box in which there are many large golden blocks of discount cheese, Crystal Light packets and cardboard cartons of off-brand/generic/discount Power-type bars. The bramble is thick and sharp, the ground is uneven and hummocky, the mosquitos are Hitchcock-thick, it’s 97 degrees fahrenheit. We beat the ground at our feet with our boots, walking sticks, shotgun barrels, rifle butts, hoping for the sound of an inanimate thunk. The gnarliest sections of bush, the sections through which we’re forced to crawl, tunnel, climb, burrow and fist, are dense like a wall. A hairy/tangled/brushy/bushy wall, but a wall all the same. In regards to height, density and penetrability; the thicker sections of bush are more closely related to the object into which the Crash Test Dummies in the Volvo Safety Centre drive, than say for example a trail on which humans walk.

 

This exercise or mission or whatever is boring in the way pointless, tedious, arduous physical exercise is boring—think 8th grade tennis but in the subalpine Canadian toolies11A Canadian expression for “out in the sticks.” Alternatively, ‘tules’. Publisher’s Note: Not to be confused with ‘toolies’ as you’ll find with a cursory Google search, “An adult reveller who deliberately travels to a destination where schoolies congregate, often to solicit sex from the schoolies.”, and sans Charlotte Cross in her 80’s gym shorts—and there is, at that this point, no reason not to talk because we’re still two days and a river and a yawning and rapidly melting glacier and an above average mountain range away from actual hunting, and if anything because we’re entire-bodies deep in a Grizzly Bear Warren literally (and I really do mean literally) hundreds and hundreds of roadless miles from the nearest hospital, and everybody knows it’s good to let Grizzlies know you’re coming because they hate surprise visitors!!!!—or maybe it’s that they love surprise visitors!!!!!, either way they EAT surprise visitors!!!!!—so we talk, loudly. We talk about landmarks, terrain changes and prevailing winds. We talk a lot about search pattern technique (SPT); e.g., when fanned-out what is the ideal distance between each member of our search party?, how best to maintain that distance when visual communication is so frequently lost due to the density of the aforementioned bush, how many passes in any one direction do we make before moving on to another section, how many sections total are we dealing with based on the size of the area we’re attempting to thoroughly search divided by the number of searchers in our search party, et cetera, et cetera.

 

We also talk about how fast it would take the average North American Grizzly to consume the yellow and blue bundle, and we speculate on the impact such a meal would have, if any, on the average North American Grizzly. It turns out, and I didn’t know this until that afternoon, that Grizzlies love to eat plastic and rubber, and cheese of course. So effectively the bundle we’re searching for is, in Grizz terms, a kind of an upscale dumpster taco. At this point you’re probably saying to yourself, wait a minute, how did the bundle cum dumpster taco get there (wherever there is, hahahaha) in the first place? Let me explain. Two Canadian Hunting Guides from Whitehorse, Yukon named Russ and Daryll shoved it (with their feet) out the back of a Super Cub. That’s an airplane. A bush plane if you want to get specific about it. A two seater. Basically a go-cart with wings, this one in particular is wearing pontoons. Listen, these things and the pilots who fly them are Western; i.e., when they get holes in the wings and fuselage and whatnot, which happens often, bush pilots repair the punctures with colored duct tape if they have it—to color match!— or just the grey stuff if comes down to it. Anyway, it turns out, when they tossed the bundle dumpster taco out of the plane in this morning’s glorious-but-still-ever-so-tentative pre-dawn-light they were banking (turning) to avoid flying into some tree tops or a granite promontory or something. Which means they didn’t actually see where it landed because they couldn’t see, due to their mid-flight angle at the time and because let’s be honest it was still basically dark on the ground, where it landed, on the ground. Which is why even with Russ and Daryll present, as in members of our search party, we’re struggling.

 

When all this all came to light in the form of a disembodied discussion happening somewhere vaguely to my left, probs somewhere in the unobstructed open, I was halfway done hands-and-kneeing it through a particularly dense section of bramble. I decided to stop for a moment, kinda suspened there mid-bush, like some fruit in a cafeteria jello cup, and rest with my eyes closed and daydream. About a bear. In my dream, one morning a yellow and blue plastic bundle fell out of the sky onto the head of this unsuspecting albeit grateful Grizzly Bear. After regaining consciousness and his bearings, because realtalk the bundle was dropped out of a plane and the bundle does by all accounts—keep in mind I’ve never seen it and (Spoiler Alert!!!) I never will—weigh a couple of hundred pounds, which is the equivalent—I’ve done the math—of dropping an 18 pound Thanksgiving turkey out of 7-story walk-up onto the head of the average American human male. Anyway in my dream, after the bear gets his bear shit together he sits, legs splayed with a Raft & Cheese flavored snack in his lap, eating with one paw, rubbing his head with the other, laughing to himself about that Coke bottle scene in the Gods Must Be Crazy. And right before I fall asleep (true story), still more or less suspended a few inches off the ground, with one branch in particular jabbing-to-the-point-of-breaking-my-skin in the femoral artery area of my crotch, I hear someone shout Hey Russ, dont you guys normally attach hi-vis plastic streamers or ribbons or whatever to the shit you toss out of airplanes? Maybe even especially the shit you toss out of airplanes onto the side of a trailless, remote Rocky Mountain hillside? In the dark? So like, it’s easier to find?

 

Okay so you’re probably thinking why is this bundle sooooo important—like fuck that bundle, right?, what’s in it again?, cheese or something?— and furthermore, if the bundle was thrown out of a plane into the Rocky Mountains, how did these fools get there, were they thrown out of Super Cub too? No, we hiked there (here) from basecamp in our 75 pound backpacks. Which basecamp was eight hours and more than a few thousand-plus feet of vertical (gained and lost) away. I said hiked but I meant to say bushwhacked, on account of there not being any trails at all. But that’s not important, what’s important is the raft. We need the raft. We need the raft to cross the river. The wide, turbulent, rapids-having river born from the mouth of a massive prehistoric glacier three miles upstream from our present location. Without the raft we will fail several times to cross the ice cold river, we will encounter a 9.5 foot grizzly bear which may or may not have eaten our raft, we will add 6 miles and we will waste the better part of a day, of which we only have 12, and, most importantly, we will be forced to cross a mile-wide glacier in the middle of the summer of the hottest year on record. And glaciers, especially glaciers in a heat wave, like to eat visitors too.

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