Guest Post: The following is a true story written by my dad, David Harrap. It took place a few weeks ago in the Canadian Rockies, not far from his home in Jasper, Alberta.
I was heading up the creek again to the top of the valley by the waterfalls, to climb a couple of peaks. Five nights on my own. And there they were in the mud again, but this time going my way.
I had already crossed the mud flats of the empty lake, and the tracks I had seen a couple of weeks ago on my scouting mission were still there, not just dancing in my head as though I needed a reminder. But now these tracks were up in the alpine in a big patch of mud beside gravel flats. Fresh. And I was camping half a kilometre ahead.
Damn! You never get away from them, they wander the mountains like they own the place. Which of course they do: this was their habitat, this was their terrain, this was grizzly country, the loneliness they roamed through–and I was right in it. I was in a place, the only one left on the continent where we are not top dog, where Homo sapiens bows like the sailor before the waves.
Spirit of the grizzly was in the air, in the meadows, in the woods and valleys, alongside the gravel flats, like static electricity before lightning strikes. Because of those prints, the mountains were bigger, the valley sides steeper, the forests darker. And I was afraid . . .
Laid out in my tent that night, like priestly vestments before Mass, were my ice axe, hiking stick, and a pathetic two-and-half inch pocket knife. In case. But they wouldn’t do much good if Moccasin Joe, as the mountain men called grizzlies, paid me a call. Not much good for defence against the king of the mountains that has been known to keep right on charging with half a head blown off by a high-powered rifle. But I felt better with them beside me, and the tent walls hiding me.
Not one moment in five nights and six days, except when I fell into uneasy sleep or was on tips of mountains with ravens for company, was my mind off Griz.
And there it was, I’m on my way out across the mud flats of the empty lake: another set of fresh tracks going in. Seems when I’m coming out Griz is coming in; and when I’m going in Griz is going out.
But at least I can say with a certain swagger: “Yeah, I’ve camped in grizzly country. Actually there’s a magic with it, sleeping among the great bear–like we’re brothers.”