Monthly Archives: September 2014

Spirit Bear Lodge – An overview, a teaser and what you need to know

I shared my photos with a number of friends (partially cuz I like to share, partially to reassure them that I don’t just work and ride my horse and that’s it) and the most common question I got back was “where was this?”.  Us poor Canadians really don’t know what’s in our backyard. So, first, it is here and second, that is located here.  And the second most common question was about how I did this. I like to call it a Canadian safari.  You go to some place that you wouldn’t normally go to, people organize you into groups, they take you out to see wild animals and scenary, make sure you stay safe and are well-fed and you take photographs.  Of course, that description takes all the romance and adventure out of it.  An alternate description would be: you embark on a journey on little planes and boats to access a remote corner of the world that only a David Suzuki or a Richard Attenborough have gone before, put your life into the hands of experienced and well-trained guides, trek out into wild habitats to see large, potentially dangerous animals on their home turf, endure sometimes harsh conditions to get that perfect shot to bring home to show your friends. And, depending on your previous life experiences, it could be either the former or latter!

As you can see from my other posts on this subject here and here, what you see and the photos you get are truly magnificent.  Here’s another one for your teaser:


umpf! Got one!

umpf! Got one!


What You Need To Know:

The staff at the lodge are great. They know your name. They are friendly and professional and personable. They are also sneaky when planning a birthday surprise.

The food is very good, indeed! You don’t have a lot of choices – this is one place Starbucks has NOT found (although they do have locally roasted coffee up there), but the chef does not give you any cause for complaints. Plenty of food at all meals and I dare you to find a meal where you can’t find something you like. Breakfast is both continental and hot, cooked food. (mmm, bacon!) Lunch is a plethora of sandwiches (apparently the egg salad goes fast), snacks, fruit, veges, juices, pop and water. And Dinner always has a fish and meat option with plenty of sides a vege main. No choice in desserts but I’m not complaining at the carrot cake, strawberry shortcake, etc, etc.

The guides and boat captains are all extremely competent, friendly, professional and approachable. It must be tough to be all of that, all the time and watch out for wildlife at the same time – so hats off to them. Those that are First Nations are very willing to answer your questions and share stories with you.

Photo gear – see separate post coming up 🙂

Gear – their packing list has been well thought out and you won’t go wrong to follow it. The only alteration I’d make is that if you have your own waterproof boots that you are comfortable walking in on uneven, rocky shorelines, bring your own. There was only a couple of places that I preferred the lodge’s rubber boots over my own gear (if I had brought it!).  One strong suggestion if you have any type of walking issues (stability and balance) is to bring a walking stick.  Even one is helpful in a couple of areas we went.

Misc – you are on the boats a lot. If you are at all prone to seasicknesses, bring your own stuff for that. I was lucky and had perfectly calm seas the entire time I was there.

Lastly, I will say that they take care of you once you are there, so once you’ve packed and started your trip, don’t worry about anything else!

Letters to strangers – the absent cashier

Hi there, it’s me. One of dozens of people you cashed out today. I know your job isn’t particularly stimulating. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if you stood there longing for an irate customer with inventive language to just give you something different to do. I see you’ve even prepared your entire cash station with plastic bags just begging for someone to come and ask for one. Which is why it puzzled me when you made no move to use those bags until I asked.  You didn’t even reach for my purchases in the carry basket until I made it clear I really wanted to pay for them. And even then, you limited yourself to a total of 1 word in the entire transaction and that was “swipe” – thank goodness I knew you were referring to my credit card. Although then I was puzzled again when you didn’t ask me to sign the bill since it was a swiped, non-chip card. But that’s ok. I get it. You probably had laryngitis from being uber-friendly to all the customers who came before me. Catch you next time…:)

Was I ready for the Spirit Bear Lodge?

Those of you who know me personally…..which constitute the majority of my readers here….know that I obsessed about this trip I took ( in this post. So much so, I had writer’s block here just before it started. So, was I ready for it?  Yes and no. The practical details of it I was ready for. I’m pretty agile, little boats don’t bother me (much), uneven ground is ok, and I still bounce (a little) when I fall. So most of the physical part of it was a snap; except for my camera equipment. I know perfectly well what possessed me to buy a camera (plus lens) that weighs more than more laptops these days, but I never realised that I needed to train so that I could carry it – even short distances!  or that my arm would start to ache after 2 days of lifting that thing (I highly recommend a tripod).

But my biggest complaint (other than that the bears didn’t get my memo that I would be there between 1000 am and 2 pm for their photo shoot every day), was that the beauty and grandeur of the last and largest temperate rainforest on the planet would give me a sinking feeling when I came back to the city and my life and job. Not once were there disclaimers about “this vacation may cause all forms of TV/internet entertainment to look dull and flat” or “your vision may be impaired when viewing all other, formerly majestic scenery” or even “may cause productivity to go down as you spend your time daydreaming about your vacation”!

The main attraction of Spirit Bear Lodge is, of course the white spirit bear with other bears coming a close second (blacks and grizzlies). But I was delighted by Stellar sea lions (the largest of the eared seal family), astonished by the lion’s mane jellyfish (the largest jellyfish in the world), over the moon about seeing humpback whales (not the largest whale) and completely chuffed to snap photos of bald eagles and ravens.

Was I ready for this trip?  No.  Would I do it again? Yes, in a heartbeat.

More photos coming soon….

Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary

Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary

Korich Bay

Korich Bay

Carter Bay

Carter Bay

Spirit Bear Lodge – the last photo

I recently posted a blog that had me wondering if I was physically up for this trip (more details of the trip to come – stay tuned!).  But for this shot, I would have crawled through the forest, sedge and dead salmon. As it turned out, this was my last shot before I got on the boat to take me home.

"Friendly Bear" at 12 feet away. Young, 5 year old sub-adult Grizzly. Approximately a ton or so. Seeking salmon, dead or alive.

“Friendly Bear” at 12 feet away.
Young, 5 year old sub-adult Grizzly. Approximately a ton or so. Seeking salmon, dead or alive.


The Sense of Places

People used to say that cities had a vibe or feel. New York was one of those that everyone said feels different from anywhere else. London, Paris and Rome – all iconic world cities that were supposed to have their own character and feel. But to me, it’s not a “feel”, but a smell. When I get off a plane in Beijing, as soon as I smell the air in the airport, I know I’m in Beijing (very similar smell to Hong Kong, but more “mainland”). Its a certain something in the air that you never sense anywhere else. I associate it with a mix of Chinese spices and preserved food (like those mushrooms!) and humanity.

I recently was in Vancouver, the city I grew up in, and of course, I always associate it with the mountains and water, but as I was walking around the city and what I really remember is the musty smell in the air mixed with the fresh sea air. It’s a combination of the slight tang in the air with the damp that is captured and held in the wood of the buildings and the vegetation.

I used to think that I just didn’t “get” the vibe, but for me, it’s the smell.

Letters to Strangers: the impatient bus driver

Dear Mr. Bus Driver, why didn’t you wait for us? We were right at your door after having run for half a block and had time to take a breath or two before you drove off. In fact if there hadn’t been a curb, you would have run over our feet as you pulled away. Perhaps there is an operational rule entitled “when you can wait for passengers and when you can’t?”  Perhaps you had to hurry to meet your replacement driver as you were going off shift?  or maybe you had just had enough of people running to jump on your bus.

I do know that there was another bus coming up not far behind you, but my aunt was running for you so I couldn’t just leave her, could I?  Plus I had no idea where I was going so I kinda had to keep up with her.

Anyway, I hope to catch you again,


The Hike – A quick pre-trip thought

Well, I think I’m prepared. Can you really prepare for your first hike?  If you’ve never hiked before? I bought the non-cotton t-shirts and pants, I trained to carry my gear, I tried out the hiking pole and even went on a “test hike”.  Then I remembered that there is a boat portion of this trip and I sometimes (only sometimes) get motion sickness.  So, I will add Dramamine to my pack tomorrow.

Letters to Strangers. The colourful pillow person.

Dear colourful pillow person. I walked by your patio as I do often and this morning I saw you had placed two bright, striped coloured pillow on your two rattan chairs. How cheerful! Afterall, you’ve had those chairs for at least 3 years and last year, I saw your seat cushion sitting on the ground all winter when it rained. Plus you don’t really have any other furniture on that patio or any plants. So, it was about time you spruced it up a bit! Maybe you’ve turned a corner? Maybe you got a raise? or Did you just decide on putting some brightness into your home?  In any case, it looks great!

Yours sincerely,

Jamaican Joy