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Grizzly Bear Ranch (1)

If you’ve followed this extremely drawn out trip write-up (apologies / don’t get me started) you’ll know that bear-watching was the main aim of the game. We went to Bella Coola near the BC coast to see grizzlies and black bears and to hedge our bets further, we looked for another bear viewing experience. Mike’s research led us to Grizzly Bear Ranch, 1000km inland in the Selkirk Mountains, and about an hour from Kaslo where we prepared ourselves for collection after breakfast.

We found the meeting place downstairs in the hotel and met our fellow bear watchers (a dozen of us in total) as well as Julius, owner and manager of the ranch. After a briefing and waiver-signing session, we split up into a few vehicles and headed north to the ranch where we’d be for the next three nights.

Shown to our cabins we had a small amount of time to settle in and explore before lunch (where Mike would face one of his culinary nemeses: soup) and our afternoon activity.

The ranch’s idyllic setting beside a bend in the Lardeau River.

Our cabin, looking back to the main lodge

This was an important building, for it contained the beverages fridge.

At about $2,500 each for our four-night package, this was the most expensive segment of our trip. However, in addition to offering a high quality wilderness experience, GBR has a strong bear conservation philosophy which we wholeheartedly support and is reflected in everything they do. Julius and Kristin are passionate lobbyists for the cessation of bear trophy hunting in BC, particularly since the ranch’s best-known bear disappeared suddenly in 2015 leaving two cubs behind. A portion of guests’ fees go into a conservation fund.

The Lardeau was running at about 15% of its typical summer capacity.

Time to move from beside the water to on the water. In what would be a pattern for the rest of our stay, we were split up into a couple of groups to go do different things.

Unlike our Bella Coola river drift experience, this was a bit more hands-on!

We stopped to inspect tracks left by various wildlife.

Recent bear tracks (and eagle as well I think) alongside my un-petite rightie.

Approaching the ranch where we exited the river after our 16km journey.

Meals were served in the lodge and we quickly learned that they were very well catered. Dinner was also preceded in convivial fashion with drinks, and afterward, before commencing the unnerving walk back to our cabins by torchlight, there were informal presentations by Julius and one of the guides Paul which were interesting and educational.

Mornings at the ranch start early. Before breakfast on our second day (but after delivery of hot beverages to our cabins) we drove down the road a bit to a nondescript spot where we set out on a walk with two guides to try and find bears – or anything really, bears though were the holy grail.

On a relatively invisible trail we wove in and out of the damp undergrowth quietly, or as quietly as we could muster. It was a time of day when bears would be up and about finding some breakfast of their own, but try as we might we couldn’t conjure any up. Fascinating nonetheless, and so atmospheric in the misty light and stillness.

One of the guides, Oly, is a Kiwi so we enjoyed a bit of familiar repartee.

Eagles were more obliging!

After breakfast we got ready for our next activity which would keep us occupied for the rest of the day: an alpine hike. Happily (in hindsight) we had some vehicular assistance for the first part.

Donning helmets and safety belts, four of us and Julius squished into the ATV for the first few kms.

On foot from here. Sorry about the angle Mike.

The uphill slog wasn’t long but it was ‘thorough’ and rewarded us with stunning views across the valley.

Bear watch.

And mountain watch.

And glacier watch.

360 degree awesomeness.

A trench dug up by a bear on the trail of a small delicious creature.

Lunch spot. We stayed here for an hour or so looking for bears and generally just soaking up the vistas.

Bears again played hard to get but it was nevertheless an incredible few hours in this pristine environment.

Quick stop with Paul on the way back to the ranch.

Through all the bear encounters in the 10+ years the ranch has been in operation, they’ve never had to discharge bear spray, instead learning to read and respond to bear behaviour. However in a moment of excitement the following evening the spray did come out.

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