Across Continents

Ken's Blog

Situational awareness

October 10th, 2011

Euphoria had quickly passed. Suddenly aware of situation potentially unfolding. A very real risk aggressive bear encounter. Best to slowly move off, further along the highway, and leave the cameras stowed.

Moments earlier I’d spotted a black bear pad majestically across the road, descend into a small ditch and then carefully pick a path amongst the vegetation on the steep banking beyond. It stopped, sensing my presence, and watched me for a few moments before continuing upwards into the thicker undergrowth.

My first sighting of a bear, of any sorts, in the wild. A few miles short of the town of Terrace. Perhaps a hundred yards away, maybe a bit less. I’d not, to my surprise, felt particularly frightened. No inclination to so much as place my hand on the bear spray holstered on my hip. Instead, albeit briefly, transfixed by the creature’s beauty.

Then the realisation that this was a small black bear. No sign of the mother. Aware that to come between them, however inadvertently, would be extremely dangerous. Real risk of an aggressive encounter.

To my left the bear, now only just visible amongst the undergrowth. To the right, the Skeena river. Fertile fishing ground, and the direction from where the animal had come from. And railway tracks, along which a lengthy goods train was passing. Which, I suspected, was what had separated mother and cub.

Quite a lot of rolling stock had already passed. I’d guessed the train would be fairly long. There’d been three power cars at the front, and the wagons sounded empty, clattering noisily as they rolled by. There’d been a couple of loud blasts on the horn on the driver as he’d gone past. Encouragement I’d thought as I’d waved back. But perhaps it had been a friendly warning. I needed to leave before the train was gone.

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Strange events at Three Guardsmen

October 4th, 2011

Pick-up I thought. One. Or was there a second? Then voices. Two, perhaps three, people. Close by. Out of the vehicles. Had they seen me? I wasn’t sure. I hoped not. And what exactly were they doing here? There was nothing – and nobody – for miles. Except for the US border, maybe twenty miles away. It didn’t look good.

ThreeGuardsmancamp (2)

I’d been asleep for a few hours. Woken by the engine noise nearby. At first worried they might inadvertently drive over my camp. I’d followed a rough track off the highway, found a secluded spot and pitched the tent amongst some bushes. Concealment as much as shelter from the wind. My bright red food bag was a short distance away, but well hidden.

Contemplating their motives, I’d found myself dwelling on the relative closeness of the border. Smugglers perhaps? Seemed plausible. And worrying. They’d hardly want witnesses. Considered my options. To hand I’d my bear spray, a field knife and my emergency satellite phone. Knew exactly where I was in case I needed to summon help.

ThreeGuardsmancamp (1)

But what to do? I was vulnerable in the tent. But, in the heavy mist, it seemed that, despite their close proximity, they’d not spotted me. Probably weren’t expecting to encounter anyone out here, and my green tent hard to spot. This at least gave me an edge. Surprise. If they stumbled on my deserted camp they’d have no idea who they were dealing with, or where I was.

I looked at my watch. The border would soon be closed so almost no chance of traffic along the nearby highway until the morning. Quietly collecting my warm clothing, waterproof jacket and bear kit, I edged cautiously out of the tent. Visibility was still just a few tens of yards. I was pleased. Confident I could evade detection until dawn, or until any help I might summon could arrive. Most likely from the Canadian Customs Post on the border.

Keeping low to avoid silhouetting, I circled round in a large arc to the north, sticking to the bush rather than tracks. Navigating using the compass on my watch. Planning to observe undetected, but, if spotted, not drawing anyone towards my camp. Soon the dim red glow of brake lights in the mist. Engine idling. I lay concealed amongst the various shrubs for a while. Watching. And they then were gone.

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