Some bear stories are fear-inducing, but the vast majority of bear encounters end with no real trauma for either the people involved or the bear. These are the best kind of bear stories.
While researching Bugaboo Dreams, the book that chronicles the history of Canadian Mountain Holidays, the adventure travel icon responsible for the invention of heli-hiking and helicopter skiing, I collected adventure travel stories from four decades of careful and intimate human interaction with one of North America’s most pristine wilderness areas. In the process, I came across this bear story that both ends well and reveals the depth of the wilderness philosophy of Canadian Mountain Holidays:
The cook at CMH Bugaboos had a few hours of freedom from his kitchen duties while the guests were out hiking, climbing and exploring the surrounding alpine paradise, so he decided to hike to a secluded alpine lake and soak up a few rays of sunshine. Without another soul anywhere nearby, he took off all of his clothes and started soaking up the Vitamin D. Before long, the noise of a large animal’s crunching footsteps interrupted his reverie.
Sitting up, the cook was greeted with the terrifying sight of an approaching grizzly bear. Without enough time to grab his clothes, the cook grabbed his radio and scrambled up a nearby tree. Rather than leave, the bear decided to wait at the bottom of the tree while the naked cook radioed for help.
As the story goes, the cook called on the radio, “Bring that helicopter over here and chase this bear away!”
Well, at the same time the big boss and founder of CMH, Hans Gmoser, a committed environmentalist from before the word environmentalist was even coined, was guiding at the nearby CMH Bobbie Burns lodge and overheard the radio call. Much to the cook’s dismay, he heard Hans’ voice come over the radio to say, in no uncertain terms, “We will not be chasing bears with the helicopter!”
The poor cook was forced to stay in the tree, naked, and with a grizzly guarding his escape, for a good part of the afternoon until the bear lost interest and wandered away.
Today, the CMH staff would react very differently, and would bring the helicopter immediately if either staff or guests had a run in with a bear, but the philosophy of using the helicopter with careful consideration of wildlife has prevailed. While wildlife sightings are common during CMH Summer Adventures, the helicopters are not used to access wildlife viewing. In fact, the CMH guides track wildlife patterns on a database and fly long routes around valleys where bears and other wildlife are active to avoid stressing the animals or changing their natural patterns.