BY JIM BAIRD
Bears: Our plan to make a direct portage around a whitewater-choked canyon was thwarted when Marty spotted sow bear and cubs in our path. We waited to approach, but even so, the momma bear put her cubs up a tree and started coming right for us. Naturally, we tried a few things to turn her back. Here’s what worked and what didn’t.
We were trying to scare her away, but yelling had the opposite effect. She turned around and started running at us with her back hairs on end.
Firing a warning shot – In the video, you can see how nonchalantly the bear began ambling away after we fired a warning shot from a large caliber rifle. She didn’t seem too worried.
Yelling and making noise – We were trying to scare her away, but yelling had the opposite effect. She turned around and started running at us with her back hairs on end. Luckily there was a large patch of alder bushes the bear had to pass through–not an easy task for such a large creature. To our relief, she wasn’t running any more once she got through.
Standing Close Together and Making Ourselves Look Big – I was standing on top of a rock with the rifle when the bear started running towards us. I looked back to see the rest of the crew speed walking away. When we regrouped, we stood close together to look big, and the bear seemed less interested in advancing.
Firing a Bear Banger – In the end, it was the bear banger that scared the sow away. This worked better than the rifle because the explosion happened right above the bear’s head.
To bypass the canyon and stay away from the bears, we decided to follow a chain of small lakes that run north of the canyon, hopping through them on compass-led portages. The route was longer in total distance than following the canyon but it meant a shorter portage. A fair trade in my books. Ironically, the bears helped out in the end; it was their trail we followed to the base of the canyon to complete the two-and-a-half-day portage.
Bugs: The first two days of this portage were very buggy. Marty had so many black fly bites he was nauseous and looked like he’d been repetitively punched in the face. Here are a couple ways to prevent this from happening to you when the bugs get bad.
Don’t Cheap Out – Get a bug jacket with a brim that holds the net away from your face or they bite through it. When bushwhacking, mesh tears more easily than fabric. If you’re going to be tough on your bug jacket, get one that has a combination of fabric and mesh.
Repairs – Pack a sewing kit. It’s an important thing to cary for multiple reasons, not the least of which is being able to sew up your bug jacket. Use duct tape for patches on either slide of a hole as a temporary repair.