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Three days ago I had arrived at a remote town called Smithers, British Columbia. It was there that I ran into some other hunters who were hunting with Bryan's operation. There was Tim and Bill from Georgia, Ben from New York and Tony from Germany. They were all rifle hunters with tags ranging from goats, to moose, caribou and black bear. We all hit it off well and were anxious to start our respective hunts. Then the bad news came. Bad flying weather would mean we were grounded for our first day, possibly longer. We made the best of the situation but as the days clicked on, we grew impatient. Then the call came in on the evening of the 3rd day - get to the docks - we had a "window." Bill, Tim and I loaded up the beaver and flew as far as we could with Clarence, our bush pilot, until it became too dark to fly. We landed at a small fishing camp where we spent the night. At first light, we jumped into the beaver floatplane and by noon we were making our final approach to the lake.
Clarence is an accomplished bush pilot and I had complete faith in him. But I must honestly say that I was apprehensive as we flew down into the lake. The lake, which was nestled between some radical looking mountains, was completely fogged over. He spoke to Bryan via satellite phone and Bryan told him there was a section on the lake where he could see blue sky, clarence dropped down low between the mountains, and put his beaver into what I would describe as a small garage like opening between the water and the fog. The plane glided calmly across the smooth lake and before long we were taxiing up to Bryan, along with Dawson and Chad (the other guides) who were waiting at the tents.
Having lost a couple hunting days already, we wasted no time getting the formalities out of the way. Bryan and I went through our food and gear list for what would be a long trek into the mountains. We loaded up our packs and wished Tim and Bill good luck before heading up the trail.
The trail was easy at first. It was a well worn horse trail with a very gradual incline. That was good news to me considering I had very little time to train for backpacking. We hiked, and hiked, and hiked some more and after several hours I asked Bryan, "How much longer?" his response upset me greatly. "We're just about to the first river crossing - which is half way".
"Half way? You've got to be kidding?" I remarked. I soon learned a trait of Bryan's that would haunt me the rest of the trip - everything he tells you regarding time and distance should be tripled or quadrupled. An hour is 3 hours, and a mile is 4 miles. For someone like me who runs 6 miles every day, I found it hard to believe that after 7 hours of hard hiking we were only 1/2 the distance from what he called a 5-6 mile hike. I later found out that the hike was more like 12 miles.
After the river crossing (halfway point) we continued hiking through some bogs and my legs were starting to shake. It was getting dark so I asked Brian if we could camp on the river that night and make the rest of the trip tomorrow. He agreed, and we made camp along the creek, enjoying a Mountain House meal before hitting the sack.
|Our grizzly hunt takes place in Northern British Columbia with Bryan Martin of Canadian Mountain Outfitters.|