I thought we’d go and check out the wetland just behind the top of the hill today, and see if the wet spring had put water in it. It has been dry for a long time, after being messed with by a rancher some years back. This is an image from a month ago.
As we got up to the ridge, before going down to the wetland, behind it, I said, “I saw a bear here a few years back.” Here’s the post about that:https://okanaganokanogan.com/2016/09/27/walking-with-bears-a-meditation-on-the-place-of-ecocritical-writing-today/. Then I turned around. Turning around is rarely by accident, although it is not necessarily conscious.
Memory is useful.
The previous bear was spooked the moment it saw me at a distance. Here’s a post of another encounter, in which the bear ran one way and I ran another: https://okanaganokanogan.com/2017/06/21/big-yellow-bear-in-the-sagebrush/. This one was 50 metres away, and slowly (very slowly) began to track our trail, footstep by footstep, as we changed our plan and left. Fortunately, when we arrived at the ridge, I had immediately made for the highest, bare stone space, away from the trees, which you learn over time is a safe space to get used to your surroundings. If we had plunged into the trees as we crested the ridge, we would have come face to face with the bear. I try to avoid plunging. I like to know where I am. It paid off this time. That’s worth a lifetime of not plunging.
Looking back from across the next draw. Yup, that’s our retreat path.
After ten minutes, the bear got sidetracked by a siya? bush.
Thank you, Siya?
I guess the faint trail of disturbed grass we followed uphill through the sagebrush and the grass was a berry trail. I should have known. In other seasons it is a deer trail. Not in this one. What’s more, one of the bushes, just before the summit, was shorn of the ripest berries. Both of these were very subtle effects, but they’re in memory for next time, alongside the one I learned in the Cariboo long ago, about getting out onto the rock to take stock. This is instinctual behaviour, amplified by experience. It is also mindfulness: know where you are.
In the Self Heal, that’s where.
I took the time to make some images as we left.
Every day is a day of learning. Bear tracks in the Okanagan are not the same as bear trails in the Cariboo. Bears are on the move here, as befits the grass. To the North, higher on the plateau, they follow the eskers, as they have for 10,000 years.
Bear Autobahn at Big Bar Lake
When bears were more common in the Okanagan grasslands, they’d have had their trails as well, just like the one above, and just as the deer and coyotes do now. While we await that quickening of the landscape, it’s good to remember that where the touch of bears is light upon the grass, our senses and our touch should be light as well, and all of us should just go slow and give each other space. The water is still a mystery, though, but it can wait.