This article originally appeared in the first issue of Boundless Magazine in November 2020.
Writer | Heather Greenwood Davis
The eco-friendly jet boat we’re riding in bumps and glides along the Blue River as we head away from the dock. The beginnings of the bright blue skies that will permeate the afternoon here in British Columbia’s North Thompson Valley are glimpsed through white clouds stretched to wisps above us, and the fog drifting from the surface of the water looks like steam. It’s early, but I’m already grateful for the baseball cap that keeps me from squinting.
My family has come to British Columbia with bears on our minds. Grizzlies, to be precise. We are city slickers, and raccoons are the biggest critters we have encountered. The idea that people in this province might pass a bear on their morning walk has been enough to keep my tween boys scanning the shoreline. They’re hanging onto every word our guide says, and grow quiet each time he raises his binoculars.
For the most part, the 15,000 grizzly bears that call British Columbia home mind their own business. They’re large and lumbering but also incredibly quiet, so exploring with a tour operator is your best way to see them. Plus, these bears aren’t here for us, they are wild and when or if we see them is completely up to them.
“They’re out there and they’re probably seeing us long before we’re seeing them,” our guide cautions.
It’s one of many times on this outing that my husband, sons, and I will lock eyes, raise eyebrows, and rub away the goose bumps on our arms.
British Columbia is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. In a province where snowcapped mountains meet pristine parklands and old-growth forests end at rocky shorelines, there are plenty of pretty views to pass the time.
Suddenly, the sound of something slapping the water catches our attention.
“Bear!” my son Cameron says, eyes wide and finger pointing. And he’s right. A brown bear fishing for salmon offers us our first heart-pounding moment.
We sit silently, watching until it ambles off into the woods and then we burst from excitement.
“That was amazing!” my son Ethan says. “It felt so close.”
After lunch, we hop into an all-terrain vehicle for a different vantage point. Our guide points out the telltale footprints on the forest floor and reaches into berry bushes for samples that grizzlies have overlooked. Eagles, osprey, and waterfalls have us snapping photos at every turn.
We spot more bears too, and despite the safe distance, each sighting is a thrill. As a parent, watching and listening to my kids ask questions (“When will they hibernate? Are there any babies?”) brings me joy. Family time can feel so fleeting, and sharing an activity that combines the adrenaline rush kids love with the educational components parents crave, has made for a picture-perfect trip.
Just when we think the bears have moved on, the jeep stops abruptly and our guide raises a finger to his lips. Mere steps from our vehicle, a mama grizzly pokes her head out from the bushes, sizes us up, and then stands guard as her cubs scamper to the other side. I snuggle closer to my own cubs in the jeep, comfortably connected to the ways of the wild.
Discover more about Super, Natural British Columbia, set between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.