Great Bear Rainforest Grizzly

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II || Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3

600mm || f6.3 || 1/320s || ISO 1600

This is a crazy one. The great bear rainforest of British Columbia has long intrigued me. In the early fall of 2019, I had just purchased a brand new Toyota Tacoma and was itching to spend some time driving it. Naturally, I planned an 1800km road trip through a mixture of highways, dirt roads, and off-road adventures to break it in. The craziest part is that I only had 3 days to pull it off. Luckily, my good friend Quinn Lanzon decided to join as co-pilot, probably saving me from the boredom of navigating northern roads solo.

Of course, aside from the insane geography of the coast of northern B.C., one of the highlights of the great bear rainforest is actually the bears. This was the ultimate goal of this trip and one that many professional wildlife photographers would question given that I had only 3 days to accomplish what many would do over the course of weeks or months. Given that it would also take us just over a day to drive to the Bella Coola Valley and back, that left us with just a few hours to try and find and photograph a bear. Initially, we made our way to a designated grizzly viewing platform at the eastern end of the valley where there was a literal lineup of photographers with super-telephoto lenses waiting to get up to the viewing platform. Although there was a grizzly in the area and we did catch a glimpse of its back as it was moving through thick brush, I felt quite uneasy as we were essentially in a glorified zoo… Not the experience I was really looking for.

After spending the rest of the day checking out the valley and the town of Bella Coola, we decided that we should probably begin heading back towards home to cut into the 14-hour drive we had ahead of us the following day. As we were driving out of the valley, I had a feeling of FOMO wash over me and felt like I hadn’t quite given the search for bears a fair chance. Knowing that we still had to be at work on Monday morning, we decided to take a quick detour down the last FSR in the valley before you head back up over the mountain pass.

The road was probably one of the roughest FSR’s I have travelled on, and I was happy to be in my new truck. At one point, we stopped where the road came very close to the river to watch the salmon swimming. We noticed a ton of dead salmon on the bank of the river and what must have been a human skewered salmon on a branch in the middle of the river. All of a sudden, a small grizzly popped out of the tall grass onto the river bank. BINGO! Luckily I had all of my camera gear ready to go as I was anticipating a moment just like this. We had a grand total of 45 seconds with the bear while it walked around the bend. I was able to snap a few pictures, and then the bear disappeared. We continued to drive down the road to see if we could catch back up with it or its friends, but with no luck. In the end, that ended up being one of the more memorable bear encounters of my life, and I look forward to chasing that feeling again soon.

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