Sunset Paddling, an Inquisitive Bear, and the Northern Lights: A Day to Remember

Ian Tyley

A truly remarkable, once in a lifetime day!

After leaving Vancouver Saturday morning, upon reaching Pitt Lake we were greeted by the almost tropical midday sun high in the sky overlooking the tranquil lake and snow peaked mountains in the distance.

We rented a 4 man canoe from the hillbilly-like owners and unloading our contents and the three of us left the dock with Widgeon Falls as our destination. Due to our inexperience in maneuvering a large canoe and with our luggage level greater than it really should have been, the possibility of capsizing was a real fear.

After crossing the lake we began paddling through marshy passages meeting many day trippers along the way. As we progressed through the gentle turns, regularly ending up in the wreath banks due to our “captains” preference of taking photos of the stunning surrounding landscape rather than navigating, we began to hear whispers of the presence of a bear in our campground. Our initial reaction should have been fear, but the possibility of being face to face with a bear was too great to overcome so we paddled with greater ferocity as our excitement grew.

Over an hour after setting sail on our zig-zag route we arrived ashore at our campsite and pulled our boat to dry land to prevent it from floating away as we certainly did not want to swim back through the icy cold clear waters. Thirty minutes later, with our tents erected and unfortunately no sign of the much anticipated bear, we began the 3km trail into Widgeon Falls. Shortly into our hike through the desolate forest we heard some explosives and general commotion coming from the campground but we decided to continue our way to the falls.

With the roaring water rushing over the giant granite boulders, the falls were definitely worth the hike in and provided us with some breathtaking shots from an array of angles in almost perfect lighting.

Arriving back to our now deserted campsite and craving a feast for dinner we were greeted by the local park ranger who informed us that the commotion we heard earlier was due to a black bear walking between our tents in search of food. Our hearts sank when we realized we missed our opportunity to see the bear. The ranger warned us of the dangers of the bear and told us that we were the only remaining campers as the others decided to leave. He informed us that it was very probable the inquisitive bear would be back in our company later on in the night so we had a vote on whether to stay the night or return to civilization. The possibility of seeing a bear after coming so close previously was too much to turn down so the vote resulted in a resounding yes to stay the night.

Five minutes into cooking our dinner the sight of a curious black bear appeared fifty feet away wondering what was for dinner! Strangely our reactions were surprisingly calm and the race was straight for the cameras rather than reaching for stones to scare it away. Our new furry friend remained unflustered and was very appreciative of the attention to the delight of us eager photographers. Eventually after thirty minutes of constant snapping and our hunger crave increasing we threw some rocks in the direction of the bear and he scampered up a hill behind the campsite.

Due to the bear attempting to open one of our tents and with the fresh scent of dinner in the air we decided our objective was complete and the bear might not be so cooperative under the night sky. With the sun setting we loaded up our canoe and set sail back to the mainland. With a new navigator at the helm the return journey was going with much smoother progress, but the difficulty now was determining the correct route home as with darkness falling, identifying the correct turns to take was becoming an increasingly tedious task. Thankfully the lights of the shore were now visible and against the rapidly increasing current we eventually made it to shore. The next task was going to be finding an area to pitch our tents.

The kayak owner, grumpy with our return in darkness, swiftly dismissed any opportunity of pitching in the now abandoned car park. We began driving into the unknown and found a gated opening into a field which would be the perfect place to pitch our tents under the now star filled sky. Minutes later we noticed a weird lighting sensation in the sky above us. Another race for the cameras ensued and with the lens settings adjusted we began taking shots of the sky above. The results were truly remarkable as the vivid colours of the magical northern lights were now in view providing stunning shots to the delight of all. This really was a breathtaking way to finish off a truly remarkable, once in a lifetime day!

Published: November 3, 2016

Ian Tyley

Growing up meters from the beach it was no surprise that my love for photography began in and around the ocean.


 My consistent drive to get up every morning is fueled by the excitement and enjoymen...

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