|itinerary < 14 June Caspar 11 August Stinson Beach >
Contents & Conclusions 15 June 2023
What a trip! This page is a work in progress
There were an unbelievable number of 'moving parts' and, incredibly, they all moved exactly as planned. Yet with even such good luck and thoughtful planning, travel,(like getting older) is not for sissies. Here, first, is a table of contents of this trip, and then, below, some reflections on the trip's meaning to me and to us.
That's what this whole endeavor was about: meeting (or at least seeing) the Grizzlies in their natural habitat without interfering. Of course this is especially sensitive when cubs – the future of the species – are involved. To be able to do that, we needed, and had, the guidance of a professional, and truly gifted, guide: our captain, Eric Boyum.
This meant that we were never closer than 50 meters, right at the limit of my camera's ability to zoom; therefore, some images are fuzzier than I'd like. But then again, Grizzlies are fuzzy!
Aside from his rapport with the bears, who seemed to know and trust him, he was also a congenial, unflappable, wholly relatable host. Given what I could see of the realities of moving a 54 foot boat through these complicated waters, he was thoughtful and careful. At no time, Rochelle told me, did she feel the slightest bit unsafe.
Of equal importance in a prolonged experience like this: the synergy of crew and passengers. We lucked out. Marjan, second in command, was clearly as in love with the places and animals as we were, and had learned (and was continuing to learn) from Eric all aspects of the Great Bear II's 'package' from careful navigation to protective bear observation – safety for both the bears (and their environment) and the humans. Chef Jen, whose training was in making the best of availabilities in back-country ski lodges, fed us three high quality meals a day, adapting gracefully to the preferences of the guests. And our fellow guests Susan and Trina were interesting, very Canadian (in a western way), and completely simpatico.
And two more critical ingredients made this an unforgettable, never to be repeated joy: the weather for the whole trip was perfect . . . and the bears were cooperative. There was simply no way this experience could have been improved; as near to perfect as is possible in the real world.
Any kind of travel involving airports is annoying and dehumanizing. The long schlep with luggage through the endless corridors, the unnecessarily long lines at security, the professionally tolerant but essentially robotic 'officers', and the righteously pissed off passengers created a thoroughly toxic atmosphere.
It wasn't always like this, and doesn't need to be now. The insanity of taking one's shoes and belt off, the 4 ounce stricture: all preparing for a problem from the distant past. The real present danger: coughing, sneezing fellow travelers. If the government is so concerned about airplane safety, why not take everyone's temperature, and make travelling when sick a violation?
The frustrations of travel go on and on, mostly because when we travel, we leave, by definition, our comfort zone: the place where we have learned to cope with the inconveniences.
So I keep telling myself, 'if you really want to travel, suck it up, chuck!' Day after: will I travel again? Maybe not. See below where I write about travel while elderly.
This trip was remarkable because the 'main event' was SLOW. That was the point. Great Bear II puddled along at 7 knots, give or take as determined by the currents and tides. When approaching Grizzly territory in the Great Bear Wilderness, 3 knots was the speed limit set by the keepers, and a reasonable limit, too. We had time to smell the flowers, and we didn't frighten the bears. In my opinion, 8 and 3 miles per hour – jogging and walking speeds – are perfect speeds for thoroughly taking in one's surroundings.
I wrote about the advisory nature of Canadian highway speed signs: 110 means 130. I wasn't the only one objecting to this. Trina told us that she dressed in black and took her hair dryer down to her local highway to terrorize speeders, who took here for a Mountie with a Speed Gun.
Apparently something terrible happened to USer commuters while we were asway for 17 days: When we retrieved our car and got on the freeway, the prevailing speed was 75 miles per hour, with a significant fraction of drivers going upwards of 80, all in a 65 zone. Now many of us remember that '55 is a good idea' not so much for safety reasons, the roads being built for faster speeds, but for fuel efficiency. Maybe while we were away the US made an arrangement for petroleum from another planet? In my opinion, we really don't need to go that fast. So much speed makes travel, whether commuting or on vacation, much less pleasant. Or, another way to put it: speeding along at the very edge of control makes us bitchy and anxious, and we really don't need to do that to ourselves or each other, do we?
This trip was a powerful lesson in the value of slowing the pace.
'We're spending our childrens' inheritance' and why not? When younger, we traveled like students, the way we first traveled. Rochelle and my daughters traveled for 10 months around the Pacific Rim on $30 a day each including all transport. In our late seventies, that's simply not on our agenda; it's more like $130 on an inexpensive day, excluding transport. Sure, everything's more expensive in 2023 than in 1990, but the calculus has changed: our older bodies aren't able to sustain the inconveniences and exertions of budget travel. (It's an open question whether our eldering spirits can handle the indignities mentioned above.)
You might notice that when enumerating the inhumanity of air travel, I didn't mention flying: it's actually pretty cool. Sure, the seats are tiny and the person behind you kicking the seat while coughing should be put in jail, but getting from YVR (Vancouver International) to SFO (San Francisco International) in one hour and firty-six minutes is a small miracle.
Never mind that it's not 'sustainable.' More about that next.
IF we intend to assert our membership among the global 6% or so and travel to faraway places, we need to spend enough to stay healthy and as happy as possible under trying circumstances, reminding ourselves as every C-note peels away that we can't take it with us, our offspring wiuld only spend it, and so we would do just as well either to stay home or travel in as much luxury as we can stand.
In planetary terms, there is simply no question whether travel is any more affordable than some of the other species misbehaviors we humans indulge in: warfare, speeding, conspicuous consumption.
Considered from the perspective of global economics – a consideration as dismal as that dismal 'science' allows – some forms of tourism are worse than others, but they're all bad for the planet. To the extent that our lives were changed by this trip (and they were, bigtime) by observation and experience of healthy, intact Nature (and Nature includes the local people encountered on the trip), this was a 'less bad' trip' than, say, flying to Maui and staying in a Japanese owned 'resort hotel' while eating cheese imported from France and drinking milk put in cartons in Southern California. The Great Bear II is owned by the Captain; the crew were from B.C. and took their earnings home to their own locales; the food we ate was as local as can be had in our global food regime. At a guess, as much as 75₵ of every dollar we spent during the seven days on the boat stayed in B.C. For every dollar spent on the Maui trip mentioned above, it is a known fact that at least $1.04 left the Islands.
Pi cat sacked out on my lap the morning after we got home
'As long as I've known you, you have been traveling,' comments a long time friend, who is himself a dedicated 'stay-at-homer.' When I tell him, as I have more than once, 'This was probably our last big trip' he laughs and says 'I've heard that before!' My children laugh and say the same thing.
Leaving home is increasingly difficult for two reasons: the 'world beyond' our familiar perimeter is increasingly fraught (especially airports! and especially for elders), and our comfort is increasingly dependent on the safe, clement home environment we have created for ourselves. Surely at some point my shpilkes will cease to overrule my reclusiveness.
This trip was totally worth the effort, and even on the day after with our cat Pi having forgiven us for leaving her asleep on my lap, I can contemplate some future adventure that might make us forsake our home, friends, and comfortable regime for the stresses and rewards of travel.
And one of the primary rewards is the joy of returning home. The burst of sheer joy I felt when I turned off Highway One into my beloved village, and saw my home still standing, was priceless. (Even better when Pi cat came in looking for us.) Having seen magnificent new parts of the world, experienced a new pace (never faster than 8mph) and attentiveness to the richness of Nature, eaten new food (Glory Bowl, Poutine), met fine new people, arriving back here in wonderful Caspar all still in its proper place, we appreciate 'home' from a new, richer perspective.
A good trip should enhance our experience of our home place without unduly compromising our health or the welfare of the places and creatures (people included) we visited. This trip did.
|updated 16 June 2023 Caspar Time
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