It was gray and cold when I rode past Kluane Lake. I wandered around a bit and took some shots of the ice before gassing up just at the station around the bend. It was pretty expensive there. No matter where you're from it's still painful to watch someone pay $35 for a 12 case of Budweiser. But people seemed to do it a lot, and I almost caught myself doing the same thing on a few occasions above the lower 48. I rode on towards Beaverton and the border as the sun started to set.
A few miles after Kluane lake, everything seemed to change at once. I entered some twilight zone of riding where everything magically decided to become perfect. The clouds disappeared, the temperatures warmed and the sun was setting for hours. The lighting was brilliant and it stayed bright enough to see the landscape in awesome detail. Then, all it once, it seemed like all the animals came out and I had wandered right into the middle of Discovery's Wild Kingdom. I was loving it. The road wasn't bad either.
I went from seeing no moose to 14 in the next 100 miles. I had seen signs all the way through British Columbia warning me about them but had yet to ever see one.
This guy inspired my first slam-the-brakes-Uturn-photoOP. There would be many of those on this stretch.
A little ways on, I spotted another roadside bear. My general plan when I see these guys is to pull onto the opposite shoulder and try and get photos with my Fuji before they take off. This guy was different because he didn't run away. Instead, he wandered up on the road, lowered his head and had a stare down with me as his neck fur bristled. I rolled away a few more yards and looped back for another go as he returned to eating. This time he started loping towards me with a growl and I retreated a few yards down the road again. It was tricky deciding when to commit to pulling the camera out of the tank bag to go for the shot, knowing there might be a difficult choice of putting it back or gunning the bike if he came at me quick. I have bear mace, but antagonizing one and then having to spray it because of me trying to get close isn't something I'm keen on. Also, I was a little weirded out seeing such aggression from a black bear that didn't live around humans. It's normal to see bluff charges from bears in Yosemite after they get in the habit of face off encounters over the camp cooler. A truly wild black bear charging me 100 miles from the nearest gas station was something else completely. During the last photo attempt, he came at me for real with solid intent so I rolled out with my camera hanging around my neck to a safe distance.
Five minutes later I noticed a fuzzy rock by the side of the road start moving as I went by. Brake, U-Turn, Photo shoot.
This guy happily let me get within about ten feet and we sure had a good time hanging out.
A few more miles down I saw yet another bear, this time on the right side shoulder. I slowed down and moved into the oncoming lane as I got closer (there's no traffic out there, ever). As my speed slacked off and I rolled closer, he took notice of me and brought his face up from the ground to look me over.
Hmmmm, that face looks different.
Hmmmm, those ears are sure different.
Hmmm, that body shape is definitely different.
I was almost level with him as he bolted and I watched my first brown bear bound away into the brush. I was fired up at that point. I had been trying to see one for years in person, driving around Montanta and Wyoming with no luck, and now I had seen one from about 25 yards. I turned off at Pickhandle Lake and checked out the view while some beavers improved on their public works projects. Camp was a few miles down near the end of a dirt track at an unknown lake.