As has now become the norm when we arrive in a new place we decided to explore the town trails on our first day in Banff. We started out on what looked to be a fairly uneventful walk along the bow river and around the Fenland Trail. We were both tired and subdued after our long drive the day before and I even commented to Stuart that this walk was unlikely to make it into the blog.
The one thing I love about travelling is that it is un-predictable as you never know what is around the corner, who you might meet, what you might see and what you might do……
As we plodded along stuck in our own individual thoughts we met a man who informed us he had just seen an elk up the path. Although we have seen a couple of elk we were still quite excited and were pleased to meet Clare 'Elk'ins (see photos), named in honour of my mad, muppet sister! The likeness with the beautiful brown eyes and well- honed rear end is quite remarkable. Back at you little Sis!
"Finally it happened to me right in front of my face. My feelin's inside can't describe it"
We walked a little further, greeting a number of dog walkers along the way and we were sure in for BIG SURPRISE. I was the first to spot what looked to be a big brown bear, at first I thought my imagination was playing tricks yet again but in split seconds I realised it was in fact a big brown bear ambling along the path. After a few shocked gasps I turned to Stuart quietly and said it's a bear, it's a bear! My instinct was to run but Stuart took manly command and told me to 'hold my ground' and NOT to run - the exact wording in the 'Bears and people pamphlet' we picked up in Jasper. Once again I was experiencing a mixture of emotions - fear, excitement and curiosity but in this situation mostly fear I have to say. I could not stand still it did not feel right so very slowly I edged back as Stuart reached for the bear spray and was calmly chatting to the bear. The conversation went a little bit like this 'Hey Bear, how are you Bear, we wish you no harm Bear, Hey Bear, How are you Bear……….'
As I edged slowly back I met a vacant looking young man (who looked like he had had a heavy night) and dutifully informed him that there was a bear ahead. He said nothing but carried on walking but soon stopped when he saw Stuart in mid conversation with what we have now affectionately called Hofmeister the Bear! (I wanted to call him Gentle Ben but Stuart would not allow it). Now at a safe distance with two well-built gentlemen in front of me I felt it safe enough to pull out my camera and take some shots - see photos. My heart however was still pounding especially as the Hoff was continuing to walk towards us. The men (especially Stuart) remained calm. I was getting ready to lie on the ground with my hands behind my back and legs apart and pretend to be dead - another instruction in the pamphlet! Lucky for us the Hoff was not hungry and soon lost interest in us as he started to run (quite fast) into the woods in the opposite direction. I am sure you will have heard the collective sigh of relief back in the UK.
Stuart still behaving in a very manly way with bear spray in hand took me by the arm and told us we should march on. The man who we had shared the encounter with still had not said a word - on reflection I do not think he could speak English!!! As instructed in the pamphlet we continued our walk (I was a jabbering wreck) and made our way to the local police station to report our sighting.
On arrival at the police station, we were met with two very pleasant ladies who were both surprised and interested in our bear sighting. Both have lived in Banff for years and only seen two bears! After a friendly chat on the phone with the Park Warden who asked lots of questions - most of which we could not answer because we were not close enough to the bear to see we headed off for a well- deserved cup of tea. This did really happen but I still look back upon the experience as if it were a dream. With time to reflect we were definitely too close for comfort and Stuart was definitely the hero of the hour (or five minutes if the truth be told). I am pleased that after all the hype and speculation we have actually seen a bear but would be happy not to see another one on our travels.
PS. Kayleigh I did have a little word with the bear to see if he would like to come home with us but he is a little afraid of flying so politely declined. I will try again if and when I meet a Koala Bear in Australia!