It was an idyllic summer morning when we arrived at my Aunt and Uncle’s lakeside home after a gorgeous drive through the mountains of Southern British Columbia. After a flurry of hugs we chatted up a storm while soaking up sunshine on the deck, then sat down to bowls of steaming soup and warm, grainy bread spread with butter and strawberry jam. Bliss.
After lunch my uncle came in and asked if I wanted to go four-wheeling up in the mountains with him. Did I?!! You bet!! I hustled to get ready, joined him in the truck and off we went down some back roads until we found the perfect ditch to unload the four-wheeler. I clambered on behind my uncle and we were off!! The sun was blazing down on us as cool mountain breezes fanned our faces and whipped my hair into an astonishing set of knots. I loved it! We tore along wooded trails, splashed through massive puddles, groaned our way up super high inclines and plunged down others so steep my heart was in my throat. A grouse flew up from the undergrowth right onto my head, batting me with her wings before she landed a short ways away and started running down the trail after us. We chuckled heartily and continued on our merry way.
Then, oh THEN we emerged from the woods into the most glorious alpine meadows.
Sunlight danced off waving grasses and illumined millions of wildflowers in vivid pinks, purples, and creamy whites. My uncle stopped the four-wheeler and we gazed in awe around us, listening to the wind in the grass and birds singing their hearts out. My uncle said it best: “It doesn’t get any better than this.” Grudgingly we got back on the four-wheeler and headed down the other side of the mountain, back into the sun-dappled forest, getting wetter and muddier with each gigantic puddle we forded, and not minding a bit.
As we turned a corner we were momentarily stymied by the sight of two large poplar trees fallen right across the trail. My uncle scoped it out and figured that with me alternately jumping on then steering while he pulled and lifted the tree trunk with his shoulder, we could, perhaps, shimmy it under both trees. So, with much grunting and groaning and hollers of “jump now! steer right! push hard!” we made it.
Feeling quite pleased with ourselves we motored down the trail only to be startled when a huge mother black bear came bolting across the trail while her cubs went darting up a tree on the other side of us. Hmm. You know that saying about never separating a mother bear from her cubs? Well, we had just done that. As we stared in shock the mother bear skidded to a halt and came barreling back looking for her cubs. As soon as he saw her, my uncle put the four-wheeler into reverse and we torqued back up the way we had come while I kept my eyes glued to the cubs and tried to catch a glimpse of the mother bear. Suddenly my uncle braked and decided that if the bear was going to come after us, he’d rather go straight down the mountain where we at least had a chance of getting away than get stuck back at those wretched trees trying to maneuver ourselves back under them.
So, with pulses racing (and every scary story I’ve heard about bear mauling rushing through my mind) I held on while my uncle whooped and hollered to warn the mother bear of our location, gunned the engine and sped right back down the trail. I saw the cubs slide down the tree and scamper off into the woods, but I couldn’t see the mother bear anywhere. While my uncle floored it, I kept watch all around us, ready to holler a warning if a large black bear suddenly bore down upon us. A minute or two down the trail and we came to ANOTHER fallen tree! GAH!! This one we couldn’t get under so I hopped off and climbed over it while my uncle drove into the woods, found a way around it and picked me up on the other side. Then we zoomed off again, bouncing over ruts, flying through puddles, whipping past low-hanging branches, not stopping until we were safely back at the truck. Lordy, lordy!! I tell you I was never so glad to see civilization.
Twas a grand adventure, though! I was super proud of my uncle’s quick thinking and my utter lack of hysterics.