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August 14, 1997
Peter Brewster writes:
ON THE LOWER GEORGE: We had an attempted BB & E at our place this morning. That's Bear-Break-And-Enter. The break was successful, the entry a bust. It happened at about 5 a.m. as Mike Peake and I were fast asleep. I was deep into a complicated dream involving ... well, never mind ... when there was a loud bang. Right above our feet. We jacknifed up in our sleeping bags, Mike looking inwards and me looking out the tent door. At the bear. He was seven metres away, cruising slowly and obviously puzzled by the noise he'd created. Then he headed over towards Geoff and Peter's tent.
My first concern, naturally, was for the Scotch., but I remembered it was safely stashed in a dry box. At times in the past when we have run into polar bears and grizzlies I have always operated under the philosophy that a serious bear would rather have a large, meaty Peake than a short, lean Brewster. So I pulled on a pair of moccasins and went out. By this time Peter and Geoff were awake.
I arrived as our visitor spooked and took off into the scrubby spruces beside the small esker on which we were camped. We later found his big muddy paw print on the fly of our veteran North Face Pole Sleeve Oval, where by sheer luck - our's - he'd hit the point where two poles intersect when he'd swatted the strange orange object in the early morning light. The bang had been one of the aircraft aluminum poles snapping. He severely bent another. Clearly, we very nearly had a bear in the tent. There was the expected chatter, and we all went back to bed. Oddly enough, Mike and I soon fell asleep again and were awakened by Dave's call to pancakes. But things weren't calm for long.
As we were packing up the kitchen down at the water Peter Scott came barrelling down the slope from the esker, carrying a pack and yelling "He's baaaack!" I grabbed my Nikon, snapped on the 300mm ED and raced past Peter and up the slope, expecting I'd need the long lens to get a shot.
As I crested the ridge I was confronted by the bear about 15 metres away, and with his furry image filling the viewfinder I squeezed off three frames, one of which I think will be a cracker. Now then, you ask, where is the photo of the bear? Where was Photographer Peake? Off shooting yet more portraits of his siblings to dominate this space? ( Note to Toronto Sun news desk staff: Thanks for the E-mail, your concern for my whereabouts is touching. Rest assured that I am NOT at Parry Sound, even though photos of myself have been few and far between. I am, as you know, by nature timid and camera-shy! By the way, tell Raoul I don't care.)
Anyway, to present you with a photographic image the picture has to be taken on the Nikon digital camera. Mike has two regular Nikons plus the high-tech job, and while he grabbed the right camera to follow me up the hill, he'd picked up the wrong lens. So the bear is on one of my rolls of Kodachrome. To prove that we are living in interesting times, adventures continued on the river.
About an hour after the get-go Peter Scott and I were for once leading, and slid into an interesting-looking rapid that didn't look too tricky. Suddenly, as in "Where the heck did THIS come from", we were into big waves that were getting bigger. We slid down into a couple of enormous troughs, with crests on the standing waves, and Mike, who was following about 40 metres behind, said I disappeared from view totally. The bowman always gets it. All three boats got through, but there was a flurry of bailing after the rapid. Later, on sombre reflection, Peter and I pronounced those waves the biggest we've run in 15 years of Arctic paddling. And yes, we were lucky.
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