We have just completed a trip to Bella Coola which is a 2000 km round trip, the intent was to try and find some grizzly bears, however we were about 2 weeks to soon for the salmon run which would have meant a lot more bears out for a feed. Even though Bella Coola is known for its grizzly bears it is not a large tourist area, most people would either fly in stay at the big lodges, do a river trip and then fly out. The other route that people take is the ferry from Vancouver Island, which is a 14 hour trip, stay a night or two then drive back to Vancouver, this would have been an option for us but we couldn’t justify the $600 ferry ride. We took two days to get there stopping at Williams Lake for the night before completing the last 450 km, 60 of which is dirt road and then the downhill run into Bella Coola.
We were surprised at how much devastation there was in the forests with over 16 million acres destroyed by the pine beetle which crawls under the bark and lays its eggs and produces a fungus that blocks the water and nutrients going to the tree.
We stayed at the Bailey Bridge campsite which looked really good on the website (bloody photographers) but ended up being more like the campsite on National Lampoons Vacation. it was a mud pit without any shelters, we had to go and find a local park to keep out of the rain and cook our meals, unfortunately, we had already booked there for two nights so had to suck it up.
We then moved onto the campsite called Rip Rap which had grass and undercover shelter which was handy because it hadn’t stopped raining since we arrived. They had a lot of quirky little things around the campsite and the best “long drop” toilets I have ever used, even had toilet spray. One aspect of the park which I was curious about was the unique phallic shaped trees, but as it is told, apparently this is what happens when the “deer’s” eat the trees in winter!!
We did however have a couple of dry spots on our trip where we were lucky enough to stumble across some bald eagles, we counted 13 in one cluster alone. There was a slow run of salmon so was able to get some good shots of them watching, flying, fighting, fishing and eating.
Whilst we were photographing the eagles a mother bear came out of the bush, stood up and had a look in the river, next she brought her two cubs down and grabbed a feed. At the same time another mother and larger cub showed up (on our side of the river – erhhh) but was scared off by a local – bummer.
Another break in the weather so we just stayed in the same spot, got some more eagles and again another younger bear, who was awfully skinny, came down for a feed as well, he was so quick that you only had about a minute and a half with him and then he was gone. He did return about an hour later to try again but not as successful but we had a bit of time with him watching him try to catch another, until big bear Digby stood up and scared him away.
We decided to head home when we woke and it was raining again, we had to stop in Williams Lake to clean the car as this is what happens after 3 days rain and 60 km of dirt road. We will now spend a week or so at home doing some local festivals and the Abbotsford Air show before we head off to Banff and Jasper.