Getting Charged by a Black Bear-What to do by Captain Quinn

Transient

O.K. So if there were a check list for things one must experience before being officially declared an adventurer, number one on the list would be: *poop in the woods and somewhere close behind would be *get charged by a bear!  The latter often induces the former, so you are likely to cross both off the list at the same time.

Inspired by the book "Born to run", I decided to try my hand at a little bare foot running.  Dragging my buddy along for the jaunt, Gary and I each threw on a pair of flip flops and made our way out onto the gravel road that follows the Nass River from New Aiyansh to the Cranberry Junction where we would be fishing for the next week. 

This stretch of gravel road is riddeled with bears-we passed four on our way into our campsite.  The thing about inspiration though, is once you find it, nothing else really enters the equation.  If Gary had asked me to go for a jog and I hadn't just finished reading "Born to run", I would have asked him if he wanted to go get mauled by a bear and when "no" was the obvious answer, perhaps tucked into another "smore", with my 30/30 lever action Marlin close at hand.  However, this was not the case.

So there we were jogging shirtless in short shorts and flip flops down a logging road that is probably more frequently travelled by bears than automobiles.  There was a light breeze and the sun was out.  It was fantastic!  As I explained to Gary the theories of running style and mechanics illustrated so wonderfully in this book, kilometer after kilometer whipped on past.

Gary-"It makes you run on your toes, it's, completley different." Captain-"I know right, I feel so light!" Gary "Me too." Totally in the zone, the two of us were flying, completely absorbed in the act of running, oblivious to everything else...

WHAM!!!

Captain-"AHHH SUGAR!" I just booted a large rock with my big toe and split it open, blood was leaking everywhere.  Luckily I had a pair of soc's in my pocket, not sure why, but I did.  So I put one over my cut toe and away we went again, running down the sunset, bare foot style.

Not sure how much time passed but eventually Gary said "Should we head back?" "Uh...Yah I guess, sure."  So we spun around and began to make our way back to camp, I am guessing about 10 km. As we made our way back the wind was now at our faces.

We came around a corner, I spotted something ahead, something large and black.  I squinted to get a better look and than stopped in my tracks and pointed it out to Gary.  "Uh, is that a bear?" The answer was yes! It was sniffing around right where I stubbed my toe. Probably licking up the blood looking for this injured animal, already drooling in anticipation over his next meal-ME! 

As we stood there watching this beast roam around completely in our way and seemingly unaware of our presence, the only logical option we had, in my opinion, was to run it off.  We couldn't go another route, there wasn't one.

So, I let out "THE CAPTAINS ROAR!" However, given the target of my roar (a 400+ lbs Black Bear), I probably sounded more like  a teenage girl at a Justin Bieber concert.

The bear spun around and imediately started sprinted straight for us like Usain Bolt in a fur coat, with five daggers in each hand and fangs that could rip through the thick hide of a moose.

...

Although that description does paint an intersting picutre I don't feel like it does the beast true justice, so lets just say it was running at us like: A 400LBS BLACK BEAR!!!

Having just made some new Nisga'a friends in Kinkolith, some words that the wise First Nations folk spoke stood out in my mind.

-If you come across a Black bear, stand your ground and look it in the eyes, try to look big and don't back down.

-If you come across a Grizzly, put your head between your legs and kiss your tookass goodbye.  Or you can back away slowly keeping your head down and never look it in the eyes.

I knew right away that it was a Black bear so I reluctantly planted my feet, put my hands in the air, looked it in the eyes and stood my ground.  Gary followed suit.

OOOOOOOOH SHIIIIIIIT!!!!!

"WHAT DO WE DO WHAT DO WE DO?" Gary asked.

"WE ARE DOING IT!" I replied.

The bear kept coming and picked up speed as it did. The closer it got, the heavier my jogging shorts became until finally about 50 feet away it hit the brakes, sized us up, backed off a bit and than came at us again even closer this time. He was drooling and huffing and really really mad. 

I don't know what my pulse was at the time but I am guessing somewhere between 150-180 million. 

The bear hung around in this fashion for about 15 minutes and we just stood our ground.  Eventually he started to back off until there was a comfortably gap between us, but he was still hanging around.

Suddenly I heard a faint rumble and a Volkswagon van appeared with two American tourists in it asking for directions.

EEEERCH!

"Hey how do you get to the Cranbery Junction? Oh and by the way there is a large Black bear just back that way."

"NO KIDDING!"

So we agreed to give them directions in exchange for a ride back past the bear-A fair trade!

When we arrived back at camp, I changed my shorts and than russelled up some grub and wondered what would have happend if the VW van didn't show up.

I love tourists!

Until next time, Keep on adventuring,

Captain Quinn

Albino Raven Reborn by Jamie Armstrong

An Albino raven.

I had a fortunate encounter recently, one that brought the memories from a memorable and mystic Haida Gwaii summer adventure to the forefront of my afternoon. Haida Gwaii means island of the people, as Haida translates directly to “us” or “people”. Rosespit, the most northeastern tip of Graham Island is where the raven discovered and freed the people of the earth from a giant clam shell, you can see Bill Reid’s depiction of this fable on any twenty dollar bill or in person at the YVR airport .

The islands before colonial contact were originally called Xhaaidlagha Gwaayaai which translates to “Islands at the Boundary of the World”. You have to visit to understand how the original people of this place could give it that name as this translation is not far off. The island sits atop a massive fault line that plunges deep into the Pacific. The Haida used to find massive dead sea turtles the size of cars washed up on their beaches, evidence of a bountiful and divine unknown beyond their earthly boundaries. These sea turtles used to gain great bulk from riding currents and foraging on Jellyfish blooms. In fact some scientists claim that large amounts of turtles that are killed as by catch of commercial fishing vessels (Gill Nets and drag nets, and all the turtles dying from mistakenly eating too much plastic), are part of the reason why there are such huge blooms of Jelly fish now being experienced in the sea.

The divinity and wealth of the origin of these massive sea creatures was and still is invoked in Haida culture and art. Those familiar with such art will have seen the door keyhole shape, often utilized in Haida made earrings, broaches, or in paintings, this shape originally was adopted within the Haida art as it was the symbol upon the foreheads of these great sea beasts whom washed upon their shores. The shape was associated with wealth, and was prominent in potlatches, as a cooper shield shaped in that symbol would be broken and shared among the guests. Anyways I digress, this story is about a white raven, not Volkswagen sized turtles.

A white raven whose tale is entwined indirectly with the tragic story of the Golden Spruce, considered an Arbor Miracle, was cut down by an environmentalist named Grant Hadwin, who cut it down as a protest against the logging companies that stripped the Haida Gwaii of almost all its old growth forests, leaving the stand around the Golden Spruce as its only, and measly commitment to conservation in that area. So his protest was like, “What the Hell you guys, you chopped everything else down, why stop their jerks.” It was a misguided and misunderstood protest by a man who had perhaps started to lose his train of thought , as losing such things as a train of thought tend to happen. What a great saying “Train of Thought”.

Shortly after the tree fell, the white raven flew into power lines and died. Albinism in Ravens is rare but does happen, what is really rare is that it survives its developmental stage, as such visibly different traits in youngsters provokes the negative attention of its siblings and often ends with such differences resulting in assault, death or starvation. Albino human beings experience the same hostility from their more median brothers in Tanzania and other superstitious areas of Africa, where Albino body parts are highly valued for Black Magic potions.  Basically an Albino Raven must be the only egg that hatches, or other extenuating circumstances for it to make it to adulthood. So when that anomaly of a bird died it was thought to be the last in most peoples lifetimes... or was it?

I thought this as well, and took a picture of the stuffed white raven in Port Clements when I was in the Haida Gwai in the summer of 2008. I have recently been proven wrong with a chance encounter one night with a young lady just arriving directly from summer employment at a fishing lodge on the most northern tip of Haida Gwaii. It was not long until she had her camera out and was showing me photos, when she showed me a picture she had taken of a White Raven...

The Jedediah Island Goatman by Jamie Armstrong

We arrive by boat, the only means of access on the island of Jedediah. With an eerie landscape of abandoned farm-holds, rotting fence posts and ownerless sheep herds it always seems like something sinister happened on this island. I came here with my brother at this relatively unknown island location, off the coast of the much larger island Texada, the largest in the Georgia Strait. We were on an adventure, or more specifically, looking for the remains of the islands legendary Goat Man. Much was unclear of this medical marvel, and few had heard, let alone agree on the validity of this man whom had been shamed into a lonely life of solitude and rejection

Jedediah island was owned by the family Palmers who used it initially as a vacation spot, eventually becoming full time residents. They lived there for twenty years. Mary Palmer, the ‘supposedly’ last remaining resident, along with the Follow Your Dream Foundation, provided funds, which were then matched by the Provincial government to buy the island and turn it into a provincial park. Now known officially as the Jedediah Island Marine Provincial Park, at 243 hectares, it is small, and we feel that a chance encounter with Joshua the Goatman, if he was real, would not take long. 

It is said that a man named Joshua, came to the Island for the simple reason that it shared the name his mother had given him. The man had hitchhiked as a musician and talented entertainer all the way from his hometown of O’Leary, Prince Edward Island, because a rival boy band in the neighboring town of Tignish, were out to get him, but that’s a different and funny story, completely unrelated to folklore and to adventure in general. When Josh arrived on Jededia he took up residence on the island at the request of the Palmer family after a chance encounter on his first day on the island. Although he had only planned to stay for a single day, he began to assist with the maintenance of the farming operations and islands live stock for room and board. Being from PEI, the boy had lived on a Potato Farm, and fit in instantly with the rhythm and chores of farm life. With his guitar, flavored maritime humor, and a farmer’s work ethic, he was soon accepted into the family’s daily operations on the island. During the winter the Palmer family would abandon the island, now wrapped in cloud and saturated by heavy rains, for greener pastures down south. Jedediah was to spend his first winter alone. 

His winter was largely uneventful, until one thunderstorm, changed his life forever. On that stormy night Jedediah was out tending to the sheep when a lightning bolt struck a tree, which fell upon the young man. His legs were badly shattered and he was pinned under the tree. Alone, cold and loosing blood, Jedediah was forced to sever off his own two legs with his hunting knife which was always sharp as his grandfather highly valued the state of the little boys knife, saying only a lazy man carries a dull blade. 

Unable to call for help from his unfortunate position, he called upon the sheep, who had fled when the lightning had struck, and stayed away from his screams of his pain. Eventually he coaxed one over and struck it in the throat with his knife. Skinning the beast, he used its entrails as a rope to tie off his stubs, and the sheep coat to stay warm. His skin was badly burned from the heat of the tree after it had fallen on him and the sheep’s skin began grafting to replace the mans own. Jedediah’s struggle of horrific pain was not yet over, although he had staved off hypothermia and blood loss for the moment, he was still far away from being safe from the elements of the storm, and he was unable to get himself to his cabin. He decided sometime within the night that he needed legs to navigate the tricky and rocky terrain back to his cabin, and with some coaxing and cooing, managed to tussle another sheep for his uses, medical uses. This time he took the sheep’s hind legs, and thread he had rendered from the entrails, to stitch the beasts hind legs to what remained of his own. It was not long, with the help of medicinal cloves and a strange jelly fungus, that the legs were usable and he was able to stumble his way to the cabin on his hooves that naturally took to the rocky terrain goats so gracefully navigate. He spent the rest of the winter alone, isolated and healing in that cabin, allowing the rest needed by the body to accept such alien grafts of body parts. He soon became delusional and afraid of what people would think of his new makeover. He soon began a lifestyle one could only define as ‘alternative’. He began seeking the companionship of the sheep herds, and started sleeping outside, rather than inside the cabin given to him for the winter. He never wanted a human to see him in such state.

After this not much else is know of this elusive goat man, and because no one has seen this poor soul in the last decade at least, many hypothesize that he has met some demise. Others suggest he made his way to the mainland, and now resides in the Caren Range, or works in Quebec as an organic farmer. Me and my brother had never seen any signs or heard any local tales in the Caren Range, and a trip to rural Quebec didn’t really sound like a realistic adventure. We agreed that Jedediah island was the best and most convenient way to spend the day. The small island of Jedediah makes for a perfect location to explore the legend of the Goatman.

Regardless, we didn’t find anything concrete, many suggestive clues of sheep bones, empty grassy meadows, and easily spooked sheep flocks eluded to a sinister presence.  But we were not soured, a good adventurer always has many side paths and other missions pop up, it was a good day of touring the strange and beautiful island. It is always good to keep an eye out for the Goatman’s remains, as Joshua the Goatman has so much to offer in terms of medical surgery studies, transplant practices and nerve development. If we found Josh’s remains, his bone structure would yield a lot of information on surgical science that’s for sure. I mean, a goat leg growing onto a mans! How can that work, how does that happen? If only we could coax the embarrassed and alienated Goat Man of Jedediah into the light of science. And what of his story, his family back in PEI, or of his own wishes and hopes for his future? There is so much unknown and doubted about this man. This folklore was largely forgotten until the recent occurrence of shoes with feet left in them started washing up on beaches, with the first on Jedediah Island. Coincidence, or is The Goat Man experimenting with another surgical operation, driven by his desire for re-acceptance into the human world he has been so tragically alienated from.

A Strange Encounter by Kyle Armstrong

A few weeks ago a friend and I headed out for a visit with the mystical creatures we believe to inhabit  China Beach.  Creatures we refer to as Ewaks, stolen from Star Wars because of their curious resemblance to these postulatory forest dwellers.  As we make our way through the low lying mists of the ancient forest, the landscape pushes towards the beach and the distant surf beckons like a ready lover. The trail seems temporary in the cascading Canadian jungle like the wake of an offshore ship fading, dissolving to the infinite. Massive cedar and hemlock trees explode out of the ground in every direction; each capable of absorbing as much as one ton of water per day and moving it vertically one hundred feet from its roots to canopy. Looking around at the hundreds of giants in my gaze I drown in the idea of the sheer amount of water and energy that is flowing through this system. Emerging from the forest a thick blanket is removed and my eyelids peel back as trees give way to giants of another kind. Top-heavy liquid waves crash and hurl stones and mangled driftwood. We skip along the relatively small buffer zone of stones, eyes fixed on our wobbly path, hypnotized within the rhythms of a world between two. 

Victim to absent-mindedness, I have forgotten my wetsuit.  Having no interest in re-living the grueling hike back to the car and missing out on even one of these fantastic waves I jump into the piercing January waters in not but my knickers. We surf well into night, the darkness allowing the creatures of my imagination to surface: orcas circle us warding off giant squid feeding frenzies and straggling great whites wait to taste revenge. Hairs rise on my neck as I feel the stares of the monkey men squatters, believed to dwell in this mystical forest. They watch from their huts dug deep into the coastal foliages of salal and sea grasses waiting for night to fully swallow before they begin their nocturnal mischief. They can pick their smelly baboon bums for all I care, I fear not, for only a true B.C. boy dare attempt to swim the shallows in boxers in the dead of winter. Unfortunately a few hours is all it takes before I’m near hypothermic. A small crumbler lifts me and I ride it into shore. I grab my penis to make sure its still there. The sorry bastard lives.

The Ewoks have left their village unattended. It hasn’t been empty long. They must have retreated further into the jungle sensing the weekend arrival of visitors and tourists—shy little guys. Their driftwood shelters and other ritualistic structures including some form of dry surf ramp are all ours. Allowing for a moment of reflexion, I take a seat on a beach log and watch the ocean. A freighter passes, or maybe it’s a trawler. It’s low engines cut when they pass our headlamps. Its presence is stealth like a Haida slave ship making its long journey back north to the Gwaii or a Canadian submarine patrolling for pirate smuggling ships. It’s too wet to make a fire so we wander around the village in darkness, set up our tents and head to bed. 

A fowl reeking stench of rot has been carried on a breeze and fills my nostrils.  The smell is surprisingly familiar a cross between dutch-ovens and rotting meat. I’ve been awake for a few minutes listening. Something is walking in the village, something big. For the first time it occurs to me the Ewoks have vacated the village for another reason, another intruder. A heavy breathing close to my head replaces my own and my tent begins to shake violently. It’s funny the security one feels in a tent, after all its just a thin layer of fabric. Yet its familiar and that thin membrane keeps you from having to see what beast, mythical or real, stalks you in the night. No matter what happens, in the morning if you didn’t see what it was you can write it off to dreams, exaggeration or whatever you want and keep your sanity. Maybe that’s why I didn’t start screaming or bolt for the parking lot and instead just lay there, still as a stone. That is until two massive forearms creeped underneath my body and began to lift me without curling… like a fork lift. 

When I was twelve I was playing in the wash at pipeline. The beach was closed that day due to the pounding 22 ft surf. I remember the wave was enormous and even though the wash was less than ankle deep it flipped me on my back and sucked me kicking and screaming towards the hulking beast. My heart beat at the same speed of the rushing water and I watched the wave grow taller and taller as if a vacuum for my fear. The rushing sound was deafening and chaotic until that final moment. The moment when the wave could hold no more water and my heart no more fear. The moment when I was closest, looking up at the supernatural wall of water. The moment before it all came crashing down—a cross between “here we go!” and “I am so f****d”. Floundering in what was one part foam one part sand and one part water there was no fight in my resistance.

There are some forces that are larger than the fight we have. Don’t get me wrong, I struggled but it was no fight. The poles snapped and the tent collapsed around me as all was lifted from the ground and slung in one light heave behind its back. I swam in the sagging tent as branches broke beneath its enormous steps. I could tell we were traveling at incredible speeds.  Listening to the monster breath I could tell my weight was no hindrance to this creature at all.  I have no recollection of the events that followed, but when I awoke the next morning, a shiver rain down my spine as I crawled out of my collapsed tent a hundred or so feet from where I remember setting it up.  I am not claiming that the strange occurrence was the doings of “Big Foot” but Im not ruling it out.  Whatever or whoever the culprit was that evening possessed a power and aroma unfamiliar to anything I have ever experienced.  My mind remains open with regards to the existence of such a being.

Mexican Adventure-Margaritas and Facial Reconstructive Surgery by Captain Quinn

Never Again

Author after facial reconstructive surgery in Mexico from attempting a backflip on the beach.

As I stair out the window of Air Canada flight AC 2468 a sudden hard smack on the arm causes me to spill tomato juice all over my already ketchup stained pants.   A deep breath followed by a long sigh helps me to ignore the sudden onset of an impulse to strike back.  An impulse developed in response to growing up with a younger brother.  A history involving countless scrapes, bruises, stitches and tears.  "Hey," my brother says, "look at Oma," our 86 year old grandmother is standing in the lavatory line up with a pack of "Virginia Slims" in one hand and a lighter in the other.  "Hmm, I wonder what she's up to", I reply, as if it weren't blatantly obvious.  The tomato juice has now secured its place in history deep within the denim fabric of my pants.  Its been nearly 8 hours since our dear oma's last cigarette, 7 hours and 45 minutes longer than usual and she's about had enough.  My brother and I exchange a look that could only suggest one emotion: curiosity.  I glance back out the window and think to myself, "this is going to be a long 7 days".

Our mother "The Major" thought it would be nice if the 2 oldest of her four boys were to spend a week in Cancun at an all inclusive with their dear sweet oma.  Not my type of adventure but I love my oma to pieces and I wasn't about to get her on a overnight snowshoeing trip, so I settled for some quality time in Margaritaville.  My brother, my oma and I in Cancun, Mexico. Sounds relaxing enough...

It didn't take long for my overly competitive 6 foot 5, 220 pound younger brother to secure the title "king of the pong".  I observed him with amusement as he slammed ball after ball into his opponents half of the table, where it would than bounce about a mile off into any which direction. Mojito in one hand, paddle in the other, he made a slightly less than humble spectacle with the celebration of each point.  After all, it was important that his opponents knew who the "king" was.  His competition: a line up of boys and girls ranging in age from 7 to 14 years.  Parents stood by in shock as this monster of a man sent their children off chasing ping pong balls all over the quiet familly resort, one after the other, no shame.  What childhood trauma haunts these children as a result of that days exhibition, I have no idea.  But I'll bet to date, if you were to ask them who the "king" is, not one of them would reply, Elvis. 

Party on!

After about 4 days of playing dominos with oma and destroying the competition at the ping pong table my brother and I found our selves sharing a cuban cigar and a bullshit on the beach as the sun went to rest for the night.  It didn't take long for our young entourage to discover our area of refuge.  They began a series of cart-wheels, back-flips and twists to entice us into entertaining them again.  Recognizing this as my cue I got to my feet, handed off my glass of vino and took the stage for a back-flip, a move that previously posed no problem.  Perhaps the blood hadn't quite rushed back into my head, or maybe I had one too many at dinner, whatever the reason, the next stunt would cause this trip to become the most expensive grandmother-grandsons vacation on record.  It would also force us to seriously question our decision not to get travelers insurance.

It took about 2 seconds for this aerobatic stunt to put me face first in the sand/rock.  As I rose to my feet the thing that hurt the most was my ego, never mind the fact that I had just turned the bridge of my nose into a door that could hinge open to my sinus cavity.  "Hey bro, am I bleeding?"  There was no need for an answer, his face said it all.

Back flips can be dangerous without proper warm-up.

It didn't take long for my brother to return from our room with our wallets which would soon be scraped clean.  Now for the very long journey to get my face put back together.  We made our way to hospital number one, not in a ambulance but in a taxi (their faster) we were assured, no need for safety at this point.  The doctor gave me a once over than told me in very broken english that he couldn't help me, I needed plastic surgery.  Back to the taxi, now with a neck brace and gauze to hold my beak in place instead of the paper towel I was previously using.  

When we arrived at the next hospital we were greeted by a small mexican lady who didn't speak a lick of english.  Next thing I know I was tossed onto a mobile hospital bed and wheeled into a room where I was instructed with hand gestures to remove all my clothes.  So here I am standing in a mexican hospital holding my nose on my face, naked to the  world.  It was at this moment that things really began to sink in.  Next, I was handed a hospital gown that I desperately used to try and cover as much of my 6 foot 2, 220 pound naked body as possible.  An attempt that proved to be all in vain.  The gown fit like a child's medium t-shirt, without so much as a stitch to hold the back shut.  So there I stood, bloody gauze covering my busted face and a child's medium t-shirt covering my upper torso.  While the rest of me just hung out for all to see.  I would remain in this fashionable attire for the next 24 hours. However, this was no time for humiliation, instead we had to find a way to come up with $22 000 US, or else I was told they couldn't operate.  I had 8 hours before the tissue in my nose would die, after which according to the doctor it would just fall off. Wonderful news.  

My brother somehow managed to get on the phone, ring oma at 2:00 am, who has no idea what is going on, and max her credit card out at 14 g's.  Still 8 short.  Well, we only had 3000 between the two of us which was quickly picked clean.  So now for the dreaded call to the "The Major".  To say our mother is protective would be a gross understatement, she used to follow us around on halloween in the mini-van until we were 17 and she probably still would if she didn't have two younger boys to mother in our place.  Needless to say, we knew she would absolutely freak out upon hearing of our predicament.  My father would have said "What, you need 5 grand, well than you better get a job".  My brother tried to break it to her as softly as he could and being the amazing mom that she is, without hesitation picked up the rest of the tab.

Time for surgery.  Of which there is not too much I can remember, as I was put under for the whole process.  I do remember being rolled, again butt-naked, onto a rather chilly stainless steel cross and strapped down.  Next a small man came into my vision, only long enough for me to make note of the annoyed expression he was wearing.  He covered my face with a mask, muttered something about a burrito and I was out. 

 As the wheels touched back down in Canada, it marked the end of an adventure that I am not in a hurry to ever relive.  I was happier than I think I've ever been to be home.  I now have quite a hefty debt, but I still have my sniffer.  A thousands thanks to my brother, oma, and mother as well the team of mexican doctors who helped put Humpty Dumpty back together again.