I’m so excited to announce our latest workshop, Spirit Bears of the Great Bear Rainforest. Last year’s scouting trip to this remote region of coastal British Columbia was richly rewarding and the culmination of a journey back to an area that long ago seized my imagination and never let go. My previous foray to the Inside Passage was a week-long fishing/photography trip based out of the small island community of Bella Bella. I wish I had pictures of the pod of orcas that approached, swam directly under our little skiff and surfaced so close on the other side that I could have reached out and touched them. But my fumbling fingers, ISO 50 film and lack of autofocus conspired to create just another 'one that got away' story. Many moons have passed, as you’ve likely guessed, since that magical moment but the memories of satin smooth seas, rocky conifer covered islets, circling bald eagles and salmon, lots of salmon, never faded the way most others do.
So when I started hearing tales of a mysterious white bear living in the most remote corners of the rainforest, I knew I had to find a way back. I finally made it last year and the bears and the rainforest did not disappoint. This time I have pictures and now I invite you to come see, photograph and experience it for yourselves.
Pristine & Primordial
The Great Bear Rainforest is the largest temperate rainforest remaining on the planet. It’s massive, essentially comprising the entire Pacific coast of British Columbia and its outlying islands. These countless islands and surrounding seas are collectively known as the Inside Passage. The word pristine was invented for places like this. When you stand streamside and witness a ceaseless parade of salmon splashing their way upstream and then lift your gaze to take in a moss-draped cedar, perhaps a thousand years old, tangled in the vines of dense old growth forest, you’ll understand exactly what I mean. Things feel old and pure and perfect here. Then, just when you’re beginning to wrap your brain around the magnificence of the scenery, a four-legged ghost silently walks out of the woods. I know this sounds ridiculously hyperbolic but it’s actually a pretty accurate description of my experience just a handful of months ago. And, like I said, I have pictures.
Man’s footprint isn’t nonexistent here, it’s not anywhere. But in The Great Bear Rainforest you have to look hard to see its faint outlines.
Ghost bear, Spirit bear, Kermode bear - whatever you call this magnificent creature, everything about it is special. It is one of the rarest bears on earth with total population estimates ranging from 100 to 400, no one really knows. Science says Ursus americanus kermodei is actually a subspecies of the American black bear and their fair coats are the result of rare recessive genes. But to the First Nations peoples of the area they are sacred spirits, Ghost Bears, their coloration the result of an ancient bargain made with wise Raven to remind us of an age when the world was covered with ice and snow.
Their mythical status has been a rallying point to various First Nations groups sturggling to claim and protect their traditional territories. Environmental organizations have also capitalized on the Spirit bears’ charismatic qualities by giving it a starring role in the fight to protect The Great Bear Rainforest. Last year, their efforts were rewarded with final legislation that permanently protects the great majority of old growth forest in the GBR from logging. The so-called 'panda of Canada' turned out to be a very pursuasive symbol of the wildness and beauty that stands to be lost if we don’t defend natural places. But the fight continues, with the focus now shifted to stopping a proposed oil pipeline terminal which would make the Inside Passage a transportation corridor for giant oil-filled tankers headed to China. Will a photogenic bear be enough to overcome economic needs and greed? The future is unclear.
Spirit Bears of the Great Bear Rainforest is exactly the type of experience I envisioned creating for other photographers when I started my workshops business. Small group, photography intensive adventures in the world’s most spectacular settings. If this idea excites you, I invite you to join us this Oct 5-10 for a trip you will never forget. But act quickly because this workshop is limited to only 5 participants and will sell out quickly. Check out the workshop page for more details or go to my Spirit Bears gallery to see additional photos.