The Great Bear Rainforest – Our Favourite Wilderness Area

The Great Bear Rainforest

The name alone conjures up a vision of a wild, remote wilderness – a rugged, ruthless landscape where bears rule supreme…

From all of our adventures in Canada to date, the Great Bear Rainforest is our favourite wilderness area –a precious jewel in Canada’s crown. It has everything:  incredible landscapes, wildlife, ocean, mountains and solitude. It’s as close to perfect as we could ever imagine.

The Great Bear Rainforest is one of the largest remaining tracts of unspoiled temperate rainforest left in the world – about 6.4 million hectares, most of it is only accessible by boat.  In October of 2015 we embarked on a 7 day adventure into its heart, aboard a beautifully appointed 71’ ketch-rigged sailboat named the Ocean Light II. The trip was lead by Marcy’s mentor, renowned wildlife photographer Brad Hill.

It is difficult to describe, in words, our experience in this impossibly spectacular part of the world. Perhaps the best way is to simply reveal the images captured in this pristine environment.

 

Spirit Bear
(Kermode Bear, White Bear, Ursus americanus kermodei)

Is the Spirit Bear a myth?  Nothing more than a tall tale passed down from generation to generation in the Pacific Northwest among the indigenous people?  We were keen to see if it really existed with our own eyes.  We were not disappointed!

Elusive Spirit

Gentle Spirit

The Spirit Bear is not a Polar Bear.  It is a subspecies of the American Black Bear with a double recessive gene living primarily in the Great Bear Rainforest.  Fewer than 400 Spirit Bears are estimated to exist and we were lucky enough to see four!  This beautiful female, along with her two black cubs, posed for us for over an hour. She is probably one of the calmest bears we have been in the presence of to date.

Grizzly with Three Cubs

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Follow the Leader

One of the things that we love about this place is the incredible diversity of life!  This mother grizzly had her cubs marching to her tune (for a while anyway) through the beautiful estuary.

Little Rascals

Three Rascals

Of course, cubs will be cubs and these three little rascals were often diverted for play, which sometimes visibly annoyed mom but sure made for some great photographic opportunities.

Bald Eagle

Eagle in the Mist

Eagle in the Mist

The Great Bear Rainforest definitely lives up to its name in the regard that there is a LOT of rain but it can made for some beautiful and moody landscapes like this eagle, perched in a magnificent tree, as it surveyed the area searching for its next meal.

Harbour Seals

Don't Mess with the Seals

Don’t Mess with the Seals

The seals aren’t bothered by rain (it was pouring), they just want to be left alone to laze on rocky outcrops…

Humpback Whales

Teamwork

Teamwork

It surprised us to learn that the narrow channels between islands are actually deep enough for humpback whales to traverse and they can often be seen bubble feeding.  The whales coordinate efforts by blowing bubbles in a big circle underwater and flashing their pectoral fins to scare the krill into rising towards the surface in a tight ball so they can feed.  It is an amazing display of teamwork!

Solitude

Solitude

Through the mist and the rain a solitary humpback waved goodbye… We will return!

 Marcy & Ray Stader

StaderArt

 

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Faces of Nepal – Part 1

Candid portraits – a guileless moment of naked sincerity when you feel like you’ve captured the spirit of a subject – those are our favorite.  When we published the image of Beny Wilson in Sometimes Misfortune is a Blessing in Disguise—Discovery of Birding, we were surprised by the volume of email we received requesting more portraits to be included in our blog.

Nepal offered exceptional opportunities for this type of photography when we embarked on a three-week trek in the Nar-Phu region of Annapurna.  We were privileged to capture some of the unique faces that personify these diverse Himalayan cultures.  These photos are some of our personal favorites and have never been published before, so we hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

 

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Weathered Wisdom

Buddhist New Year is one of the most exciting annual events in the Kathmandu Valley and we were honoured to be invited to participate in the local festivities. Seated on a stone courtyard floor under a sheet-metal overhang, we shared food with the locals as the religious procession wound its way up to the small monastery in the rain.  As with most moments in time… when time stands still… the rain stopped, the sun appeared, and this old lady stepped from the shadows into the light clutching her prayer beads.  The lines on her face and hands stood out in bold relief and told the story of someone who had weathered many years and had gained an immense amount of wisdom.

 

Modern Man

Modern Man

Walking through the village of Phu is like taking a two-thousand year step back in time. Many homes do not have running water or electricity, and are constructed from very simple materials. The texture and colour in this scene were so incredibly coordinated and striking, it literally stopped us in our tracks. The juxtaposition of old and new was poignant and the man’s face looked as tan and leathered as the animal hide he was repairing. The running shoes and modern sunglasses were the epitome of the “Modern Man” in Phu!

 

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Namaste

While trekking we passed through a beautiful rural area lined with colourful houses and verdant fields.  Unbeknownst to us, this stunning lady was the sister of one of our porters.  Upon seeing our group approaching she enthusiastically waited at the fence to greet her brother and say “Namaste” as he passed, a warm Himalayan welcome that was felt by all of us.
Marcy & Ray Stader

StaderArt

A Wolf, a Mink and a Sparrow – Life is a Journey, Not a Destination…

Our Incredible Day in Banff National Park

As usual we were up at the crack of dawn and eager to go hiking in Banff National Park in hopes getting our fitness back and shedding a few of the extra “postre” pounds we put on in Panama.

We hopped in the car and were going to make a beeline to our destination…until we rounded a corner and came upon a wolf lying in the middle of the road.

16A_6410-1(Gray Wolf – female)

At first we were concerned she was injured–she had her head down, eyes closed and was unmoving.  Then, as she slowly raised her head, we realized she was merely content and basking in the early morning rays of sun that hit the tarmac.  To encounter a wolf so calm and undaunted by our presence has never happened before (they are always on the move and in a hurry to get away from people).  Usually we have to work very hard to track a wolf in the Rocky Mountains but this time she presented herself on a silver platter.  We sat for several minutes watching each other until she slowly got up and ambled away.

 

16A_6576-1(Common Loon)

Driving slower now, our senses heightened, we became mindful of our surroundings and left our usual sense of time and urgency behind us.  Seeing a serene pond, we decided to stop and appreciate some loons that were swimming gracefully nearby. While standing on the bank a mink suddenly popped out and scurried between us into the shelter of a grassy mound.  We even engaged in a conversation with some adventurous travellers from New Zealand for an hour.  It was definitely an unusual day…

 

16A_6648-1-2(Red Squirrel)

Finally arriving at Lake Minnewanka several hours later than intended, we began our hike. Normally we’d be marching down the trail trying to make up for lost time or commenting on how “boring” flat hikes are, but not this time.  We appreciated things more, including  this little squirrel.  This little guy was not the usual “twitchy” type.  It was so content munching on a mushroom it didn’t seem to mind us watching and even posed for us.

 

16C_1274-Pano-1.jpg(Two Jack Lake and Mount Rundle)

The weather was nice and the scenery lovely.  There is something about spring in the Rocky Mountains. While stopping to enjoy the view, we heard chirping sounds and spent a further 30 minutes trying to ID a Tennessee Warbler and photographing White-Crowned Sparrows.

 

16B_1276-Edit-1-2(White-crowned Sparrow)

We actually didn’t complete the entire hike we had originally intended, but looking back at the day there is no doubt it was the journey, not the destination that lead to a fulfilling day in nature’s playground.  It was a good reminder that sometimes we need to stop and smell the roses. Which is exactly what we did on the way back!

 

16A_6803-1-2.jpg(Alberta Rose)

Marcy & Ray Stader

StaderArt