All Up in the Hills

With apologies to my oldest followers, I’m reblogging this post from four years ago.

Pictures were taken with my tiny Olympus camera before the days of my Nikon. Only this first photo is different, taken by my friend, Ken Johnston.


A few years ago, the Captain and I went on a camping trip west of Williams Lake in BC with another couple to fish the highly esteemed Chilko River.

Chilko River

I knew it was grizzly country but in spite of my ursaphobia I didn’t want to miss out on this adventure.

Choelquoit Lake with the Chilko River Valley at the base of the mountains.

Chilko Lake ahead with Chilko River flowing out of it.

The Chilcotin Plateau on our way to Chilko Lake and the Tatlayoko Lake area was scenic and spectacular. Real cowboy country. Near the horse corrals of Chilko Lake Lodge we parked our trailers side by side in a designated camping area.


Perfect camping spot

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I kicked aside hoof trimmings with sharp tacks still sticking out of them. Didn’t want to step on them later.

Horses live here.

We fished some of the many smaller lakes in the area, as well as the Chilko River, for which we needed a special licence (and a promise that we wouldn’t sue if we got frostbite on the river). It was June, and sunny, but the temperature was cool at this altitude.  Chilly and cold.

“Hey! Maybe that’s why it’s called Chilko Lake—‘chilly cold lake.’” I thought I was being witty, but all I got was eye rolls from my shivering companions.

I’m not petite, but with many layers of coats, sweaters, and life jacket on, I’ve doubled in size.

All those layers of clothes and still chilly and cold on the Chilko.

“We should try to find a better spot to launch the skiff,” the Captain said. “There’s a good place right around here.  Saw it last year. The main road runs parallel to the river. Somewhere, there’s a trail between the two.” Moments later he spotted it. A narrow road had been pushed through the dense woods. It might have been passable with our four-wheel-drive truck except that large boulders had been strategically placed to prevent vehicle access. We got out and walked through the woods.

Hiking time

“I don’t mind a hike, but what about grizzlies?”

“Oh, you don’t need to worry about them. They’re all up in the hills this time of year.”

Why didn’t that reassure me? “And you know this, how?”

“I just know.”

I shrugged my shoulders and strapped on my bear spray. “Okay, let’s go.”

“The river’s got to be just around the bend,” the Captain said. In the next twenty minutes he would repeat this phrase many times.

My neck felt rubbery from swiveling to check behind me. “Are you sure about the grizzlies?”

“No grizzlies this time of year. I told you, they’re all up in the hills.”

This sounded very familiar. It was the same thing he had said when we were stranded in grizzly country on the coast the day we got cut off by the tide.  “You always say that.”

“No really, they are,” he said.  “It’s too early for grizzlies.”

The launching spot we eventually found was nowhere near where we hiked that day through “non-grizzly country.” We fished the river and were amazed at the huge fish that remained, for the most part, elusive. Three things stood out for me on those days on the river:

1. The scenery was spectacular.

2. It was cold enough to freeze your goosebumps.

3. Blessedly, there were no grizzlies on the river (which is why I liked being in the boat).

Pretty cool trip

After several days at the horse ranch, the forecast of heavy rain marked the end of our stay.

We packed up and started for home. Outfitted with walkie-talkies in each truck, we led the way, chatting occasionally to our friends who followed behind in their rig.

Time to leave

The roads were turning ugly in places as the downpour dampened the clay gumbo under the gravel topping. We were getting out just in time.

For sure it was time to leave!

That’s when it happened.

“Did you see that?” I pointed to the road in front of us, then turned to see where the two grizzlies disappeared into the trees. We pulled over to the side to peer through the woods. The trees were so close together I wondered how a grizzly could fit between them, especially at a gallop.

“Two grizzlies just ran across the road in front of us,” the Captain said into the walkie-talkie.

“Oh yeah? Well, you’ve got a flat tire,” our friend said.

“Ha, ha! Very funny,” we answered into the mike.

“No, I’m serious. Your back right trailer tire is flat. I’m parked right behind you and believe me, it’s flat.”

“Is he messing with our heads?” I asked. “Right where the grizzlies went into the woods?”

Only flat on the bottom

“I’ll check it out.” The expression on his face when he came back to the cab told me it was bad news. “We must have driven over one of those hoof clippings with the tacks. You take the shotgun and stand right there while I change the tire.”

My neck felt prickly but I couldn’t wimp out and leave the Captain to be grizzly bait all alone, so I stood there with the shotgun. Our friend stood guard with his rifle — brave soul –, and his wife stayed in their truck — smart woman.

After a while, I got bored. The gravel on the roadside looked soft, and the grizzlies—a mother and a teenage cub I would guess—were really moving, so they should have left some tracks. I wandered a bit, looking up and down the ditch for the tracks.

“Here!” the Captain called. “Just stand there with that shotgun. I don’t trust those buggers.” No more pooh-poohing my ursaphobia now. I should have felt some “I-told-you-so” satisfaction but all I felt was jumpy nerves.

At last the spare tire was on and tools put away. I did a quick check for overlooked tire irons and such. And that’s when I found it—the grizzly track I’d been looking for—right behind the newly changed tire.

Either a grizzly or Bigfoot

“Oh my God! It’s exactly right here that they went into the woods!”

As we drove away, the Captain scrunched his face up. “Ahem … I didn’t want to tell you earlier,” he said, “but a rancher near Tatlayoko Lake lost some livestock to grizzlies last week.”

“All up in the hills. Hah!”

36 thoughts on “All Up in the Hills

    1. wordsfromanneli Post author

      I’ve always been afraid of bears but at that time, while Gary was changing the tire, I didn’t really appreciate the fact that those bears were probably close by. But walking through the trail in the days before that, I was definitely nervous and hadn’t seen any real sign of bears. My fears were always misguided and ill-timed.


    1. wordsfromanneli Post author

      That’s why I’m always amazed at all the hiking you do in grizzly country. I know, you carry some defense, but it takes something very big to stop a grizzly. I have no illusions about bear spray or a pistol doing the trick.


      1. montucky

        Actually, I have confidence the spray will stop one. They are very dependent on their noses for many things and disrupting that is devastating to them. My pistol will kill one but not quick enough to stop one in it’s tracks.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. wordsfromanneli Post author

          In one of Gary Shelton’s bear books he tells of a case where a grizzly climbed a tree after a tree planter. He hooked his paws over the branches to climb it. When the man used his spray it did’t seem to have any effect until he figured out he had to spray it into the bear’s mouth when it opened it. So if you’re in that situation, wait until the bear opens his mouth to eat you and then ask if he’d like pepper with his meal.

          Liked by 1 person

  1. reocochran

    The bear photo by your friend is very nicely captured. Your third photo with the mountains is gorgeous! I liked seeing the scenery plus you in all your gear! 🙂


    1. wordsfromanneli Post author

      Yes, Gladys. You can’t trust our men with their lines – “They’re all up in the hills.” Stay in the trailer for the whole trip with a cannon pointed at the door. Haha! What a picture! Might as well stay home then. But it was unnerving, knowing there are grizzlies all around and then tip-toeing through their backyard.


    1. wordsfromanneli Post author

      It’s a Coolpix P510 On the lens it says, Nikkor 42X Wide Optical Zoom ED VR 4.3 – 180mm 1:3 – 5:9 I don’t know what all that means, but it is what they call a bridging camera. It’s the last upgrade you can get before you go to separate lenses that you have to attach. This one does not have the capability of taking a telephoto lens if I were to buy one. The next step up would be a much more complicated and expensive camera that would take better pictures if you know how to use it, but for me, I really like how this camera makes up for my lack of professional knowledge and photo skills. It will serve me well for quite some time yet. I really like it. Except for the grizzly picture, the photos in this post are very poor – taken with my old Olympus point and click camera. Now that I have the Nikon, I can really see how poor those old pictures are.


      1. Pit

        Thanks, Anneli, for that extensive information. I have a Nikon Coolpix S9500, which I like to take with me when I don’t have room for the “big” one. I like that camera a lot. The only disadvantage for me is that it doesn’t have an optical viewfinder. Quite often, in gthe sunshine, the monitor is useless to determine what I’m actually taking a picture of.
        My “big” camera is, as I said, a Nikon D70s DSLR. But maybe it needs to be replaces. I seem to have found a temporary solution to the problem that it sometimes doesn’t recognize the memory card in it. But it’s not too reliable any more. So I’m still thinking of the Nikon D5500 DSLR as a replacement, especially as I have 4 exchangeable lenses for it.
        As to yours: the maximal focal length of 180mm foir that camera is quite a bit of a telezoom, I think. I’m always amazed what these little cameras can do.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. wordsfromanneli Post author

          Yes, I’m amazed at the zoom-ability of the Coolpix P510. I’d love to be able to do pictures with even more zoom but that would mean I’d have to take some courses. No time for that just yet. Meanwhile I’m quite happy with the Nikon.


  2. reocochran

    I came back to say, it sure would have been scary, Anneli, when you got the flat tire, along with the mama bear and young bear just running past you into the woods.
    Your Captain has discovered a way to assuage your fears, but you are far too clever to “fall” too often for the same story. His comment cracked me up. 😀
    Those warm, thick clothes made me smile, reminds me of how cold winters used to be along Lake Erie! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person


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