of old bridges; jagged pilings jutting up midstream, sections of collapsed deck washed ashore, bunches of fireweed springing up from between rotting planks. The land was slowly but inexorably erasing the signs of human incursion. With time, nothing would remain.
The Canol runs through prime grizzly habitat, and the trail was laden with bear sign. Every step brought another reminder that we were not alone. The colourful purple wildflower Hedysarum proliferated along the pathway, and it had been turned over in vast quantities. Its root, a rich store of protein and carbohydrates, is a favorite of bears. Tufts of fine, downy hair could be seen snagged on low branches, and fresh claw marks raked the grey bark of trailside poplars. But it was the enormous soapberry scats that were impossible to ignore. They were everywhere! The summer had been a good one for berries, and all along the Canol, bushes were laden with the sour red fruit. Researchers have estimated that an adult bear will eat upwards of two hundred thousand soapberries in a day, and it appeared to us as if the berries came out one end as fast as they went in the other. Long trails of bright red scat stretched beneath nearly every berry bush.
When traveling in such country, there is a constant awareness that around every corner one might come face to face with a bear. In the lower valleys, where the trail cut through thick brush, visibility was limited, and every few minutes one of us would yell ‘HI BEAR! HERE BEAR! HUP, HUP!’ at the top of our lungs. This outburst might disrupt a discussion mid sentence, but both of us would return to the conversation without blinking or missing a beat. The intensity and frequency with which we yelled seemed to correspond directly to our surroundings; the darker and more ominous the thickets, the more hearty the yells. Although we carried a canister of bear spray (pressurized pepper spray ) and ‘bear-bangers’ (hand launched explosive charges), these were only a last resort. We hoped to avoid the need to use these by alerting any bears in the surrounding area that we were on our way, and thus avoiding scaring them. Our efforts appeared to be working. Despite continual signs of their presence, we traveled almost one hundred kilometers (60 miles) without meeting a bear along the trail.