Short Stories
Entry No. 9   July 6, 2004

Spooky Night

Well, I was off the ferry and back on the bike. I actually had really missed it and couldn't wait to get going. I was glad that I had decided to put on the fenders Emily from Juneau had given to me as it was raining when the boat arrived to where I later learned was nicknamed "Rainy Rupert". I pulled off the ferry and headed to the visitor's center, a now normal routine. I had a few errands to run and then I planned to bike a short, 15 miles east to Prudhomme Lake, Provincial Park. During the off and on rain, I got some pictures developed, sent out some mail, and bought some groceries which included pesto flavor tortillas that looked savory, but had quite a different taste with PBJ. I made a friend, Joe, at the Laundromat and he gave me some free detergent while we chatted about logging and some other environmental issues.

It was a productive day and I felt good about the ride ahead of me even though it was raining. I had decided that if Prudhomme Lake didn't have any kind of Pavilion for shelter, then I would back track to Diana Lake, a day use facility just a few kms before that would surely have some kind of cover. As it turned out, this is exactly what I did. To pay $14 to set up a tent in the rain with no shelter at Prudhomme did not appeal to me.

As I backtracked and turned into the dirt road to get to Diana Lake, I realized it was 1.5 kms (just < 1 mile) off of the main road. I would just like to mention here how happy I am with my Panaracer, kevlar-belted, made-from-petroleum-product tires. They've gotten me through the smooth and the construction, and the dirt and glass-littered roads, even when it's wet and sticky.

All of the sudden, over a km in, I felt this sense of aloneness and vulnerability. I started to sing loudly to let any bears know I was there. With the lack of the sun, it seemed much darker than I was used to especially under the patches of tree canopies. Once I arrived at the actual lake, it didn't look inviting. I couldn't even see the lake as I was at the bottom of a steep rocky hill. It looked so industrial with a yellow fence and gate along one side and dirty wet gravel and rocks blocking my view ahead of me. I assumed the lake was just on the other side of the rock slope because of the sign "no jumping or diving" I could see above.

I moved over to the litter barrels to park my bike. I planned to walk back and scramble up the rocky slope and have a look. Then, I stopped in my tracks. My ears focused on an eerie sound off to my right. I listened intently, and came to my first conclusion: A heavy breath of a bear then a thump of its paws. It did it again. And again. I didn't see anything, I just heard it behind some trees and bushes. While walking swiftly back to my bike for my camera and bear spray, I realized that it is just too regular and consistent. I listened some more and moved closer to the source of the sound. Following the sound brought me up by the yellow gate to a walkway separating the lake, that I can now see, from the creek that flows from it. It turns out it was just a pump that controlled the flow of water into the creek. I felt a bit better after investigating that. As well, I felt relief when I looked across the lake and saw a huge pavilion. It would have looked quite beautiful on a sunny day and if I hadn't just had the shit scared out of me, but now it just looked spooky and Twin Peak-ish. All I could think about was bears and so began my first night alone in a long time.

I had been with Stephan and Tamara for over a week, camping with them and others in Haines and staying in Juneau, rarely without a companion. Now, I found myself alone in a valley surrounded by vast mountains, on the edge of a huge lake, and possibly with families of grizzlies lurking in the area. I am in this pavilion with open doorways, lying on the cement floor with my sleeping bag up to my chin, waiting for a bear to attack. For once, nature didn't seem so beautiful and tranquil, it was downright ominous.

As I lay there, I thought about my capability of jumping up onto the rafters quickly with bearspray and camera in case one should pay a visit. I thought about the weather and if it was working for or against me; would the winds bring the the savory smells from my Lipton "Sidekick" food spill that boiled over onto the picnic bench to the far distant reaches of a bear's nose, or would the wind just dissipate it and the bears would never know where the source was? Would the bears, being accustomed to the food left from the day users, check out this area to see if there were any remains? Are they hunkered down somewhere waiting out this storm or will they come here looking for shelter? This goes on from 11 pm to 5 am.

I read once a great quote about being alone. The writer made a great point, that, if you can't be by yourself, it is most likely because there is something about yourself that you don't like and being alone makes you face that, so you'll try to avoid that. I think I have quite a few faults that I want to work on and hopefully realize some others and work to make myself a better person. Nevertheless, I would have loved to have at least 10 people with me this night!

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