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Blog of the Spirit Bear Journey

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Slideshow at Neptune Mountaineering in Boulder, CO

Neptune Mountaineering in Boulder, CO hosts slideshows every Thursday evening, featuring adventurers and climbers from around the world. On September 17th, Neptune's will be hosting The Journey of the Spirit Bear, our first post-journey talk. Here are the details!

What: Journey of the Spirit Bear, slideshow & live video presentation
When: Thursday, September 17th, 2009. 7:00 pm
Where: Neptune Mountaineering, Boulder, CO (address & directions on the website)
How Much: Free, of course!

Just next door to Neptune is the Southern Sun Brewery, a great brewpub where many of us will meet for dinner around 5:30 PM. If you're near Boulder, feel free to stop by!

- Mike

Photo Album and SPOT Track now available

After sorting through over a thousand photos, I've finally posted some pictures online, and after filling in some of the "blank" spots on the Tracking Map, I've put together a SPOT Adventures page that covers the basic route of our journey.

To view the photos, check out the Webshots Album online. For the Tracking Map, check out the SPOT Adventures Page!

In the meantime, here are a few teaser photos just to keep you happy (click on any photo to go directly to the album):

Rounding the Bend, Whalen Lake
Rounding The Bend

Last Light on Whalen Lake
Last Light on the Cliffs

Walking The Ridge
Oh Crap

Plane Wreck in the Rainforest
Wreckage in the Rainforest

Butedale Falls
Butedale Falls

Canoona Lake
Canoona Lake

Waning Light on Anchor Lake
Karl in Waning Light

Floating Vertigo Lake

Scouting the Route on Tyler Creek
Scouting Ahead

Broken Foot on Day 14
Broken Toe

Early Passage in Meyers Narrows
Early Morning in Meyers Passage

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Out, happy and (relatively) healthy!

Well, for the most part the Journey of the Spirit Bear is a wrap! We're back in Prince Rupert now, wearing dry street clothes and waiting for our flights home early next week. We'll spend our time sorting through the gigabytes of photos and video we took, posting some albums and fleshing out trip reports shortly after we're home, but in the meantime, here's a brief rundown of what went down.

  • We crossed the whole island, North to South, under our own power. In that sense alone, the trip was a resounding success. It was tough, but hell's bells, we did it. Excepting a single layover day in Butedale, we saw no other people on the whole of Princess Royal Island. Not so much as a footprint by anyone but ourselves.
  • We were passed 15' away by a pod of Orca whales, had wolves howling at us from 20 feet in the middle of the night, and otherwise had a great trek, but alas, the Kermode bears eluded us on this journey. The constant movement of the trip, combined with the unseasonably hot weather, made bear-viewing difficult. We saw plenty of bear scat and fresh signs (we knew they saw us), but none showed themselves to us. No worries, I'm already sprouting plans to come back again.
  • Those of you watching the SPOT Track know that we cut the trip just a bit early. On Day 14 we were bushwhacking down Tyler Creek (just walking straight down the creek) and I slipped, jammed my left foot in a rock, and broke the big toe. Swollen, black & blue, the works. I limped the last 5 km out to the Bay of Plenty on Laredo Inlet, and (rather than painfully bushwhacking further on a busted big toe) we made a beeline out in the packrafts, cutting off some of the lowland itinerary on the SW end of the island. Two days later we were back in Klemtu, healthy and happy. I got it seen at the reservation clinic in Klemtu, and am heading out today to the larger hospital here in Prince Rupert to get it checked out further.
  • The people here have been nothing short of amazing... the generosity of rural townships has always been impressive, but a number of folks (often quite randomly) have contributed to a safe and glorious journey for us. There are too many to enumerate here, but reports and pictures will follow.

Anyway, there's more to say than I have time for here at the hostel in Prince Rupert, but I just wanted to check in and give a brief update! More coming as we get home & settled. Until then, all the best,

- Mike

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


The other morning the FedEx guy arrives at my door with a package. Not wholly unexpected, since I've been expecting a few last gear items before we fly out for the trip next week. I sign off, and he hands me a giant heavy box, overnighted from some lady in California. Hmm?

I opened the thing and found 4 cases of SPAM, in 3 oz single-serving packets. That's 20 pounds of SPAM, overnighted to my door! Who'd have thought!

It turns out Cory had called Hormel foods sometime back about possibly providing some meat packets for our trip as a "mini-sponsorship"... hey, can't overlook protein out there. Well whaddaya know, they came through! I have no idea what I'll do with 20 pounds of this stuff (more than I'll ever carry on a hike), but we do appreciate the sentiment! We'll definitely take some of the stuff along. Anyone know how SPAM handles in a dehydrator?

I just thought I'd share. I found it a very random and amusing experience... I mean, how often does this really happen?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Tracking the Spirit Bear Journey

Sometimes I'm amazed at the amazing generosity that people show, even to near-strangers.

The Journey of the Spirit Bear recently benefited from such generosity. We were recently given a SPOT Messenger by an online friend, and will use it periodically so that folks at home can track our progress through the undergrowth of Princess Royal Island. We hope that--by tracking our progress in "near real-time" that our families and friends at home will have some peace-of-mind, and that the rest of the interwebs will enjoy tracking the progress of a few wayward travelers as the journey progresses.

Messages won't show up until we reach the island (approximately July 13th), but until then, feel free to bookmark the Tracking Page and check back later!

Until then, all the best,

- Mike

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Dates are set, plans are made.

At long last, things are coming together! :) Dates are set, flights are booked, and with some final loose ends tied down, everything for the Journey of the Spirit Bear is a go.

Our team arrives in Prince Rupert, BC on July 9th and 10th (only 6 weeks away!), taking a charter to the North end of Princess Royal Island on the 11th or 12th. After spending 21 days bushwhacking across the island (there's a lot to fill in there!), an inevitably ragged team will arrive in Klemtu (on Swindle Island) on the 2nd or 3rd of August.

More details to come... there's a lot to say about gear, strategy and general logistics for such a trip. I don't have a lot of time right now, but I hope to come back soon again with of the recent news. Until then, keep on dreaming, and hopefully we'll meet someday under a damp green understory. :) Until then, all the best,

- Mike, from RainForestTreks

Friday, April 3, 2009

News from the Great Bear Rainforest

Our little blog has been quiet lately, but rest assured, plans for the Spirit Bear Journey have been coming along.

In the meantime, we've been keeping up with a number of political and environmental developments in the Great Bear Rainforest, and would like to share some headlines and struggles from the past few months. If you care about the future of the world's largest intact temperate rainforest, these past few months have seen a significant turn of events:

GBR Management Plan Reached with BC Government (article from the Vancouver Sun):
"The B.C. government has met a deadline to bring a new approach in resource development to B.C.'s central and north coast - known as the Great Bear Rainforest - where people, the environment and the economy are given equal billing.

After over a decade of eco-protests that tarnished the province's forest products image, first nations, forest companies and environmentalists joined Tuesday in supporting the new approach, called ecosystem-based management.

Agriculture and Lands Minister Ron Cantelon said the Great Bear plan is an example to the world on managing human activity while protecting biodiversity."

(Article continued here.)

B.C. to End Hunting of White-phase Black Bears (article from the Vancouver Sun):
If it walks, poops and looks like a kermode bear, shouldn't it receive the same protection? B.C. Environment Minister Barry Penner agrees it does.

Penner said in an interview last week he will sign an order soon "to make it abundantly clear" it is illegal to hunt any black bear exhibiting a white colour phase anywhere in the province.

Penner said the hunting synopsis provided to hunters each year states there is no open season on black bears exhibiting a white or blue colour phase. But the Wildlife Act hunting regulation - the official word - specifically mentions the kermode, found on B.C.'s northwest coast but is silent on white-phase black bears that might occur elsewhere in the province.

(Article continued here.)

First Nations and Conservation Groups Unite to Save Bears in BC's Great Bear Rainforest (from
First Nations, animal protection and conservation groups have united to protect bears from cruel and unsustainable trophy hunts. At a press conference today, the groups urge the British Columbian government to end trophy hunting of bears in the Great Bear Rainforest prior to the opening of the spring bear hunt on April 1st.

"One might expect that in the Great Bear Rainforest, bears could live and thrive in peace," said Bruce Passmore, director of outreach for Humane Society International/Canada. "But trophy hunting of bears is still permitted in the Great Bear Rainforest, even in protected areas. It is time for the provincial government to heed public opinion, the best available science and economics by giving these magnificent animals the protection they need to survive."

According to a 2009 Ipsos Reid poll, 78 percent of British Columbia residents oppose trophy hunting of bears in the Great Bear Rainforest. First Nations groups are in agreement and also want an end to the trophy hunting of bears.

Kitasoo/Xaixais Chief Percy Starr is disappointed that all species of bears in their traditional territory are not protected. "We've spent years to ensure our lands are protected, only to learn that trophy hunters can continue to come on our lands and kill bears for sport."

"It's not right that anyone should make a sport of killing," said Guujaaw, a spokesperson for Coastal First Nations. "Bears are as much a part of the environment as we are."

Conservationists argue that hunting poses a threat to bear populations, noting that of the 430 grizzly bears killed in BC in 2007, 87 percent were killed by trophy hunters. Bears are often gunned down by trophy hunters near shorelines as they forage for food in the spring and fall, in some cases only hours after bear viewing operations have left the area. Black bears are also at risk. The BC coast has one of the greatest diversity of black bears subspecies in North America, ranging from the spirit bear (Kermode subspecies) to the Haida black bear.

"The white spirit bear may be protected from trophy hunting in the Great Bear Rainforest, however, the black bear which carries the recessive gene necessary for the genetic diversity of white bears can still be killed," said Ian McAllister, Director of Pacific Wild. "The sport hunting of bears does not make scientific sense. How can the government declare the Great Bear Rainforest is protected while it allows the trophy hunt to threaten bear populations?"

Trophy hunting is also negatively impacting BC's lucrative ecotourism industry, as bears generate more income for coastal communities alive than dead. One bear watching operation alone in Knight Inlet grossed over $3 million in direct revenue in 2007 - more than all trophy hunting revenue of grizzly bears combined.

"Each bear killed is one less bear that tourists will pay top dollar to photograph," said Dean Wyatt of the Commercial Bear Viewing Association. "Viewers come back year after year to watch the same bears and their young develop and grow. Only a total ban on trophy hunting will ensure that bear populations can support the high-end viewing operations that add valuable income to coastal communities."

Trailer from (note: some graphic images included):

(Read more about the fight over Grizzly Bear trophy hunting at

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Spirit Bear Video

Over the past few months debating and planning routes, the magnitude of this trip has been a constant reminder. Princess Royal Island is the size of Maui, and with a complex geography and no roads or trails to rely upon, simply getting from point A to B in three weeks will be a difficult challenge.

The help convey this, we've spliced together a short animated clip, rendered in Google Earth, that illustrates some of the scenery we'll see, and the sheer length of what we'll do. We hope it helps.

- Mike

Friday, December 19, 2008

Gearing Up

It turns out, gearing up for 3 strenuous weeks through the rainforest takes more work than one might imagine. Luckily, we've had some help along the way. The Spirit Bear Team is proud to take note of a few major sponsors of our trip (so far) who are willing to help in our efforts to explore and document the interior of Princess Royal Island. I cannot possibly list them all, but a few are definitely worth mention:

  • Alpacka Raft, LLC - Quite simply, the best damned packrafts on the planet. Without their lightweight & durable designs, such a trip as ours would be wholly impossible. Alpacka is supplying the team with some of the packrafts and accessories to complete our journey into the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest. Their help is more than appreciated, and the folks at Alpacka (Sheri especially) deserve our heartfelt thanks.
If you're curious about the possibilities of amphibious travel ('tis a whole new way to plan a journey, I assure you), feel free to check out their discussion forums online at Some of the premier "packrafters" in the world frequent the site, so you can get advice from the godfathers of this budding sport.

  • Ursack Bear Bags - Princess Royal is an island known for bears... white, black, and brown. Three weeks food is a lot to carry at once, and even if we do manage a resupply cache in Butedale, it would be devastating to our journey if our food supplies were ransacked early in the game. Bear Canisters are huge, and ungainly to pack & carry that much food (one week? great! Three? not so much). The generous folks at Ursack have agreed to provide the Spirit Bear Team with a line of Ursack Bear Bags. We're proud to have their support in our journey. On the upside, most bears on the island have little acclimatization to humans, and more than likely none will give us problems (unlike the front-country campground raiders found in more crowded places like Yosemite). But still, we'll sleep a little easier knowing our food is secured in the off-chance a curious ursine comes by in the night. We are proud to work with the folks at Ursack for a safer backcountry, allowing us to visit the land of the Spirit Bear with a minimum chance of disturbing the natural ecosystem by allowing a foraging bear to grow accustomed to raiding human food.
  • Freezer Bag Cooking and One Pan Wonders
    Did we already mention that three trekkers spending three weeks in a trailless rainforest will eat a lot of food? The Spirit Bear Team is making sure that every calorie counts on our journey. We're each collecting our own assortment of foods (we've acquired varied tastes through our respective decades of wilderness exploration), but some of the biggest support is coming from FBC and OPW, helping provide a healthy and tasteful variety of meals to whet our appetites. Both organizations have been perennial supporters of Rainforest Treks, and we're happy to have them on board for our current venture into the Great Bear.

I can't take the time to list all our sponsors now, but I wanted to list a few for now. With the help of all our sponsors (found at the bottom of the "Gear" page), we look forward to a spectacular journey into the heart of the rare backcountry of Princess Royal Island. Until next time, I bid you all adieu, and we'll keep you posted as plans progress!


- Mike

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

And It Begins...

The website is up, the basics are posted, and the Journey of the Spirit Bear is officially underway! Anyone who's ever planned a large trip knows the journey starts long before you walk out the door, and it's going to take a lot of planning and coordination over the next 8 months to make this little adventure a success. After years of dreaming, scouring maps, satellite images, and every bit of reading we can get ahold of, it's exciting to finally see things coming together.

We've assembled a small team of devoted individuals to undertake this journey. They've been carefully chosen with the right combination of off-trail experience, steady nerves, and physical conditioning vital to making this journey a success. We have slightly differing trekking styles (a somewhat eclectic mix of journeyers), but we're all devoted wholeheartedly to the goals of the Journey. Now, the real work begins...

As plans progress and July draws nearer, the Spirit Bear Team will post here periodically to keep y'all informed of what we're up to. Items such as individual gear selections, gear lists, speaking arrangements & events, work with conservation groups, sponsors, and anything else pertinent to the task at hand is fair game to post, so check back periodically to see what's going on with the Journey of the Spirit Bear. Until next time, happy exploring, and maybe one day we'll meet under a damp green understory. :-)

The Journey of the Spirit Bear is proud to have the support of its sponsors. All the journey's sponsors can be found in the Gear Section:

Spirit Bear photos provided with permission by