Canada Story So Far – Chapter Six
Note to self: when camping in Canada one additional pair of boxer shorts is nowhere near enough…
Well, this next addition follows a lot more closely than previous but it seems that the warmer weather has ramped up my stupidity and our first camping trip was anything but boring. When I was reading our last update to our friends Barry and Sue they did point out that I had neglected to mention my egg-boiling story and that I hadn’t named Barry and Sue as our friends who own the acreage – actually, a lot of what Barry said was unprintable, but that was the gist. So I shall begin with the Potton Egg Boil Extravaganza…
One Sunday evening I realized that I had forgotten to boil my usual two eggs per day for my work lunches. Therefore, I popped eight eggs in a pan of water and brought them to the boil. Then I took the dogs out for their last walk of the day before going to bed. During the night both dogs began to bark and being the kind dog owner that I am I shouted “shut up” from my sleepy haze. The next morning I awoke, threw on my jeans and then opened our bedroom door to be assaulted by the smell of burning and to see Digger sat on the landing with egg shell on his head. Instantly I realized that I had left the eggs on overnight and the pan had boiled dry, my next realization was that I couldn’t blame this one on the dogs… As I made my way downstairs I discovered fairly rapidly that eight eggs when placed under extreme heat will very definitely explode up to a full fourteen feet and leave traces on the ceiling, far wall and windows. I glanced at the fire alarm and muttered “well, you’re no bloody good” and awaited the imminent arrival of Lauren who had also smelled the burning and was now stomping downstairs glaring and repeating “what’s he done now!’ over and over again. Incidentally, I can highly recommend the Jamie Oliver non-stick pans not just for their non-stick ability but also for their mortar like aid for overheated eggs J
I have also been commanded by Lauren to include the next story involving a work night out on the 10th June… Something which I am quite embarrassed about and for which I am still creeping to Lauren.
Our last work night out was meant to be a casual affair and a celebration of one of our colleagues birthday and that our bosses Mum was making a slow but steady recovery after several months of bone cancer treatment. My work friend Nicole and I set out early to secure a table on one of the few patios (posh beer garden) in the city and I discovered that the bar sold Innis & Gunn – a beer brewed in whisky casks… This particular beer goes down very well and there were a fair few of us out so the shots soon began to flow as well. Just before midnight (I’d been drinking since three) I stood up and walked out of the bar, leaving the few die-hards left with my unpaid bill. I then stumbled to the c-train several blocks away and text Lauren to say that I was on my way. Now, I do have ‘previous’ for falling asleep on the c-train after a night out…
When I woke up, I realized that the train had stopped two stops away from where Lauren was meeting me and I jumped off the train to find out what was happening. The train then pulled off in the opposite direction taking with it my iPhone snug on the seat where I’d dropped it. I was unsure of the time and didn’t know if that was the last train of the night and so I decided to walk up the highway (kind of like a dual carriage way) for several kilometers to the station where Lauren should be waiting. After about 100 yards I decided that this was a crap idea and began to hitch-hike. Thankfully a car did stop and I was soon on my way to the final station trying not to sound drunk to the young lad who had stopped – this failed. Once at the last station I thanked the fellow for the ride, closed his door carefully as drunken people are want to do, turned and then tripped up the curb onto my face.
Once I had righted myself I walked across the bridge and completely failed to see our massive truck parked under a street light. I decided that Lauren had abandoned me and that the only option I had was to walk the remaining 25 klicks back to Cochrane… After eight clicks I reached the city limits and was soundly cursing my work shoes and all of the tossers who’d driven past me and not stopped to offer me a lift. I was gearing myself up for a long walk in the dark when a taxi happened to drive past – I promptly chased it and grabbed hold of his wing-mirror until he accepted my fair.
Upon returning home I realized that Lauren was not at home and so I sheepishly called her mobile from our house phone to find her in a bit of a state to say the least. Long story short… Lauren had had to declare me as a missing person and the Transit Police, Calgary Police Service and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were all out looking for me. When Lauren returned home I was very much in the dog house which is entirely fair…
To add the icing on that particularly bitter tasting cake, I had a glass of blueberry juice and went to bed. Two hours later I awoke nauseous and ended up vomiting on my pillow and all over our cream carpet. FYI: blueberry is very hard to get out of a cream carpet.
Lauren has only just begun speaking to me once more.
Since the 10th I have managed to keep my ‘head down’ and stay out of trouble and all has been ticking along nicely with very few incidents of note – until this weekend that is…
Lauren and I were invited camping by our friends Emily & Eli. The camping location is classed as being in the ‘back country’ and is in a small valley cut through by a shallow creek in the foothills of the Rockies. The nearest town is a good 40 klicks away - as are the toilets.
We arrived late and got set up on the Friday night. While we were doing this Eli went and chopped down a large tree, dragged it back to where we were camping and only then wondered how he was going to saw through it. Once we were set up, we built a fire out of more manageable wood and went to bed at a reasonable hour. We’d misjudged the temperature and spent the night shivering as it dropped below zero while we were sleeping. During the night Boomer began to bark (him and Digger were in the truck) as a large pack of Coyotes began to yip and howl to each other all around us. I was quite proud of Boomer right up until the point when his barks turned to lovely singing howls as he joined in singing with the Coyote pack – traitor!!!
The next day passed quite well. Emily and Lauren had to drive back to the nearest town to borrow some blankets from Emily’s Mum while Eli and I played with his two rifles J Digger did not like the sound of the rifles and took himself off into the truck whereas Boomer thought we were seriously hunting and so pointed at every living thing and kept looking back at us when we ignored it and concentrated on the targets.
Lauren and Emily soon returned and I cooked us a lovely dinner over the open fire. Emily kept on bugging Eli to pack away his rifles and after an hour of said bugging I lost my rag and ‘helped’ Eli to pack his stuff away. Emily then took me down to the creek and taught me how to fly fish - I especially enjoyed the way she flicked the rod and hit me in the side of my face with a fly and hook…
We soon became bored due to the lack of bites (other than my recently pierced right ear) and headed back up the camp to drink more beer. And then the fun began…
I was just finishing off the last dregs of my tenth beer (they are small cans and the others were drinking too…) I heard what sounded like a dirt bike revving in the distance, several seconds later it came again and sounded suspiciously animal-like. I told the others to be quiet and we waited until we heard it once more and when it did it was followed by the crashing of trees as a large dark shape burst from the forest two hundred yards away and just over the other side of the creek where we had been fishing twenty minutes ago.
The black shape was then followed by an even larger sandy coloured creature which was the one roaring. Emily won the understatement-of-the-year-award when she said “that’s a bear!” I would like to point out at this time that Emily has a qualification in Wildlife Management and works for a private Wildlife Contractors. Panic ensued.
Our first thought was that the Grizzly was chasing a smaller black bear but it turned out that the ‘black bear’ was in fact a bull (man cow) and the Grizzly was a mother who had stumbled across said bull with her cubs and had become somewhat enraged – thus chasing it out of the bushes where it then saw us become even more ticked off. The Grizzly, although not as long as the bull, was about 1.5 feet higher than the bull in the shoulders when on all fours! I now understand why adrenaline junkies say that time seems to slow down as everything seemed to happen at once.
Emily quickly became Corporal Jones from Dad’s Army (“Don’t panic! Don’t panic!”) and she turned to Eli and shouted “fire off a round from your gun.” Eli pointed out that we had just packed these away because Emily had not stopped going on at him about it (again, what was actually said was fairly unprintable). My little hero Digger dashed to the brow of the hill between us and the bear, pausing only to tie on his Rambo-like headscarf, and stood his ground all heckles and growling like a champion. Meanwhile, Boomer took one look at the bear and ran like buggery to the back of our truck and jumped in…
Emily had had the foresight to pack a cherry-bomb and ran to her car to get it, she came back to me for a lighter and I noticed that the cherry-bomb had a spike in the bottom and just as Emily was about to light it and throw it I said “Emily, stick it in the ground, stick it in the ground, stick it in the ground, oh fu-“ She didn’t stick it in the ground and threw it over arm where it landed facing us, firing a beautiful little cherry red ball of fire so close to my face I could feel the wind of it passing. This only served to enrage the bear further and increase the rapidly expanding wet patch in my pants…
In bear country, if a bear does not retreat at the sound of gun fire or bombs then the best option is for the humans to retreat and quickly. As we ran to our trucks I called Digger who reluctantly left his post, casting one last “I could’ve had you” look at the Grizzly, and then jumped into the driving seat (it is amazing how the sight of a pissed off she bear defending her cubs will sober a person up). Lauren had already ensconced herself in the passenger seat and I held out my hands for the car keys. She looked at me blankly.
As I looked at the bonnet of the truck I saw the keys perched on the end and my eyes moved towards the fire where I saw a sight that shocked me to my very core: we had left the full beer cooler by the fire, a beer cooler that takes two people to lift when three quarters full. I opened the door to the car and legged it back to the beer cooler and once again marveled at the power of adrenaline (I can now understand how women can lift burning cars off of their children – not that this is a regular occourrence) as I grabbed the beer cooler and with a roar of my own lifted it and practically flew back to the truck with every muscle screaming at me. With the beer safely in the back and car keys in hand we drove off to warn all of the other people camping in and around the area. Not for the first time was I grateful for the power of the truck as we drove off-road as fast as possible.
Once we had dutifully warned all of the other campers we then headed back to the nearest town where Emily’s mother lived. Emily phoned on the way and her Mum said we were welcome to stay but the majority of her spare bedding was in the tents we had recently vacated and abandoned.
Now, the nearest town is called Sundre and it is Rodeo season… Rodeo season means lots of drinking and extra RCMP’s are called in to the towns to help out with pulling over traffic offenders. We safely threaded our way through Sundre and were near to Emily’s Mum’s house when we turned a corner and were confronted by a road-side check stop. It was Lauren’s turn to turn into Corporal Jones and as we were three cars away she suggested we swap seats. I had to say that our windscreen wasn’t one way glass and the Officers may take this as slightly suspicious.
As we pulled up to the check stop I lowered my window and greeted the Officer with a squeak. He poked his head in the car, shone is flash light and asked if we had any alcohol in the vehicle. I replied that there was a beer cooler in the back but I wouldn’t recommend opening the back as Digger was currently sat on it. The Officer then asked if I had been drinking and I replied that I had. This honesty seemed to confuse the Officer and he asked how many and how long ago. I continued with the honesty and said: “I’ve had several beers a few hours ago. But to be honest, we were out west camping and a female grizzly came out of the woods. We were staying in tents and our friends (I pointed to the car in front containing Emily & Eli) said that we’d best abandon the camp and we’ve driven out here to stay over at her Mum’s house.” I then decided to plunge on with my honesty and continued with: “We’re not long in this country and it’s our first incident with a bear… the whole situation has made me very aware that I am desperate for a poo!”
The RCMP Officer laughed, waved me on and said “well, have at her!”
And there ends the latest Chapter in our life out here so far. I’m off out to buy my own shotgun and some man-nappies.
 Incidentally, anyone who say’s “don’t run” when confronted by a bear is chuffing nuts!