Friday, September 01, 2017

I smell a bear

Most of Vancouver Island is made up of rugged mountains; steep, rain-forested slopes crammed together, with narrow valleys between. Highways crawl along the bottom of these valleys, winding from one lake to the next. And between lakes, there are lagoons, bogs, ponds, creeks and puddles, even in this dry summer. I slow down, passing them; you never know what you'll see today.

One lagoon, too small to have a name, is always full of water lilies. I've stopped briefly sometimes, but took no photos; it's been green on green, with weeds. Last week, as I drove by, just before sunset, I saw a large yellow patch. Were the waterlilies blooming? I found a place to park and walked back.

Water Lily Pond

I had stopped by the second arm of the lagoon; a short walk. I was no sooner out of the car when I smelled a bear. Definitely bear, although I couldn't see any sign of him. But I recognized his bouquet; a mixture of wet dog, old fish, neglected outhouse, compost.

Not to worry; it's not cub season, and I was on a busy highway. I went on to look at the water lilies.

And there were no water lily flowers. The yellow was the evening sun slanting down onto dying leaves, grasses gone to seed, and maybe a few distant goldenrods.

Second arm of the lagoon

As I returned to the car, passing a grove of trees that hid the centre of the lagoon, and coming out into the open again, there was a loud "plop!" Not a fish jumping; they splash or slap the water; this was like the sound a rock makes when you throw it two-handed into the water.

I looked, but all there was to see was a long ripple just under the surface. Something large swimming underwater. Not a bear. I couldn't smell the bear any more, anyhow.

I stood there a long while, puzzling over the sound, waiting for something to show its face. No luck.

At home, I looked at the photos I'd taken. They were dark and noisy; it was the end of the day, in the shade. But there was something there. I lightened the photo to see.

Beaver lodge

A beaver lodge, hidden at the mouth of a creek. So that was what plopped!

Question: does a beaver smell like a bear? Or did I miss seeing both beaver and bear?

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