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My 7-day camp-based grizzly viewing trip started with such a warm welcome at the ranch it was like being greeted by old friends

By Jill Quigley, Auckland, New Zealand


My 7-day camp-based grizzly viewing trip started with such a warm welcome at the ranch it was like being greeted by old friends. Immediately I knew I was in good hands and was to be looked after by people who wanted me to have a great experience, perhaps even more than I did myself.

All of the staff members - from kitchen hand to wilderness guide - reflect in their enthusiasm and professionalism the dedication of this operation to the environment, to the wildlife, and to the expectations and desires of its visitors. The guides don't like this land or this life; they love it with a passion that oozes from their pores. They really are the life, and they're
committed to sharing it at every opportunity.

High in the hills and mountains above the ranch is magic, pure and simple: almost otherworldly.

The Chilcotin Mountain scenery is dramatic and spectacular - stealing one's breath at every turn of the trail, every hilltop arrival. From deep and dappled woods, to lush meadows, to snow capped mountain tops and naked shale ridges, there was a never-ending flow of sights and sensations, though it took me some considerable time to stop pinching myself and realise that I was actually here, in the middle of it - it was mine to behold! Grizzlies, deer, marmots and mountain goats all came out to play for us, to remind us that there's another way to live on this earth, where nature creates harmony, health and simplicity. All this heralded by the spooky call of the Loon at dawn each day from the beautiful lake where we camped in wilderness style.

The Cayuse horses, though somewhat unpretty for one more used to Thoroughbreds and Arabs, are incredible creatures. Unflinching and never tiring, they could go all day (and did) to take us further into this land. I trusted my steed with my holiday and my life, and she never let me down for a moment.

Ah, yes, but the grizzlies - they were what I came for. For as long as I can remember I've wanted a real-life encounter and my dream was fulfilled on this journey. Those that we saw "up close" showed us their majesty, their rippling muscles and glossy fur, their curious expressions. I thought this was what I needed to see to really know them. Imagine my surprise to find out that it was the ones that we didn't really see at all who filled me with true awe! Tracks and scat on the trail, overturned logs in the meadows, made me realise I was wandering through their backyard and filled me with a sense of privilege. And that magnificent bear through the binoculars, high on a ridge where there is no food or shelter, he really had no business to be there, rolling, playing, running and leaping - he showed me his shyness, his pride, his playfulness, his nature. For that, and for Great Excursions, I will be forever grateful for making my dreams come true.

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