Mt Seymour Bear Dodging
Most Vancouverites only visit Mt Seymour in North Vancouver between the months of December and April to take advantage of the abundant white stuff (snow, to be clear for any employers / children / parents / bored customs officers reading this). However, after 2 years of simply admiring the beauty of the North Shore Mountains in summer we decided to head up to Mt Seymour to check out the hiking trails in Mount Seymour Provincial Park.
The drive up to Mt Seymour which is situated at 1449m above sea level takes about 20-25 minutes, sharing the road with insane cyclists riding up the mountain who at any point look likely to drown in their own perspiration.
The Provincial Park has 14 well marked hiking trails which vary in grading from easy to difficult. Now we just want to take this moment to raise an internationally significant issue (possible with the UN Security Council) regarding Canadians’ ability to accurately grade the difficulty of their hiking terrain. Take note that what your average “I skied my first black run when I was 3” Canadian would grade as “easy” would require a week of intensive Everest style base camp training for a normally fit and active Brit to conquer! Based on this level of grading we decided somewhat foolishly take on a “moderate” hike named Mystery Lake trail because of the promise of a refreshing swim in the lake at the summit of the mountain.
Only a 1.5km hike in length from the starting point in the car park to the finish at Mystery Lake, the walk gains nearly 200m in elevation. While that does not sound too steep a gradient on paper, the reality is that you are basically clambering up rocks. However, this hike offers more dangers than those of a twisted ankle…..hungry black bears!
So everything was going well on the climb until we met “Can Man”. This jolly fellow has nobly spent the last 6 years picking up the beer cans of visitors to the mountain (note that in Canada you receive a monetary refund from the supermarket when you return containers, making beer can collection in prime drinking areas a better career option than a job in PR). He advised us that he had just seen a 700lb bear in the bushes and its young cub on the path. Now we are not natives and we have only picked up a bit of bear knowledge from Les Stroud’s survival programs and once reading a bear smart leaflet in a coffee shop but even we know that getting between a big black bear and its cub is about as good an idea as telling a US border guard that they should smile more. Despite carrying the latest in anti-bear armoury of bear bells (a steel ball with a smaller ball inside which creates Ibiza club levels of noise and is very irritating for fellow hikers) and bear spray (a hand grenade meets a deodorant can that is a useful tool in hand to paw close combat) we were unsure whether to turn back and give up on our dream of swimming in the clear fresh cooling waters of the Mystery Lake oasis…..
Fortunately, we were saved by a couple on the trail behind us. No, they were not locals who had Masters degrees from Dr Doolittle University in Black Bear hostage negotiations, but were just bear ignorant tourists hiking in their flip flops and only carrying a swimming towel for protection, who really wanted to go swimming. So adopting the statistical survival philosophy that you only need to run faster than one other person in the group (and the male tourist clearly did not say no very often when asked if he would like to “supersize”) we proceeded on into the danger zone (cue top gun music). As we came over the ridge we were confronted by a violently shaking bush but fortunately no angry mummy bear. Clearly big bears prefer berries in the bush to naive tourists.
We reached Mystery Lake to be greeted not only by crystal clear fresh water but also by 30 blokes having some kind of weird Chinese hat wearing drinking session!
With the thermometer in the high 20s, Paul eagerly jumped into the Lake……..approximately 1.2 seconds later hypothermia and frostbite kicked in simultaneously, much to the amusement of a smug Helena who had already worked out that a lake made from melted snow in the middle of a ski resort is likely to be cold. Perhaps the Chinese hat wearing guys had the right idea, having primed themselves with copious amounts of beer, and their numerous empty cans could have paid the rent on a Yaletown flat for the previously mentioned Can Man. Overall, not quite the peaceful swimming oasis that we had in mind, but totally worth it for the amazing views of the Lower Mainland, Boundary Bay, Mt Baker and the Georgia Straight.
Thanks for reading.
Paul & Helena