A couple of years ago, I was hiking in a park near Calgary with a friend.
We passed a sign that read “The best places for a picnic are in the woods.”
We looked over at the signs and saw a little hole on the side of a tree.
A woman was sitting on the ground, wearing a leather jacket and a pair of leggings.
I told her I thought she looked like a biker.
She looked at me like I had just said the word “biker.”
That’s when I realized that this is the exact same type of woman I had been chasing for years.
I wondered if I was alone.
I was lucky.
I have a friend who has a similar experience.
She told me she got her leather jacket when she was 20, got a job at a restaurant and began riding bikes every day for six months.
The next thing she knew, she was back on her bike, riding from Calgary to Vancouver to Toronto.
Now she is an adult and a certified instructor in the B.C. wilderness program.
“I used to think I had to wear a helmet every day,” she says.
“It was the same thing that happens to me.”
A few years ago I was in the same spot, walking through the woods, with a group of friends.
They were in the middle of their winter trek through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a destination of the National Park Service.
A large black bear was eating some of the trees in the vicinity, and I thought maybe it was just a little scared.
I started walking up and down the trail with the group.
It was the perfect place to stop to rest, drink a beer and watch the bears.
But there was something that I wasn’t expecting.
I saw a bear walking on the other side of the trail.
When I turned, it was an adult female bear, but it was not a bear at all.
It had a jacket on its back and was standing in a tree next to the group of people.
She was a few feet away.
She didn’t look like the type of bear that we would want to scare off.
But I could tell something was different about her.
She seemed calm.
The bear, however, was not.
I looked at the two of them.
They looked like they were trying to hide something.
I turned around and walked back to my friends.
She did not look like I would have expected her to look, even though she was about 20 feet away from me.
I decided I needed to get to know this bear and get a better sense of her personality.
The only thing I had left to do was to learn what she was like.
“That’s the first thing you notice,” says Rob Krieger, a retired professional hunter from Vancouver.
“You get to a point where you know what to expect from her, because you’re not going to be able to see her for months at a time.”
Kriege and his friend, Doug Dickson, are both certified guides in the program.
They spent six months hunting in the Great Lakes region in 2014 and 2015.
They learned that bears are solitary creatures, but the same is true of other animals, including wolves, grizzlies and even some cats.
“We did a lot of work to figure out what kind of bear I was dealing with,” says Krieg, who also serves as the director of the Wilderness Safety Training Center at the University of Victoria.
“The first thing we were doing was trying to identify what animals would like to do in the environment with humans, what would they like to see and what would be the type that they like.”
They were also studying the behavior of bears in the wild.
“What we saw was, most of the time, bears are social, which means they spend a lot time together,” Kriegan says.
Bears are often seen feeding, mating and interacting with each other.
“And the behavior we saw that we wanted to document was that of a bear that was hiding, looking around, but not actually being seen,” he says.
I thought that’s a good thing.
But when we did see her, we didn’t see any evidence of a social relationship.
I’m going to go back to the beginning, and see if I can get a little more.
“When you see an adult bear, there is always this instinctive reaction that they might be a predator,” Kiegers says.
But we also saw her being friendly.
I asked him, “Are you seeing this as a predator?”
“No, I’m not seeing that,” he said.
“She was just sitting there, watching us.”
It was like a movie out there, but with the real-life action.
It’s easy to forget, because most of us don’t see much of the outdoors at the moment.
But Kriegers and Dickson say they’ve seen a lot