It was late summer, and the time had finally come for the camping trip my cousin from Germany and I had been planning for well over a year. The highlight of our trip was going to be a five-day canoeing adventure on Murtle Lake, which lies within the boundaries of Wells Gray Provincial Park, and prides itself as being the largest canoe-only lake in North America.
Simply getting there on the long gravel road and portaging all of our gear to the lake set the stage for what was to come.
Shortly after taking off in our red Hellman canoe we left the lagoon and entered Murtle Lake, catching our first glimpse of the vast wilderness. All we could see was water, forest, mountains and some seriously big looking rain clouds. We decided to change our planned route and stuck close to shore for the next few hours, which proved wise as we had to make use of our tarp multiple times. The clouds eventually lifted, the rain stopped and before long we found ourselves sitting by the fire on a secluded beach we were going to call home for the next few nights.
The warm rays of the sun hitting our tent and the distant loon calls woke us up early the next morning. After a quick breakfast we got our fishing gear ready and took off. We had planned for a full day of paddling, fishing and exploring. We were gone all day and when we returned in the late afternoon we had paddled 20 kilometres and caught well over 10 trout— of which we kept a few for dinner.
Our second evening on the lake started much like the first one, we got our fire going, cleaned our freshly caught trout and started cooking. Our tent site was on a peninsula with the lake in front of us and some marshland with a little creek facing our back. We reminisced about the day and watched the sunset. Not long after the sun had almost fully disappeared we noticed a noise neither of us had heard before. It kind of sounded like the heavy exhaling of a larger animal. Immediately we thought about bears!
We had been fishing all day, were cooking up a storm of fresh filets and we knew we were definitely in bear country. Even though our cooking site was away from our tent we started to feel anxious after hearing the same heavy exhale again and again. Did we discard of the fish remains properly? Did the bear smell the fish and our other food? Would we be safe in the tent? What if we would need help?
After taking a few minutes to think and catch a glimpse of what was making the noise, we decided to see if we could get a better look from a different angle. The noise had gotten less frequent and seemed to have moved further away. We had now walked about 50 metres away from our site, flashlight in one hand and bear spray in the other. After finding a good vantage point we started looking for whatever was responsible for the mystery noise. We expected a bear but the bright beam of our lights all of a sudden revealed a majestic bull moose—so big it was hard to fathom at first.
We were both in awe, relieved and excited about this truly special moment neither of us would ever be able to forget. The noise turned out to be the moose clearing its nostrils after eating the vegetation in the marsh. We watched for a while and eventually crawled into our sleeping bags dreaming about the next few days we would get to spend on Murtle Lake!
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