My experience of photographing the Ice Grizzlies of the Yukon could very easily read like one of those early childhood ‘what I did in my holidays’ essays. “I got up & then I got on a coach. I went to the airport & flew in a big plane to a place called Vancouver. I got into another, smaller plane & went to Whitehorse. It was snowy & cold. The next day I got in an even smaller plane & went to a place called Dawson City. It was a Sunday; everything was closed. I stayed in a hotel & then we got in a helicopter. Then we saw bears & a wolf. Then we came home”.
That’s pretty accurate, albeit over-simplistic. It’s quite an adventure getting to Bear Cave Mountain
, but boy is it worth it. Dawson City
is a fascinating mix of history & modern. Many old buildings date from the Gold Rush era
, in varying states of upkeep, & the trappings of modern life, but with a very Northern twist. A seasonal city that serves the tourist industry as well as still supporting commercial gold extraction. It was post-season when we were there but it was still fascinating & the people are welcoming.
The next stage of the adventure is the helicopter ride
— two hours over the starkly majestic tundra & mountains of the Northern Yukon
. Challenging & inhospitable doesn’t even start to describe it. The approach to the camp is ‘interesting’. There’s no sign of where the camp is & the pilot just took us down to river level & landed on a shingle ‘beach’. Only then could we see the camp through the trees. Settling in didn’t take long. There are only four buildings & a ‘room with a view’ – more on this later – the main cabin, three two-person sleeping cabins & a loo.
The message from the very point of arrival was that this is grizzly bear country & everywhere was a potential viewing site
– yes, even the camp. And that, I suppose, is the key to the success of this place. Respect the grizzly bears & their environment
& they will reward you. The local guides, Phil & Ross, were quick to induct us into the required behaviour – slow, deliberate movement, no talking unless necessary, & then very quietly. The philosophy is to give the bears nothing – no encouragement, no reward, & no bad experiences
of humans. It works.