Mountain, moose and breakfast burritos
Bex Charteris on her working experience in British Columbia, Canada.
Last year, my husband and I spent the summer and autumn months working high up in the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia, Canada.
Fun fact: The Rocky Mountains stretch 4800kms from British Columbia in the north to New Mexico in the south. To put that in perspective, the distance from Cape Reinga to Bluff is a mere 2000km.
I worked as a cook and Tim was a horse wrangler at a wilderness camp. Guests from all over the world would be flown in for ten days at a time, and it was our job to make their stay in the wilderness as enjoyable as possible. And it was wilderness in every sense of the word. There was no internet or TV. No phones, except an emergency satellite phone. No electricity. No roads. The only access was by a tiny four-person plane onto a narrow grass airstrip. Or, alternatively, a six-day trek on horseback from the nearest highway. We lived in rustic wooden cabins that were heated by wood fires. Cooking was done over a gas stove and entertainment was evenings spent around a campfire. The landscape vast and constantly changing. Mountains and valleys, glaciers and forests. Summer green turned to autumn hues of red and orange and yellow. There were brilliant blue skies, evenings with blazing sunsets, clear nights with shooting stars. By late autumn, snow and ice would settle in a white blanket over the forest. WILDLIFE: The wildlife was a constant source of fascination, with inquisitive moose wandering through camp, porcupines that gnawed on cabin walls, mountain sheep with massive curved horns, energetic chipmunks, powerful bears, howling wolves. On my very first day in the wilderness, I was alone in camp. I was strolling from the outhouse back to the kitchen when a grizzly bear wandered down the path towards me! It was about a hundred meters away from me, and looked solid, brown and very large. Luckily I was out of sight, behind a tree. In hindsight, their sense of smell is so acute that I’m sure the bear knew I was there, but at the time I had the illusion of being hidden!The bear rose up on its hind legs, sniffed the air, then leisurely scratched its back against a tree, and sauntered off down the path away from me, towards the river. The whole episode lasted maybe a minute, tops. And I was too enthralled to feel afraid. It was a beautiful creature. A regular visitor to camp was a mother moose with her young calf. They would wait until the horses had been released from the corral, then they would sneak inside and munch on the salt lick. We were told that this was common behaviour for the local wildlife, since it was hard to find naturally occurring salt in the forest.
Fun fact: Wild animals lick salt for minerals like sodium and calcium, which aid bone and muscle growth.
As autumn progressed, the local chipmunk population kicked into life. They would climb up the nearby spruce trees and throw down the cones in great quantities, in preparation for the coming winter. One of these trees was outside the kitchen, strategically located above the main thoroughfare. It felt a bit like dodgeball at times! Wolves were elusive beings who made their presence known at night, howling across the valley. I never saw any, but there were always fresh tracks each morning, in the soft dirt by the river. Porcupines were insane creatures. I had always pictured them being the