Great Bear Rainforest

How a “life wake-up call” lead an Alberta couple to unexpected insights on the BC coast

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We came across this wonderful story recently, and wanted to share it again with the Maple Leaf community. It was originally published in our newsletter in the spring of 2008. – eds.
We’re Janice McDougall and Gervais Goodman and we live and work at in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains southwest of Calgary Alberta. We first learned of the Maple Leaf and her story through the June 2006 edition of “Westworld” magazine, the Alberta Motor Association publication.We kept the article, showing it to friends and family, saying “one day … one day”.That summer Janice became ill with a rogue virus which necessitated surgery and a week long stay in hospital. Having had this little wake-up call, one of the first things she did upon being released was call up Louise and book a trip on the Maple Leaf for the fall of 2007. Time enough to get well and something to look forward to!Louise listened to our stories, graciously put up with our “land lubber” questions and overt enthusiasm for months in preparation for the trip.

We chose the Whales and Totems journey in order to gain an appreciation of the historical and current interdependence of the human and non-human systems in a part of the world that was distinctly different than the foothills in which we live, work and play. The fact that the trip would be on the historic Maple Leaf was the clincher.

The voyage was so much more than gaining an appreciation.

As partial “hermits” out here in the country, we were in close quarters with a group of people we had never met before. The trip made us stretch in terms of defining our personal space and, here we are, just 6 months later, about to spend a four day Easter weekend with new shipboard friends from San Diego – eagle watching, what else!

We saw things we had never seen before. We did things we never did before. We ate like we never had before. We were able to stretch in as many directions as we wanted with the total support and encouragement of the crew and fellow passengers.

In our part of the world, an encounter with a grizzly is something we had taken courses on how to avoid – in this new ecosystem, with ample food supplies and no human habituation, we watched a grizzly mom salmon fish for her cub. We wondered, “if our previous perception of grizzlies that we held so firmly was inappropriate in this context, what other perceptions might we hold dearly that aren’t appropriate in all situations?”

We got to “meet our bookshelf” – Alexandra Morton and Billy Proctor, and after the trip, we forwarded Gervais’ amazing pictures of the elusive offshore Orca pod to one of Canada’s pre-eminent whale researchers, Graeme Ellis.

We gained a deep appreciation of the interconnectedness of the entities of that particular ecosystem. Our crew was immensely knowledgeable and shared that knowledge in entertaining and passionate ways.

You cannot help but be transformed by a voyage on the Maple Leaf – she has been transformed herself and touches everyone with her grace.

A trip on the Maple Leaf is truly a trip of a lifetime. Do whatever you have to do to join her, breathe her magic and see how she brings wondrous things out of the mist.


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