In the summer of 2012, Angela and I embarked on a months long canoe trip that would take us through three provincial parks and conservation areas, and many, many kilometers of crown land.
Mid-trip, weeks deep into the bush, while hopping from one small lake to the next via a countless number of neglected, forgotten, and nonexistent portages, we were spotted by a curious young bear.
The lake we were on was tiny. Although we were in the middle of it, we were still no more than a stone's throw from the shore where the bear cub was keeping pace with us, stopping occasionally to lift his nose in the air to get a good whiff. We took the opportunity to click a few photos.
We resorted to our usual noise making, politely asked the cub to leave, and it obliged. The cub scampered into the woods, hopefully not off to fetch momma. B-lining it for the beaver dam, we set a new land speed record for the world's quickest portage. We threw the canoe, fully packed with hundreds of pounds of gear, down the dam and into the water 12 feet below us in a feat of bear-powered, Herculean strength. We would only be in the water moments before having to portage again, this time through a half kilometer long section of steep cliffs and overgrown trail, looking over our shoulders the whole time for mamma bear. All par for the course really, just another day in the backwoods.
I don't know why we were so surprised to see it. After all, we did just come from a beat up old hunt camp called "Bear Inn", and we were about to portage into "Four Bears Lake".
And then things got really interesting...
After kilometers of bush bashing with the boat on my head, we finally arrived at the day's destination: the majestic Magnetewan River. Blue sky, no bugs, and an incredible river stretching out before us, ready to pull us along with a mild current.
If you'll recall, the summer of 2012 was hot and dry in Ontario. Very hot and very dry. With water levels so low, the Magnetewan seamed like a completely different river to me. I've been canoeing it since the 80's, and have never seen such low water. An old timer we met later that week would confirm that he had never seen the water so low. He was in his 70's. I mention this, as what we were about to encounter is completely dependent on warm water temperatures.
As we continued down river to find our favorite waterfall campsite, the fish ahead of us seemed to be engaged in very peculiar behavior. Some were jumping out of the water, others were skimming the surface with mouths agape. Angela was the first to notice the source of the feeding frenzy. I noticed too, seconds later, though neither of us said anything out loud. We were simply too flabbergasted to form words. Surely our eyes were playing tricks on us. Those couldn't possibly be...
"Those are jellyfish.", Angela finally said.
"They couldn't be!", I replied in denial.
We floated past the white dime-sized umbrellas one by one at first. Like tiny little pulsating ghosts silhouetted by the deep black waters of the Magnetewan, the creatures swam in greater and greater numbers until our boat was gliding through galaxies of them. The black river now gave way to the milky whiteness of the jellyfish bloom with its seemingly incomprehensible population.
Below: a great close up shot from: http://jimmccormac.blogspot.ca/2013/10/freshwater-jellyfish.html
You can find more information on this invasive (and pervasive) jelly here.
Few people get a chance to see a black bear and jellyfish in the wild, on the same day, we count ourselves among the lucky.