Kristin, Ben Fogle and a Time of Change

Kristin, Ben Fogle and a Time of Change

I’m not going to pretend it’s been a grand few months.

After the devastating loss of Kristin in February, only a month after she was diagnosed with metastatic cancer, I returned to Canada and the lodge alone to find it had been one of the snowiest winters years anyone could remember.

Even as I battled several feet of the stuff I noticed that one of our storage buildings – the one with most of the equipment in it – was tilting on the edge of collapse. A helpful neighbour arrived with an excavator and managed to scoop the snow off the roof and save that one.

And then I realised that the front deck on the north side of the house was also in existential peril from a block of snow and ice the size of a pick-up truck, hovering above it on the roof. I dug out a shovel and pick. But even as I did I began to feel woozy.

The very next morning I was pole-axed by Covid.

I didn’t have it badly – so many others have had it so much worse. But I did have one day when I went downstairs and foolishly left my phone upstairs. Too late it occurred to me that the phone, in my reduced state, was my only way of contacting the outside world, should that be needed, and that my lungs weren’t interested in getting me back up the stairs.

I eventually made it back to my sick bed and then watched helplessly as the menacing block of snow and ice finally made its slippery move and obliterated the deck below.

Katya, our German Shepherd, must have figured this inexplicable attack had come from the Heavens itself, and went into doggie meltdown. It was all I could do to shove her through the front door twice a day so she didn’t pee in the house.

Since then the snow has melted and as I write this I am looking out over a very boisterous river carrying the meltwaters from the mountains down the valley on their long journey to the Pacific. The grass is green and the songbirds are singing. I have to admit the place looks as gorgeous as I can ever remember it.

For our poor guests, of course, this year has been a disaster. British Columbia banned international visitors back in March, effectively shutting down our spring and summer seasons. We are still hopeful of running grizzly bear viewing for those booked in for this autumn, but far from certain that BC will relax its restrictions.

I have had to postpone my charity project to bring over British soldiers with PTSD for some nature therapy, though there is an outside chance it may still happen in October.

Without Kristin, of course, so much has changed here. Unlike my wonderful wife I can barely cook, and the little jars of her special spices in the kitchen sit forgotten. In the yard I can’t tell one potted flower from another. All kinds of things are growing tall in her much-loved herb garden and I have only the dimmest idea of what they are.

On a positive note Kristin’s life and work will be on show in a new documentary with Ben Fogle coming out on Channel 5 on June 30th in the UK. Please tune in to watch it.

The major part of the filming took place last summer when Kristin was still well, but there is a really lovely tribute to her at the end. For those of you not in the UK the episode will be syndicated around the world, though I am not sure where it will be shown and when.

As for me, I have now decided it is time to think about moving on.

The lodge, the bear-viewing, and all the conservation work was very much our dream together and not mine alone. It is time to hand it over to someone with the energy that Kristin and I both had fifteen years ago when we first arrived here. Someone looking for their own wilderness dream.

With that in mind I will be putting the lodge and the operation up for sale.

For those of you hoping to come later this year – we’ll keep our fingers crossed. I know that you have all been in communication with Graham – one of our long-standing wilderness guides who is now helping me out with bookings – or with me.

And as for next year, we are taking bookings – though we won’t be taking deposits until BC confirms that it is lifting travel restrictions. Even if there are new owners by then, I am sure I will still be around for a while showing them the ropes and the secret places the bears like to hang out.

Thank you to all those of you who sent condolence cards. And those of you who have followed our adventure for the last fifteen years. I will, of course, keep you all updated as things progress.