When Cindy Heske, living on the Southside, was attacked by a bear a couple of years back, she thought of packing up and leaving. But her love for wilderness, wildlife and plants, and the beauty of the province stopped her. She however decided to put her experience to good use and help others become aware of the dangers lurking in the wild.
Last summer, Heske came up with the idea of a scavenger hunt with hidden animal cutouts along the path. She spent the year cleaning up the trail, making the animal cutouts and preparing the trail for this year and opened up the scavenger hunt wilderness trail after the long weekend. The trail will be open from Thursday through Sunday, until September, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Two years back, Heske returned to her home on the Southside after the fire evacuation. Three days after her return, while she was between her house and her garage, her dog was attacked outside by a black bear. When she looked into the commotion, the bear attacked her. “Everything that they said would work, did not work. I screamed and he attacked me worst,” said Heske who managed to wriggle free from the clutches of the bear and ran towards her house. The bear caught up to her and attacked her again. However, Heske believes that her faith in her God gave her the strength to stay strong and fight back. She finally made it to the house and once she was inside, the bear left.
“I wanted to leave the area because of the fear of getting attacked again but I thought, ‘you know what, I can’t let this chase me out of the country’, and instead, I decided that I wanted to make people more aware of the wildlife that is in our area, that is actually watching us when we are walking on the trails,” added Heske.
The walking trail that Heske has created, sits on three and a half acres of land of her five acres property “so people don’t actually leave the property” and are safely tucked away on the property itself. The trail has 31 animal cutouts hidden along the trail and the idea is to go along the trail with a map that she provides, and find as many animals as you can. “The tour will take about an hour, to hour and a half, depending on—if you want to find them all or how good you are at looking for them,” said Heske. There are location markers on the trail too for people to know exactly where they are and they can continue following the map to the end of the trail.
Her property is just five minutes from the Francois Lake ferry. When you go in, you have to go to the main office where Heske will hand out a laminated map of the trail and a marker to mark the animals you find. In light of COVID-19, Heske is taking the extra precautions of washing and sterilizing the laminated maps for the next use. She also believes that this would be a good way to self-distance during COVID-19 while still enjoying the wilderness.
The trail is free to access however, Heske is accepting donations. “I just want to give back to the community and any donations will go towards the upkeep of the trail,” she said.
Heske, who used to work with an advertising company in Kitimat, moved a lot due to her health concerns and finally ended up in Southside. “I have always loved nature and wildlife but people do need to know that there is dangers out here; you can’t just assume that you are safe when you are walking on the trail,” she said.