It must have been the summer of 1970. My first wife, Jacqui, and I were living in a log cabin we had built the previous year on a beautiful wooded hillside. The little community we lived in was called Blewett, a string of farms and homesteads along the south shore of the Kootenay River, near Nelson, British Columbia. There the lushly wooded mountains rose steeply from the water, each crevice between them the course of a rushing creek. Our place was a fourteen-acre piece of paradise along Forty-Nine Creek, a name I thought a cosmic coincidence, since I was born in 1949.

We were part, at the time, of a great many people who were leaving more populated parts of the world in search of a more 'organic' and 'true' life – a veritable exodus heading back to the land. For reasons political and other idealisms – sometimes zealous and often vague – many of us found ourselves in Canada, with visions of unspoiled wilderness and social simplicity dancing in our heads.

Farther up Forty-Nine creek from our homestead was a parcel of "Crown Land," an old mining claim that had reverted to the ownership of the government. As such it was available to be claimed – squatted on – in much the same way that settlers had homesteaded land in the U.S. a hundred and more years before. Fate played upon these circumstances – the back to the land exodus and our nearness to that bit of Crown Land – and led us into a brief and exhilarating acquaintance with the New Daniel Boone.

It was a glorious sunny afternoon in mid-summer. A lazy balm hung over the valley, and a few mashed-potato clouds rolled slowly overhead. The stillness, with its whirring accompaniment of insect-hum, was broken by the straining of car engines coming up the steep tire-track that was our driveway. Two VW busses, and their attendant swirls of dust, arrived out front of our cabin moments later, and spilled forth four fresh pilgrims. Two couples they were, and they were certainly ready for going back to the wilderness – or at least they were in perfect costume. The women were decked out in long calico dresses, hair braided and bunned, and the men were the nearest thing to a perfect Walt Disney Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett that I had ever seen, all the hippie-pioneers of the Haight-Ashbury notwithstanding. Our hero was resplendent in a coon-skin cap and long-fringed suede leather coat, despite the temperature being in the high seventies or low eighties. His outfit was picture-book perfect right down to the knee-high laced moccasins, and a Bowie knife slung on his wide leather belt. The fact that mister Strauss had yet to fashion his famous denim jeans and that San Francisco had barely begun to exist in the period of their costumes was the only flaw, but who were we to quibble? They were splendid!

Did we know about the Crown Land above us, they wanted to know, as we greeted them from the porch, and how to find it? We did, I explained, and they were welcome to leave their vehicles with us and walk up the old mining road, the lower part of which they had just traveled to find us. The rest of it was now just a very wide trail in the woods above our cabin. All they had to do was continue up the hill on that trail until they reached a larger road – still used for logging – and follow it up a bit further, to a place where the old sluice pit could still be seen in the hillside.

Our family there at the cabin included two wonderful dogs. They were a cross of collie and shepherd, and they were the best of pets. The older of them we called Timba, a name taken from a map of British Columbia, and the younger – from the same parents but a different litter – was Baba. He was big, but really still a puppy. The presence of our dogs is important to the story because after I had explained the whereabouts of the Crown Land, and gotten nods of agreement from the pioneers, I offered to have them take Timba along on their expedition. They were somewhat puzzled by my offer. I advised them that the woods were quite well populated with bear. There were so many, in fact, that we saw them nearly every day – they could often be seen grazing on berries or foraging for grubs, no more than thirty or forty feet from the cabin. They were friendly enough, I assured them, never aggressive or even nervous about our presence – but it was not necessarily smart to flirt with them. It was the common sense in the area, though, that a bear would never mess with the combination of humans and dogs. I was convinced that it was so, and told them as much.

I reckoned it to be like this: bears respected dogs and feared humans. I imagined their reasoning this way: If they chased the dogs, the humans would shoot at them for messing with their pets. If they chased the humans, the dogs would laugh at them for bothering to go after something so clumsy and no good to eat. Either way, there was nothing to be gained. I didn't tell our pilgrims that part.

At the very sound of the word bear, both the women got – with considerable efficiency for all the calico– back into the VWs. Davy looked seriously unlike someone who wanted to go for a walk in the woods. The New Daniel, however, was not to be turned away by mere danger. Assuring the women that he would be back shortly, and refusing the offer of Timba's company, he set off up the hill – a reluctant Davy tagging along behind, and watching nervously over his shoulder. They disappeared up the trail into the woods.

We had tethered the dogs so that they wouldn't follow, and Timba was very upset that she had not been allowed to go for the walk. She began to complain loudly. We ignored her for a few minutes but she persisted and it finally got to us. Although The New Daniel hadn't felt the need of her company, it really didn't matter to us if she went. I let her off her tether.

Now the old road began by following the direction of the creek for a ways, that is, to the side of the cabin, but then switched back, so that where it met the larger road was nearly straight up the hill above and behind us. Timba knew this, and being an impatient dog, she didn't follow the road but went straight up the hill through the woods to where she must have known them to be.

They can only have thought that it was a bear – with neither friendship nor flirtation on its mind – charging them from the underbrush, for in a matter of minutes after releasing Timba, the brave pioneers came back down the hill. They were doing what I think must be meant by the term "dead run." At least they appeared to think that death would be the result of not moving with extreme earnest.

I have never before or since been so impressed with someone's running style as I was with that of The New Daniel Boone. His stride was sure and very, very long. Assisted by the fact that he was running down a fair grade, he seemed to stay airborne for twelve or fifteen feet between footfalls, and his moccasins hit the ground with a loud whop! The tail of his coon-skin cap stood straight out throughout each flight. His arms worked the air with equal grace and purpose, and the long fringe of his jacket accentuated the sheer determination of his effort, rippling and slapping, as if whipping him onward. If a wind tunnel test were made of pioneer attire, I'm sure this is what it would look like.

Davy was right behind, and although I can't say that his style was as impressive, it was highly effective: he was not going to be left behind for the bears. Neither of them looked at us. Their eyes were fixed on the safe haven of the VWs, and without so much as a "so long" or "remember the Alamo" they were in, slammed the doors shut, fired them up, and were off in a cloud of dust.

Timba arrived right behind them, panting from the run. She looked puzzled and a bit disappointed that what promised to be a really great afternoon's frolic was over before it could get going. The company was gone, and there weren't even any bears to bark at.