A daily field report on polar bears from our guide Steve Selden in our Churchill, Manitoba office! Check out our polar bear tours here.
I have never seen Churchill like this. It felt like “big” the minute I walked from the house a short distance to the office on Kelsey Blvd. (aka Main St.) Lingering snow ceased and the cloudy sky seemed illuminated from behind by the previous night’s pyrotechnics. The air was simply a perfect temperature (26F) for the anticipated event and day surrounding it. Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) throttled up and down the road on four-wheelers keeping the way clear for the ensuing motorcade. Soon, lights from SUV’s were flashing in the distance and even the forlorn, hulking grainery at the other end of town seemed to glisten like a chateau in the Loire Valley. People lining the streets waved plastic flags given away by Coke, an Olympic sponsor, in a cheap attempt to shine its’ own light on…well…itself and…oh yeah… the Olympics. Anyway, this was lost on most and the amazing spectacle of the Olympic torch relay came into town at exactly 9:14 AM. As the first runner jogged slowly past, camera’s; mine included, clicked away. The flame was intense as my eyes took it all in. A place like Churchill, so cold and stark most of the year is the perfect setting for the flame. And being such a remote, tiny community seemingly far away from most of the world, the symbolism of the flame and the feeling of a unified bigger world it inspires is maximized. Once that feeling of oneness takes hold of you it stays…even after the torch is on its’ way to the next community. I can’t explain why I followed that torch through town, back up Franklin St. toward the Hudson Bay, up onto a GWB Rover, down behind the town complex building, off again, back through town and into Hudson Square where it ignited the cauldron; but I know it felt amazing to be present. Being an athlete myself, I know the good that comes from that realm of life…and the everlasting hope and truth from competition between men and women that is settled only by scores and not loss of life. The incredible hope from this flame’s light is what really shines.
As the Olympic Winter festival was continuing on in town with tent, music, bonfire, brats and oh so many souvenir Coke bottles being given away, there was quite another amazing spectacle happening on the tundra in the CWMA. Guide Brent and group rolled up to a mother bear and two cubs just outside of launch and they proceeded to get very friendly with machine and travelers above. The early morning glow through the clouds was spectacular. Later near the Lodge, another mom and two cubs were wrestling around in the snow as yet another mother with, yes you guessed it, two cubs walked slowly on a glistening distant icy pond. Bring your kids to work day I guess! All in all Brent’s folks spotted an incredible 40 bears on the day. The stunning light was just as remarkable. Later, out by the coast, a young male flushed out a flock of Willow Ptarmigan by the rocks then proceeded to climb up on those rocks, pile up some snow for a pillow and take a nap. Yawwwwn.
Guide Scott and group also had many mother and cubs encounters as well as a Mourning Dove at first Tower being watched intently by now-resident Marten. Once leaving there, they watched sparring males just after the turn in the inland road. Sleeping bears in the willows, a few big bears along the coast, and one bear that hung out at the rover along Ptarmigan Alley all made for a full day. Then add the mom and yearling cub that played under the grate of the rear deck on the way back to launch; and his group was literally “over the top” for bear viewing on the day. I don’t think it gets better than this.