Monday, November 10, 2008

Out in the Sun and Snow

More bears in town today; one removing some trash from the can in front of our breakfast spot about 45 minutes before our arrival. New snow overnight added to the wildness of our outpost on the border of Manitoba and Nunavut.
The Chirico Family

With a little more sleep and a day of sun, something we had not witnessed for a while, we departed for exploration of the boreal forest. Churchill marks the northern extent of the forest and is the place where it meets the tundra or taiga habitat just below the Arctic Circle.

The sun put a new perspective on the landscape, every surface covered with a crystalline fringe of ornamentation. Black spruce, white spruce and tamarack, dominant species of the boreal forest, were covered from lower bough to upper stem. The light was magical and a welcome break from the grayness of earlier days.

Always in the back of our minds was the possibility that we would meet a Polar Bear. We saw many fresh tracks so were vigilant in keeping an eye out. Fox, Snowshoe Hare, mink, and bear tracks were prolific, painting the fresh snow with tales of earlier travelers.

The sled dog ride was far better than all had hoped, with great information about the hard work involved for the musher, breeder, and the dogs. Travelers had the opportunity to meet the "wheel, team, point, and lead" dogs up close and feed the local "Whiskey Jacks" or Gray Jays, one of the many characters of the north and Churchill.

Sleds ran with two people per sled, musher in the rear. Teams of eight dogs had no trouble getting the sleds up to speed and giving participants an idea of life out in the wilds.

On one run, one of the dogs showed the musher that there was something in the trees which turned out to be two Spruce Grouse. The sled dog team ran me back out to see it they were still there and to see if I could get a picture.

The birds sat like they had no concerns and let me photograph them until I began to get a bit worried about a Polar Bear perhaps making me a point of interest. I walked back toward the dog yard for about five minutes, examining all trees that I thought one could scale to avoid a bear. I was happy to see a snow mobile come out to bring me the rest of the way.

Duke and George

Unfortunately, the clouds have not cooperated long enough for us to see northern lights, overcast sky the norm; maybe tonight.

Another full day out on the tundra rover tomorrow. We are still looking for a Gyr Falcon. More bears tomorrow.

I will have to remember to tell you about the evening in the caribou skin tent drumming and singing with the local Inuit; a priceless experience that gave us all a greater appreciation for the many that came to this continent before us and the hardships they endured.



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