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Posts Tagged ‘Churchill’

Memories of the Great Ice Bear Adventure at Dymond Lake Lodge… and more to come!

by Nolan Booth

Terri, Steve, Rob and the girls and I really thought we had bit off more than we could chew last year at Dymond Lake Lodge when it came to upgrading, but in the end it all worked out beautifully!

The new lake shore cabin with four guest rooms, two staff rooms and an amazing lounge were just a shell eight days before our first guests of the season arrived for the Great Ice Bear Adventure, but everybody stepped up and the new cabin was ready before the first bed was needed. In hindsight, this just showed what a dynamite crew we have. Everybody pulled together and got the job done when it counted! The rooms are spacious and the décor is beautiful for a remote lodge in northern Canada.

Once again we had a great season! We were very happy to have a young polar bear around all season and we nicknamed him Scarbrow. He came and went as he pleased, but he spent a fair bit of time at the Lodge fence throughout the season, and on more days than not he would put on a show. There were days when he would he play in the snow on the edge of the lake, and others when he would follow us around the compound. And on numerous occasions he would follow the guests out to the Bay for some exercise.

It was amazing! I had really high expectations and the experience lived up to them. All of the staff were very friendly and the logistics were well coordinated – everything went very smoothly. The guides were extremely knowledgeable and really added to our experience. I’m so glad I opted for Churchill Wild rather than the typical polar buggy tour. Seeing a polar bear on foot was unforgettable!

~ Debra Hartsell & Michael James

We also had an amazing weasel experience for the second year in a row! Our little short-tailed weasel lived inside the compound for the entire season. He probably felt safer in the generator room than out in the open with that Gyrfalcon overhead. Two wolverines also stayed near the Lodge and were in focus on many occasions. And we had many foxes all around camp and up and down the coast. They were mostly cross foxes. The arctic foxes seemed to be scarcer last year, probably due to the presence of the wolverines.

Our polar bears were amazing, but we all agreed that their travel patterns were different than we ever remember seeing. I personally saw more bears in 2012 than I had in previous seasons, but many of these were a ways out from the shore and heading north. On most days we managed to get some nice face time with a polar bear in good light.

After 40 years, my heart still skips a beat, whether it be while I’m watching polar bears though my binoculars or walking step by step with them down the trail, but there is also nothing better than polar bear watching through the safety of the fence at the Lodge, with the sun high in the sky and crystals sparkling in the snow.

I’d like to thank everyone involved in helping to create my wonderful memories of Dymond Lake Lodge. Looking forward to more of the same this year!

Great Ice Bear Adventure - Polar bear mom with cubs at Dymond Lake Lodge

Polar bear mom with cubs at Dymond Lake Lodge

Life is good in the land of the Great Ice Bears!

Polar Bear Photo Safari - Churchill Wild - Seal River Heritage Lodge

How's that for an unscripted polar bear pose?

Ahhh… life is good in the home of the Great Ice Bears! A 9-bear day! Plus multiple colored foxes, gyrfalcons and a fine finish with a gorgeous wolverine on the runway.

Peek-a-boo bear was part of the troupe that came by to check out our fuel drums and ensure that they were all stored safely. Due to multiple bear interruptions today, numerous false starts were made to leave the Lodge on our ground level walking excursions with polar bears.

Poor Andy kept chasing all over the coastline trying to get eager cameras within range of two different sets of mothers and cubs. He succeeded in tiring out his big lens hikers but did manage to get in close at ground level for another round of great shots.

We have had some spectacular light with clear sunny days and temperatures down to -18 C. The high number of silver, cross and colored foxes is surpassed only by the spectacular number of pine martens here this year.

All makes for busy days out on the land with many active shutterbugs!

Polar Bears Sparring at Churchill Wild on the Polar Bear Photo Safari

Sparring polar bears made for some great photos!

Great start to 2012 Polar Bear Photo Safari

This message came in today from Mike Reimer at Seal River Heritage Lodge, where our Polar Bear Photo Safari is in full swing!

Polar Bear Mom with Cubs at Seal River Lodge - Missi Mandel Photo

Polar Bear Mom with Cub at Seal River Lodge - Missy Mandel Photo

This week guests from the US, Netherlands, Germany, France, the UK and Russia are finishing up as a group, and guests from France, Hawaii, Thailand and Taiwan are about to settle in.

Hey all you Polar Bear lovers out there!

Our bear season is once again off to a “roaring start” with wildly variable weather wreaking havoc with flight schedules but nonetheless offering visitors some incredible wildlife opportunities.

Freeze up appears to be right on target as our bears wait patiently for the coming ice, which will once more usher them out to their hunting grounds. The bears are all in excellent condition, no doubt due to the late ice breakup this past summer which gave them good access to seals and continuous hunting opportunities all the way through to the end of July.

Missy Mandel has been kind enough to share some of the fantastic ground level polar bear shots that our ecolodges have become famous for.

 Photo credits to Missy Mandel.

Extreme Polar Bear Marathon in Churchill first of its kind, will help remote communities

Polar Bear Marathon, Churchill, Manitoba

An extreme adventure marathon.

If you think walking with polar bears at one of our lodges might get your heart racing, how about running with them? That’s just what 16 elite athletes from around the world will be doing in Churchill, Manitoba on November 20, 2012, when they compete in the Polar Bear Marathon at a distance of what could be 50 km.

Why would you want to run 50 km in -40 degree temperatures surrounded by polar bears, wolves and other less dangerous and assorted arctic wildlife?

Charity is the first reason, as the runners will be supporting the Native (First Nations people of Canada’s North) ministry work of Athletes in Action (AIA) Baseball camps. The second reason would obviously be the remote location and adventure and the third would be bragging rights to doing something that’s never been done before.

The run will support the work of the Athletes in Action (AIA) in the Sayisi Dene First Nations community of Tadoule Lake, 250 km west of Churchill. AIA has done baseball camps in two different First Nations communities for the past eight years. The work is based on volunteers and donations and this isolated group of people is served with contributions of sports equipment and various community events that let them know they are loved and not forgotten.

The remote location of Churchill is well known as the “Polar Bear Capital of the World” and Manitoba’s beluga whale watching hotspot. And besides being a birder’s paradise, it is also one of the best places in the world to view the Northern Lights, especially as winter approaches. The Polar Bear Marathon will take place just as the polar bears are getting ready to move out on to the ice for the winter, which of course will add more than ample adventure to the trek.

The adventure seekers and marathoners who have signed up to participate in the Polar Bear Marathon hail from Germany, the USA and both Steinbach and Churchill, Manitoba, and include Eric Alexander, an amazing athlete and mountain climber who not only climbed Mt. Everest, but also escorted and helped a blind climber summit Everest. Also among the participants are a marathoner from San Diego who has run in a 100 km event at the South Pole, another from Germany who has run in over 150 marathons, and an extreme event specialist.

Due to the harsh environment and the weather conditions, the Polar Bear Marathon will be run in tight groups as a “gentleman’s run” and runners will have to stay together due to the presence of polar bears, foxes, wolves and weather. Vehicles will accompany runners from both behind and in front for safety reasons and to serve as mobile aid stations. The exact route is yet to be determined.

Mother Polar Bear and Cubs - Dennis Fast

We'll be watching you.

“It looks like we’ll being going with four runners per group right now,” said organizer Albert Martens. “We might have room for a few more participants but they would have to contact me very soon. Right now we have four vehicles lined up to go with the runners. There will be a dinner with medal presentations and a polar bear slideshow presentation by Churchill Wild’s chief professional photographer Dennis Fast after the run. There will also be a German journalist covering the event.”

Every summer, Albert Martens flies into remote and isolated First Nation communities to do sports camps. These remote communities have included Pauingassi and Tadoule Lake in Manitoba and Poplar Hill in Ontario. Martens and up to eight volunteers help the children and youth with baseball and bible classes, while also serving the adults with Men’s Breakfasts, Ladies Teas, and other community events. All work and expenses are covered by personal donations and volunteer staff.

“Convinced of good support, reliable vehicles, and a small, slow group of runners, I have agreed to do this event and run my first marathon,” said Alexander on his Higher Summits Web site. “Running in the realm of the polar bear, I suspect I have a good shot at a world record. Well, this is not just a fun run to sightsee and avoid predation; this is a benefit for Athletes in Action and their commitment to helping the indigenous people of the far north. I will be speaking at a fund-raising dinner after the run (provided I survive the run) and am thereby pledging to help Athletes in Action. This is where you can help – please consider a donation to Athletes in Action to reach a group of people that you may never otherwise get to meet.”

The Dessert Night Fundraiser Alexander was speaking of will take place on November 22, 2012 at Canad Inns in Winnipeg in support of the AIA First Nations Ministry. Alexander will be the keynote speaker at the event, which will feature highlights and images of the Polar Bear Marathon along with the premier showing of the AIA – Grand Canyon running documentary.

A renowned speaker and the author of The Summit: Faith Beyond Everest’s Death Zone, Alexander is a person who embodies a picture of hope and possibility for all of us. For more information, please visit his Web site at www.HigherSummits.com. For additional information on the Polar Bear Marathon, please contact Albert Martens by phone at (204) 346-1345, via email at aemart@mts.net or visit his Web site at www.AlbertMartens.com. There are bound to be questions, and for good reason.

“It’s never been done before,” said Martens.

Related Story: Steinbach Man Organizing Polar Bear Marathon

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Winter Running - Albert Martens

There's just something exhilarating about a winter run!

Donations towards AIA First Nations Ministry may be made by issuing a cheque in USA or CDN currency  payable to Athletes in Action and mailed to Eric Alexander or Albert Martens at the addresses below.

Eric Alexander
Higher Summits
PO Box 6102
Vail, Colorado 81658 USA

Albert Martens
408-2nd Street,
Steinbach, Manitoba
Canada R5G 0V5

USA or CDN tax receipts will be issued to the donor.

Hudson Bay helicopter ride a first for Churchill adventure travel specialist

by Doreen Booth, Adventure Travel Specialist, Churchill Wild

Hudson Bay Helicopter, Churchill, Manitoba

Julie, Jeff & Doreen. Ready. Set. Go! - Photo Credit: Terry Allen

This year I finally had the opportunity to join a group of our winter guests at Seal River Heritage Lodge. I was able to squeeze in on our last trip of the season – the Polar Bear Photo Safari!

I had a couple of guests, Julie and Jeff, looking to add something extra to their trip, and they had decided to charter a helicopter to the Lodge. When they found out I would be joining them on their departure, they very generously offered me the extra seat they had on their helicopter flight.

I have to admit, I’m a nervous flier, so I wasn’t sure what to say at first, but I didn’t know when an opportunity like this would come again. I accepted their offer with butterflies in my stomach and off I went!

November had come and gone quickly and before I knew it I was done organizing our winter season. My dinner presentations were complete and our final guests were on their way to the Lodge, so I headed up to Churchill for my “partial” holiday. When you’re part of the family, your work is never done.

I met up with Julie and Jeff in Churchill and we headed out to collect their winter gear before making our way to Hudson Bay Helicopters. I was feeling pretty good – a little nervous maybe – but totally excited! I didn’t want anyone to know how I was really feeling. Our pilot took our bags and gave us a rundown on the safety guidelines for the chopper, we buckled in, put on our headsets, and it was time to take flight!

The take off was surprisingly smooth. The winds were calm that day so we were in for a good 30-minute ride. We flew over the town of Churchill and headed up the coastline of Hudson Bay. It was amazing to see the sprawling tundra with a fresh coat of snow. I had forgotten how flat the land is up there.

Half way through the trip we flew over our Dymond Lake Lodge and noticed that some of the staff had ventured outside to wave to us. How nice! A short time later our pilot came on the headset and asked me where we should land at the polar bear lodge.

Doreen Booth, Adventure Travel Specialist, Churchill Wild

I wasn’t sure, so I told him to pick the best place he could find. He thought that would be right outside the front door of the Lodge! Needless to say, the staff didn’t have to bring out the luggage buggy to meet us. And the polar bears kept their distance!

A few months have gone by now and I’ve had time to think about that wonderful trip and the emotions I experienced while flying in a helicopter for the first time. I have to say it was an amazing experience and I would love to do it again.

Thanks again to my friends Julie and Jeff, for helping me check another item off my life’s to do list!