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Posts Tagged ‘North Knife Lake Lodge’

The polar bears are back at Seal River Lodge!

by Mike Reimer 

The polar bears are back in town!

Mom with polar bear cubs heading towards Seal River Lodge

We’re off to an incredible opening week at Seal River Lodge! This has all the makings of a banner year for wildlife enthusiasts at Churchill Wild!

Yesterday’s sightings of 16 bears included two sets of mothers with coys (cub of year) that were enough to send any camera clutcher into spasms of ecstasy. Okay, that’s maybe a little over the top, but it was pretty darn amazing, not to mention our video canners practically got mobbed by pods of anxious belugas all vying to be the first to land a spot on “Build Films” latest flick. Stay tuned for this one. It comes out in the fall.

On the rocks at Seal River

On the rocks at Seal River

Nolan and crew are down at Nanuk building the new Polar Bear Lodge and they’re having some great adventures with pesky black bears, roaming polar bears, black wolves and curious moose twins coming to visit at coffee time.

Adventure at its finest.

Adventure on Hudson Bay

And over at North Knife Lake Lodge our very own Wolf Whisperer, Doug Webber, is keeping busy playing host to an entire family of wolves spanning several generations. Photos and video coming soon!

Sunrise at Seal River

Sunrise at Seal River

All in all, 2013 is off to a roaring start!

Photos on this page courtesy of  BUILD FILMS.

Magical time with wolves at North Knife Lake Lodge

by Doug Webber

It’s been a banner few months for the wolves of North Knife Lake!

Saw the big Momma, two of her offspring from last year and two pups about three months old, all at the runway in the evening last week. In total, we have seen seven different wolves so far this spring and summer!

All have typical timber wolf colouring with one having distinct reddish tinges on its side. Pups are sandy coloured and they look well fed, quite chubby actually. All the fish must be going to them. The adults did quite a bit of howling and one disappeared into the bush after doing the bark-bark-bark-howl bark-bark-bark. The wolf that stayed on the runway continued to bark-howl-bark until we left.

Josh went ahead with the 5-wheeler while we walked. A big wolf came out of the bush at the sand bowl and followed him until the turnoff to the equipment grounds. What an evening! About 30 trout caught at Hahn Hole and out in front of the Lodge. We kept a couple for eating and released the rest. Two were master anglers!

A few days later we had more wolf sightings down at the runway. We took some fish trimmings out to them, howled and waited. After about 10 minutes we noticed something moving at a hill to the south of a turnaround.

It was a small pup lying down in a bit of a washout. We got a few photos before it disappeared into the bush. We drove back to the Lodge and while I was cleaning pails the adults started to howl, so Norm and I drove back out to the runway.

We saw four pups, two with the momma, one black and one gray, and two off by themselves near the turnaround. Momma was on the south hill with the black and gray ones. So far we have seen Momma, papa, three smaller ones that we suspect are last year’s pups and four pups from this year.

One of the young adults is very brave and has come within five meters of us on the 4-wheeler. She shows up pretty much right away when we arrive at the runway with supper. Another one or two wolves generally happen along five to 10 minutes later.

The wolves have also been getting close to the Lodge a couple of times a day. We’ve only seen them outside the Lodge on three occasions, but we see their tracks at least once a day.

I can’t tell you how wonderful it feels to have the wolf families back at North Knife Lake Lodge.

It’s a magical time… in a special place.

Honeymoon with a wolf at North Knife Lake

by Karli Friesen

Wolf at North Knife Lake

Our friend the wolf was always close during our honeymoon at North Knife Lake Lodge.

Our decision to honeymoon at North Knife Lake Lodge in northern Manitoba was made years ago before we were even dating.

“You can’t honeymoon there, I’m honeymooning there!” we said to each other.

Little did we know (though by that time we may have hoped) that three years later we’d be honeymooning there – together!

Karli and Riley at North Knife Lake Lodge

Sunny day at North Knife Lake Lodge!

North Knife Lake Lodge is the perfect honeymoon destination. That’s assuming you can stand 25 degrees C, sunny blue skies, no bugs, loons calling at night, long walks in the woods, canoeing and fishing on windless days and various animals providing endless photo opportunities. Every moment we felt like we were the ones being watched and studied, not the other way around.

Oh, and did we mention the wolf pups?

As the plane flew off into the distance, we stood on the runway watching, wondering, if our decision to be completely alone in the Canadian north for a week was a good one. We started the hike back to the Lodge, hoping to return with the four-wheeler for our gear before any wild animals got into the groceries.

As we rounded the first bend on the trail, 25 yards ahead of us a big timber wolf stopped and looked back over his shoulder toward us. We froze and everyone watched each other for a moment, before the wolf trotted off into the bush. That was our first sighting of him, and afterwards, we knew he was never very far away.

The next morning, I was excited to show my new husband the wolf den that my cousin and I had discovered a little less than 10 years earlier. We packed the essentials — food, matches, water, camera, flashlights and rain jackets — and headed off toward a lake known as Wrong Lake. As soon as we were on top of the first esker off the west side of the runway, we saw the wolf again, trotting through the trees below us, about 200 yards away.

Every so often he stopped to look back at us, but wasted no time posing for pictures before he was gone again. We continued on toward the wolf den. When we were within a couple hundred yards, though we couldn’t see it yet, we decided to circle down below the den in case it was active. Though I had been to the den every summer since we’d found it, it had never been active to my knowledge. Still, on the off chance it was, we gave the den – and whatever wolves were around – some space.

Karli Friesen

Karli by the creek. There’s fish in there!

We came up from the bottom of the esker about 50 yards from the den. As we approached the entrance, we could see that most of the grass around the entrance had been flattened, and that there were wolf tracks and caribou hair surrounding the entrance. Still, we weren’t sure.

I crouched down by the main entrance and looked down into one of the secondary entrances. Small tracks and some scat lay around the smaller entrance, but both looked too small to belong to a wolf. Maybe a fox though.

The trees at the den entrance groaned slightly as they swayed in the wind, and we chatted quietly, mulling over what we were looking at and wondered if the den was active. Until we realized that the groaning wasn’t the trees!

Suddenly, the groaning sound was joined by whimpers, grunts, snorts and whines, the sound a sleeping pile of puppies make when they all start to shift and jostle. I was beyond excited! As a young girl, I had always dreamed of finding an active wolf den and finally the day had arrived!

Since we knew the male wolf was around and now suspected that these puppies probably belonged to him, we left the den entrance and headed up over the top of the esker to make our way back to the Lodge. Sure enough, only 100 yards away, just on the other esker, that same wolf stood watching us. He was directly in our path but heading west, so we swung east to give him plenty of space to get back to the den.

That evening, we fished the creek north of the runway and brought a few fish home with us. We saved the guts and trimmings and decided that the next day we would take the fish remains out to the wolves to let them know we were friendly. The next morning, we set out early again, bucket of fish guts in tow.

When we arrived at the trail that would take us from the Wrong Lake esker to the den esker, we heard a bark behind us. We snapped our heads up and found ourselves looking at our wolf again, standing in the middle of a sand patch on the esker south of us. He barked again, and again, before letting out a long, low, howl, the kind that makes you pay attention. He seemed agitated and continued to bark and howl over and over.

We waited for a response from another wolf, but there was none. We guessed that he was trying to draw us away from the den or warn his mate of our presence. We decided not to go back to the den, but to leave the wolves as they were before we showed up, so we dumped the fish guts where we stood and started walking straight toward the wolf. He watched us coming towards him for a moment then disappeared over the edge of the esker.

We stopped on the same sand patch where the wolf had stood and had our lunch. Afterwards, we were making our way home and as we emerged from the trees, the wolf appeared on the edge of the runway. Again, we stopped to watch each other, before both parties crossed the runway and continued on our paths back to the Lodge. There is nothing quite like the feeling of knowing a wolf is escorting you back to your home and away from his.

Riley and I agreed that we wouldn’t return to the wolves’ esker after that, but still each day we saw the wolf. Nearly every time we crossed the runway we were guaranteed to see him there, a few hundred yards off, watching and waiting to see which way we would go. No matter where we went, we had a feeling that he was nearby, adding an element of mystery to all our hikes.

One day, we crossed the runway with the wolf and stopped on the east edge to watch him. He stopped as well and sat down, facing us. Suddenly, he threw back his head and howled, barked, then howled again. We watched and listened in awe for a few minutes, before deciding to try our own barks and howls. We were pathetic at first – we sounded more like scrapping cats than wolves – but as we got the hang of the low, deep, drawn out howls, our wolf started to respond to us.

We stayed there about 10 minutes, just us and the wolf, howling back and forth at each other.

Karli and Riley Friesen at North Knife Lake Lodge

Karli and Riley. Honeymoon in paradise)

Surely he understood everything he was trying to communicate and probably wondered what foreign dialect these strange creatures were speaking.

When our voices started getting weak, we made our way back to the Lodge, with our escort slipping in and out of the trees, unseen and unheard, but definitely felt.

Now the Lodge sits empty again, and I imagine a den of puppies somewhere grows bigger and stronger every day, practicing barks and howls, uninterrupted by worries or cares and enjoying the magical wilderness at North Knife Lake.

A special place we were lucky enough to be a part of for one fabulous honeymoon.

Churchill Wild celebrates 20th Anniversary! Thank You!

by Mike Reimer, Churchill Wild

Seal River Heritage Lodge 2013

Celebrating 20 years! Seal River Heritage Lodge 2013.

20 years? Say it isn’t so. Wow!

Seems like just yesterday we were flying north up the coast from Churchill to have a look at a couple of old tumbled down shacks near the mouth of the Seal River, with hopes of finding a spot for a polar bear lodge.

Dennis Fast shook his head in disbelief when he first spotted the site.

“You better buy it quick before Jeanne sees it!”

Seal River Lodge in 1993

What we saw from the plane in 1993!

Well, we made the plunge, and as they say, the rest is history.

The first few seasons were “interesting” to say the least, and thank goodness we had Jeanne’s parents Doug and Helen Webber backing the program with their years of experience in the fishing and hunting lodge business.

Our first summer (1993) was spent cleaning up the site and making the existing building habitable. It had been used previously as a whale research station and for some goose hunting, but had sat abandoned for many years. All the windows and doors had been knocked out by marauding polar bears; the swallows were nesting in the light fixtures; and the Arctic foxes had found it a convenient spot to get out of the wind for a bathroom break.

With much elbow grease, lots of paint, new beds, plumbing, electrical, roofing and some new doors and windows, we eventually had a place to call home. Of course, just to remind us of whose turf we were on, a curious polar bear smashed out one of the new windows in the first week before we had a chance to get some bars up.

That first season was not a real money maker to say the least, with only one client, but the adventure level was very high. We had an endless supply of new routes and trails to explore and establish!

Like most small businesses, Jeanne and I ran the whole show for a few seasons while we got our feet under us. Jeanne was chef/housekeeper/bear guard/hostess/expeditor/berry picker (with our kids as helpers) while I did all the other stuff, none of which I can seem to remember right now!

I do remember that our first bedroom, which eventually became the laundry room, was five feet wide by 14 feet long with Jeanne and I at one end and our girls — Rebecca, Karli and Allison — stacked three deep like cordwood at the other end. When Adam came along he slept on a shelf above our bed! All very cozy, the kids loved it and thought it was all one big adventure, though Jeanne had some other ideas at times.

Dining Room at Seal River Heritage Lodge

Dining Room at Seal River Heritage Lodge today. We've come a long way!

We discovered, much to our delight, that Seal River had an incredible array of flora and fauna. It was going to be a spectacular choice for an ecolodge! The mechanics of building and operating the lodge came naturally (mostly!) as we had both gained a wealth of very valuable experience working together with Doug and Helen at their lodges. They were pillars of much needed support in those early years.

Operating any sort of lodges or remote camps in the Arctic has its share of challenges, as the source of all supplies is usually hundreds of miles away. And they are being purchased from people who really do not have a clue as to how difficult it is to get anything to us.

Everything must be ordered weeks and sometimes months in advance, to be shipped by train from Winnipeg to Churchill where it can be flown to the lodge, or, in the case of building materials, dragged over the sea ice during the winter with our old 1956 D6 Cat. If anything breaks down you can measure in days and weeks the amount of time it takes to get a replacement part, and sometimes the season ends before the new parts arrive!

Our environment entirely dictates our activities, and on this type of jobsite you might find yourself stuck offshore on an ice flow; broke down in a howling blizzard on Hudson Bay; or sitting in the floatplane on a lonely stretch of river waiting for the fog to lift so you can get much needed groceries to the lodge.

Inside Seal River Heritage Lodge

Interior of Seal River Heritage Lodge today. It wasn't always this nice!

Occasionally you might find yourself whacking an overly curious polar bear on the nose for sticking his head through the shop door, or crawling under the lodge at 3 a.m. to thaw out frozen pipes. There’s a whole host of weird and challenging things at all kinds of crazy hours, in all sorts of weather. Never a dull moment in this business!

There have been many, many adventures and challenges over the years. Maybe someday we’ll find the time to write them all down in a book. At present we continue to add new destinations and safaris. Along with Seal River Heritage Lodge and the Birds, Bears & Belugas summer polar bear experience, we also operate Dymond Lake EcoLodge, home of the Great Ice Bear Adventure, and Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, home of Mothers & Cubs, as well as North Knife Lake Fishing Lodge, the Arctic Safari, Polar Bear Photo Safari and Black & White Adventure. Our growth has resulted in the need for more staff. Luckily, we have been blessed with the best. Those little kids we used to stack up on the shelves are now our chefs, managers and admin staff!

Jeanne & Mike

Jeanne & Mike Reimer

Of course, we couldn’t have done any of this without you, our guests. A big polar bear hug goes out to all of you, for spending your hard earned dollars and time with us. We have thoroughly enjoyed your company and made many lifelong friends.

Thank you for making it all possible.

Mike Reimer, Churchill Wild

Big fish, delicious meals, zero stress, at North Knife Lake Lodge, say Piette and Bourque

Germain Bourque (right) with Lake Trout at North Knife Lake Lodge

Germain Bourque (right) with trophy Lake Trout at North Knife Lake Lodge

You know you’ve had a good fishing trip when you come home a few pounds heavier as a result of all the delicious meals you’ve had!

“We had such delicious meals and shore lunches,” said North Knife Lake Lodge guest Martin Piette after his trip. “I must have gained five pounds that week!”

Such is often the case when returning from a fishing trip at our North Knife Lake Lodge. Guests rave about the variety and tastiness of the meals our chefs prepare. Of course, the meals are just one of the great features in our all-inclusive packages. The fishing is second to none at North Knife. We had a whopping 65 Master Angler Lake Trout and Northern Pike come out of our lake this summer.

Martin and Germain Bourque (pictured) had a fabulous time. “We had an amazing trip at Webber’s Lodges,” said Martin. “We felt more than welcome. The people were absolutely charming.”

Martin went on to say that stress was nowhere to be found during his time at the Lodge, which is definitely how it should be when you’re on vacation!

Big fish, delicious meals, zero stress—that’s the North Knife Lake Lodge fishing experience in a nutshell.

Martin Piette (left) with trophy LakeTrout at North Knife Lake Lodge

Martin Piette (left) with trophy Lake Trout at North Knife Lake Lodge