by Nolan Booth, Director of Lodge Operations
Every year we put together a dream team of die-hard northerners and head up the coast of Hudson Bay to cut wood for our polar bear lodges. It’s always an adventure and there is always some challenge to overcome amidst coastal rivers bursting at the seams and skies full of millions of migrating snow geese.
We decided to head up later this year as the winter was long and full of epic snow storms. The snow was extremely deep and cutting wood would have been next to impossible, never mind trying to haul it out of the bush and up and down the coast. That would not have been an option.
Mid May seemed like a good time, so myself and a crew of four headed to Dymond Lake for a week long camping trip of 14-hour days and long rides on the snow machines. We had amazing weather for the first few days, the trails inland to the trees were established and we managed to cut enough wood to fill our five sleighs. And then…
Challenge: We very quickly realized that with all the spring melt, we now had five very heavy sleighs that could not be dragged out of the bush in sticky wet heavy snow.
Solution: We switched to boggans, smaller sleighs with full bottoms. They only hauled half as much and we only had two of them, so we started a shuttle service of two loads per trip and three guys cutting and limbing trees. The bonus was that by the end of Day 2 we had manage to haul well over 20 loads back to Dymond Lake Ecolodge. There was now plenty of wood for the guests in October and November for the Great Ice Bear Adventure!
On Day 3 we switched things up and headed out on our 30 km trek to the North River between Dymond Lake and Seal River. The North River is a great place to cut wood, and it lies half way between Seal River Heritage Lodge and Dymond Lake Ecolodge, which made it the perfect home base for five days. Well, sort of perfect…
The first trip north did not pan out. Within an hour we had all five snow machines stuck in about three feet of water at the North River. The overflow was crazy. We used every rope, strap and piece of string we could find to drag all the machines out to a dry island and prepared to head back to the warm fire at Dymond Lake.
After a change of clothes and a snow machine check we were back on the trail. By day’s end we had set up a location to start cutting. Kevin Brightnose and I had already made one trip to Seal River Heritage Lodge and back so we knew we had an established snow route to the north.
Days 4-7 were a resounding success. We managed to cut plenty of wood and hauled load after load to build the stack at our northernmost location on the Hudson Bay coast, Seal River Heritage Lodge. We had enough wood for the season, which would begin with Birds, Bears & Belugas in July and end with the Polar Bear Photo Safari in November.
We had one especially beautiful spring day, with sunshine, clear blue sky and a bright white backdrop for thousands of cackling snow geese returning from the south. And when we re-arrived at Seal River the sic sics were starting to wake up, the Arctic hares were out in their white suits and thousands of snow buntings had arrived for their summer odyssey.
When we left to head south, the sun was setting over the snow. We knew it wouldn’t be here upon our return to open the lodges in July, but we’d enjoyed our small slice of Arctic spring. The ice was melting as the creatures of the coast emerged from their winter slumbers, and more summer visitors flew in from the south. The beluga whales would soon be back.
And the Kings of the Arctic were getting closer.