Natural Habitat guide Karen Walker finished off the northern lights season with a fun group of travelers that flew in and out of Churchill. “We arrived and had snow the first evening, but the sky cleared around midnight, so I woke up the guests and we drove down to the inukshuk behind the town complex for a nice view of the aurora.” reported Karen. High winds hampered the outside time a bit and soon the clouds appeared driving the group back to the hotel and warm beds. Great start to the adventure!
Karen’s last aurora group poses for a photo at the airport in Churchill.
The following day was a full one starting with Dene elder Caroline Bjorklund giving a cultural presentation on the native traditions of the Dene people. An exhilarating dog mushing trip on a beautiful, clear day got everyone’s blood flowing while gliding through the boreal forest…only the sound of paws breaking the crust of the snowy trail singing through the thin, black spruce forest.
A cozy dogsled trip through the boreal forest. Photo Brad Josephs.
That evening viewing the northern lights was incredible. Two hours of arches and swirls of greenish, diffused light in the sky above the Hudson Bay left lasting bonds between travelers and a everlasting memory of their journey north. A nice display indeed.
Aurora borealis over the boreal forest in Churchill,MB. Brad Josephs photo.
A visit with Myrtle and a presentation on Metis people and native culture the next morning followed by a drive out to the Churchill Northern Studies Center launched another active day in Churchill. A demonstration on snow testing gave the group some insight into what scientific research happens at this amazing, revamped facility. The sky was overcast all day, but cleared later in the evening in time for the traveler’s arrival at the aurora domes outside of town. The aurora appeared just as the group got settled in. “The lights grew brighter, then suddenly gave us quite a show — fast dancing curtains, tinged in pink, swirls, and a corona right overhead. It was a short but awesome display.” Karen reported. Everyone was thrilled with another stellar viewing night.
Since the Anglican church was under construction, Bill Calnan had the group out to Goose Creek to give his Hudson Bay historical talk and give people a feel for living in the snowy, cold conditions in Churchill. A fine way to round out an amazing trip to the sub-Arctic!
Another year of incredible immersion in Arctic culture and fine aurora viewing…every season is different and surprising. Another group of travelers will get to experience the same, hopefully, next year. For now, the next phase of natural adventure in Churchill will come in the form of beluga whales finding their way to the Churchill estuary in the Spring-time. Natural Habitat Adventures provides summer trips that are well rounded and all encompassing. Birding, botany and ample wildlife sightings fill long days of exploring. Can’t wait.
The Natural Habitat northern lights trips concluded last week in Churchill but the lights shine on amidst icy temperatures..some of the coldest in years for this time of year. Guide Brad Josephs lead photography tours around the area in search of amazing shots….he found them along with a touch of frostbite in the extreme temperatures. Luckily the warmer southern air of Colorado cured him and no body parts were lost. He’s safely back in Alaska ready for next year in the chilly Arctic. Seasoned aurora guide Karen Walker also wrapped up an incredible , and yes, cold season with memories to last a lifetime. I’m sure their groups of travelers have memories and photo’s they also will have for life as well.
Aurora shining in the Arctic sky above the boreal forest. Brad Josephs photo.
Interest in the northern lights & Arctic cultures trips has been growing yearly and increasing this past season to seven traditional and new photography trips. Despite the often uncommonly cold temperatures, travelers brave them to embrace the storied intrigue of the north. Many have ventured to Churchill previously for an up-close encounter with polar bears in the fall or a drifting in the Churchill River with Beluga whales in the summertime.
Well built inukshuk and igloo in Churchill. Karen Walker photo.
This year was amazing to say the least. Heightened solar activity has translated into more frequent scintillating auroral displays. All seven natural Habitat groups experienced the “northern lights” this year with many groups having multiple viewing experiences. Last year weather hampered the experiences of a few groups but this year has been incredible.
Photography of the northern lights has become a passion in the north. Brad Josephs photo.
Swirling aurora over the Hudson Bay in Churchill. Brad Josephs photo.
There are few comparisons to gazing up at the sky and witnessing the aurora in all its’ splendor. Each experience can have profound affects on one’s psyche…and create memories to last forever.
All the racers are in from Gillam and what a brutally cold race it was. With weather reported in the -30’s with a wind chill of -45 or higher, the Hudson Bay Quest was a tough one this year. Only four mushers scratched with 10 completing the course. One registered dropped prior to the race.
A dog patiently waits to run. Cheryl Sommerfeld photo.
The unofficial results are as follows: 1. #1 Peter McClelland 1:19:47 2. #14 Shawn McCarty 03:29:21 3. #15 Troy Groeneveld 03:29:21 4. #2 David Daley 06:11:30 5. #11 Matt Groth 06:35:44 6. #8 Jesse Terry 09:36:xx 7. #9 Hank DeBruin 09:40:xx 8. #13 Ed Obrecht 14:02:08 9. #12 Jim Oehschlaeger 14:57:25 10. #4 Charlie Lundie 18:17:21 #10 Dan Dimuzio finished but time not yet available. Scratched:
#3 Julie Robitaille #5 Stefaan DeMarie #6 Alvin Hardman #7 Ryan Anderson
Congrats to Peter McClelland for winning the race with a standout time. Dave Daley from Churchill and race organizer took local top honors with a fourth -place finish. The racers fought through incredible cold temps which ironically are the trademark of this sub-arctic classic challenge.
Here’s a little cool story about the winner relayed by the HBQ Facebook page updated by Dave Daley:
Peter McClelland was telling a group of us how he got such a lead on Troy. Turns out they were egging each other on, and at a rest in Lamprey they found a couple of comfy chairs, put their feet up for a few minutes and threatened each other to give chase if the other took off.
The chairs must have been really soft and nice, because Troy closed his eyes for just a moment and rested his weary head, while Peter pretended to rest his weary bearded head. Next thing Peter realizes, Troy lets out a soft snore!
Peter, being the gentle soul that he is makes a decision that Troy needs his rest, so he signals a finger to his lips and whispers “shhhh” to the Rangers, and tip toes outside so he doesn’t disturb his dear fellow competitor.Once outside, he finds his dogs, hooks up, and goes to Churchill to let everyone know that Troy will be coming along soon.
Dogs awaiting the next leg. Cheryl Sommerfeld photo.
It’s all about the dogs. Cheryl Sommerfeld photo. Congratulations to all the mushers and their dogs for a well run race. I’ll post the official results when they become available.
Voyaging by train to Churchill from Winnipeg can be an enduring pilgrimage. A minimum of 36 hours before one arrives in the historic wooden depot in Churchill...and that’s being optimistic. So, disembarking in the middle of the middle of the trip can really lift the spirits of travelers.
Natural Habitat aurora trip guide Karen Walker and a recent group heading to Churchill to view aurora and get a feel for northern living and climate found a gem in the heart of the Manitoba back country…just off the tracks. Arriving on Louis Riel day in Thompson, the group took a coach to the magnificent site of Pisew Falls and made the short trek down into the forest for a close look from observation platforms. The frigid cold of the Winter veils the falls and rushing river in an icy covering. Quite a magnificent sight!
Pisew Falls covered with ice. Photo Karen Walker
On a beautiful, blue-sky day, the group spent time exploring Pisew Falls Provincial Park, the encompassing forested area around the falls. The travelers trekked along the trail in the winter wonderland, snow-covered boreal forest to the impressive Rotary suspension bridge spanning the Grass River. After sliding down the snow covered stairway, some folks continued across the bridge to the top of the waterfall. ” It was so calm above the falls, then the water gushes over the edge. The frozen stalactites were beautiful.” ; reported Karen. A memorable stop in time …at least it feels like time is stopped in these conditions.
Suspension bridge spanning the Grass River in Manitoba, Canada. Karen Walker photo.
This area has always been one of my favorite places on my many, many train treks to Churchill for Summer expeditions...I love the secluded feel of the spot buried down in the forest. Birding here and at Sasikew rapids not far down the road was always a welcome break from the confines of the train. The transient beauty would get travelers in the mood for even more wildness in Churchill. The Winter feel only adds to the mystique of this very special hideaway in the deep woods of Manitoba.
Pisew Falls spits out frost spray. Karen Walker photo.
With phenomenal aurora borealis shining down from the heavens, Natural Habitat travelers on Brad Joseph’s photography journey into the Arctic landscape of Churchill, Manitoba are enjoying ample chances for some magnificent photo’s. Winter life at 58.47 degrees north is reduced to a simplicity most people on the planet do not have an opportunity to enjoy. Outdoor activities stimulate the imagination while aurora stimulates fascination for the north. Check out these cool pics from this past trip!
Photographers under the aurora borealis. Photo Brad Josephs.
Igloo building is zen in Churchill,MB. Brad Josephs photo.
An igloo fit for Nanook of the north. Brad Josephs photo.
Churchill dogs running for the love of it. Photo Brad Josephs.
Aurora borealis shines above the tundra. Brad Josephs photo.
Incredible shot of musher hut with aurora above. Brad Josephs photo.