Hudson Bay Quest in March

The cult-like following Hudson Bay Quest will depart Gillam, Manitoba on March 15th, and terminate in Churchill,MB this year. The two towns in the far north alternate starting positions every other year. Last year 16 mushers from North America contended for the mushing title and Shawn McCarty from Ely, Minnesota won the crown.

This year’s quest currently has 15 teams registered so far for the 220 mile (330 Km) race. 2011 was the first year the race changed courses and instead of braving life – threatening conditions along the ice edge of the Hudson Bay, the Gillam/Churchill route was employed. In that year, Charlie Lundie became the first HBQ winner from the host town of Churchill. He edged out Peter McClelland also from Ely, MN by just two minutes as the two raced toward Lundie’s home crowd filled with many family members of Lundie’s. After the win the crowd lifted Lundie on is sled in jubilation as goes the tradition in dog mushing. McCarty finished third that year and eventually won last year’s crown.


2012 winner Shawn McCarty from Ely, MN

Since the race has shifted more inland on the tundra following along the border of Wapusk National Parc and the Hudson Bay Railroad, a more consistent and recurring line-up of mushers have continued to return each year perpetuating a sort of rivalry between the southern mushers from the northern United States and the Churchill and other Canadian mushers. Any good competition thrives on repeat contestants challenging for the title year after year. The Hudson Bay Quest seems to be gaining that quality now that all the weather and danger issues of the bay are in the past.

Sled dogs in Churchill,MB

Sled dogs yearn for this time of year. Brad Josephs photo.

While there’s still another month and a half before the race, the preparations are going strong. it takes enormous organization and communication to put on an event like this. Dave Daley of Wapusk Adventures in Churchill does the lions share of the work before hand and the Canadian Rangers volunteer their time during the race to insure safety of all the mushers and dogs is the priority. Even though the race is less dangerous these days, a winter storm can still make the trip dangerous…this is the high north after all.

As the race draws nearer I will keep you updated on the list of teams and any other new information regarding this year’s race. It looks to be an exciting time once again in the heart of winter in the sub-Arctic! With this also being the prime season for viewing aurora borealis in the northern sky, frequent updates from Churchill and Natural Habitat Northern lights tours will provide images and reports of activities and the lights.

Northern lights coming to a sky near Churchill

If you thought that the frontier town of Churchill, Manitoba on the shores of the Hudson Bay shut down for the winter after polar bear season in November,……you were mistaken. In fact the winter season has become increasingly active over the past decade or so. With the increasing number of people having already made the visit to Churchill to be up close and personal with the polar bears, these same folks and first-timers are returning to see amazing aurora and get a feel for the Arctic winter.

Aurora in Churchill,MB.

Captivating aurora borealis in Churchill,MB. Brad Josephs photo.

Northern lights trips offered by Natural Habitat Adventures begin next week and run through mid-March. This year two photo- trips are also traveling north with Brad Josephs as trip-leader. Brad has incredible experience in the far north and his photography skills in this environment are top-notch.

Aurora domes outside of Churchill.

Aurora domes provide cozy viewing in the heart of winter. Jeremy Pearson photo.

Aside from viewing “northern lights” over the Hudson Bay, other thrilling activities fill the days. Igloo building, dog sledding and nature photography highlight the schedule…all the while just being submerged in the feel of an Arctic village in the heart of winter.

Current temperature in Churchill is 0 F with a wind chill of -17 F….actually a warm -up from the past week. However, the right clothing and footwear makes for exhilarating experiences and ones that stick…for obvious reasons…in the mind forever. I still recall my experiences winter camping in the high peaks region of the Adirondacks back in upstate New York like they were just last week. Something about cold just locks those feelings in forever. And some amazing trips they were indeed. I think it’s the fact that you could make a mistake that absolutely could have dire consequences that really requires focus and determination of the mind. The present is all that can be considered at the time.

Sled dogs in Churchill,MB.

Sled dogs in training. Churchill,MB. Sandra Elvin photo.

Speaking of focus…our next blog will be a checkpoint of sorts on the upcoming Hudson Bay Quest dogsled race in March. This will be another scintillating race for sure…starting in Gillam and finishing in Churchill.



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