Field Journal: Churchill – Twin Lakes to Bird Cove

Churchill, Manitoba is a flat landscape, most of the topography long ago scraped away by glaciers. However, we were on our way to see Churchill’s highest point as part of my learning vacation with the  Churchill Northern Studies Centre. We took a long drive on a bumpy road which slowly became more of a track with branches steadily encroaching enough to eventually knock the antenna off of the top of our van. We disturbed the wildlife and unseen by myself, snowshoe hares scattered in front of the van. We arrived at the top of the hill, a mound in the middle of a flat expanse of land. Surrounding the hill was a marshy area of permafrost, historically part of Hudson Bay. From our slight vantage point, I could just make out the current shoreline of the bay on the distant horizon. The hilltop was different from…

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Field Journal: Churchill – Cape Merry

Sitting on the opposite side of the mouth of the Churchill River from the Prince of Wales Fort is Cape Merry. Our Churchill Northern Studies Centre group stopped here twice and we were able to get out and explore the rocky landscape, while staying close together in case of polar bears. The short boardwalk leads up to a stone battery which overlooks Prince of Wales Fort and the water between the two landmarks were full of beluga whales. Standing at the stone wall and looking through the lower levels in the wall, I could see regular white mounds continually breaching out of the water. As I noticed earlier, at a quick glance they could be mistaken for whitecaps on the rough river, but a longer look easily revealed them to be the small, white whales. They were often accompanied, side-by-side, with smaller whales of varying shades…

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Field Journal: Churchill – Sloop Cove & Prince of Wales Fort

To get to Sloop Cove in Churchill, Manitoba, you have to cross the Churchill River on a zodiac. Our Churchill Northern Studies Centre group all squeezed into the boat and skimmed across the surface of the river for the short ride to the beach landing near the cove. We were met by our Parks Canada guide and bear spotter who would lead our tour from Sloop Cove to the Prince of Wales Fort two miles up to the mouth of the Churchill River. The weather was decent enough and we walked up to the top of a rocky hill where we were shown names etched into the stone. This wasn’t modern graffiti though, the names were carved in the 1700’s by employees of the Hudson’s Bay Company and now kept clear of lichen by Parks Canada. Among the names are…

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Field Journal: Churchill – Rocket Range and Ramsay Trail

In the middle of August I took a solo adventure trip to Churchill, Manitoba. It was my first time away from my five year old daughter and I was quite excited to return north after being in the Finnish Lapland earlier in the summer. I had discovered the Churchill Northern Studies Centre earlier in the year, and found they offered learning vacations. In addition to being a full research station, they held several themed learning vacations throughout the year. Choosing was extremely difficult as they all sounded fascinating, but I ended up opting for the Wild Planet vacation because if offered a little bit of everything with plenty of walking involved. 

To say Churchill is remote is an understatement. It’s in the subarctic and the only way to arrive is by train or air and after a monster flood which wiped out some of the railroad track,…

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Field Journal: Pyhä-Luosto National Park – Part 3

On our third and final day at Pyhä-Luosto National Park we once again found ourselves heading towards Isokuru and again I heard the cuckoo. Just like the previous days it tricked me again and I never did get to see it. We descended the same set of stairs we were becoming quite familiar with and turned left walking over the lichen covered boulders again. We followed the path toward Noitatunturi Fell, the highest peak of the Pyhä-Luosto fell chain at 540 meters. While I would have loved to see the view from the top of the fell our group opted for a less strenuous destination before the climb, a lake named Oravalampi. 

The path quickly became rocky with many foot-tripping roots and although it was level the walk was challenging. The landscape was similar to the early parts of our previous walks, pine forest with a…

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Field Journal: Pyhä-Luosto National Park – Part 2

Our second day at Pyhä-Luosto National Park in the Finnish Lapland began with me pointing out that we had not yet seen the bird on the park’s logo, a Siberian jay despite descriptions of the park saying they were very common and regularly investigated visitors. No sooner had we entered the park that morning, than the eldest kid in our group pointed out a bird, which was none other than a Siberian jay. They are curious birds, like other corvids, and this one came closer and closer, tree by tree, until it was literally sitting above us. A second joined in surveying of the human visitors and we had the luxury to admire the subtle red wing feathers as they blazed in flight backlit by the sun. They perched so close I could see a patch of beige feathers curling up and over the base of their…

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