Omg! It was The Photo Trip of a Life Time, seeing the Polar Bears! A shlep to get to, but worth every nanosecond! Our adrenaline was pumping full speed, as we stepped off the "little" eight seat De Havilland plane. That my darlings included the very cute pilot ( sorry I forgot to take his picture). We were met by two terrific guides, Terry & Andy. They happened to be our body guards as well (armed with rocks, flares, pepper spray & the big cahoonas). The Tundra was still in it's full autumn glory. Patches of crimson, gold, rust, mushroom, shades of browns, ombre of grays to black, sky blue and rainbows of greens glimmered before our eyes. Playing follow the leader, we marched like little soldiers off the tarmac (gravel airstrip) into the brush to our home for the next four days.... Seal River Lodge. Suddenly there was a scramble to find your camera! A bear was spotted a far distance away. Of course, it took ME forever to find the butter colored "lump" that was a bear! Little did everyone know, those pictures were to be deleted because better ones where waiting to be snapped. Our host & hostess were the delightful & charming, Mike & Jeanne Reimer. We were taught bear etiquette. GIVE THE BEARS SPACE. Not so easy when your are looking out of a picture window and Papa Bear is checking you out. Delicious dinner? Or just some odd - balls in a glass & wooden cage!
The next morning we awoke to a new landscape! A blanket of snow had feathered it's way down to the tundra, while we were cozy, under down comforters, fast asleep.
Each day we took two hikes to view the landscape and glimpse at the bears. Sleeping, they looked angelic tucked into a cove, adorable nestled behind a bush or just darn cute curled on on a bed of rocks. The temperature was getting dropping. Meaning the mighty bears were getting frisker. The young male Titans of the Tundra (bears 5 to 7 years old), would liven the action up a bit and begin to spar with each other. This was their form of practicing defending themselves as adults. For the guest of the Churchill Wild, this was a photo opportunity! New meaning to bear hugs and half nelsons. On the way back to the warm and cozy lodge for a much anticipated delicious lunch it began to snow! We came across two male bears, who sniffed each other out ("bear talk" for hello) and began to spar: push, wrestle, roll, swat, bite & hug each other. We had the ringside view! The snapping of cameras caught their attention. Now they began walking towards us! Terry & Andy both thought that 35 feet was close enough. They each shouted out a warning for Nanuk to STOP! But this was not enough! Out came the rocks. Zing! Bulls eye, right on the shnoz! Another gold medal for our wonderful guides. Wounded with pride the big guys ran away.
"What a difference a day makes!" our third day was met with very wet snow ( freezing rain) this time. Colors of the terrain changed again. Now the frozen blueberries & lingonberries were peeking beneath ice. True photographers braved the wet & wind, coming back for lunch, happy & soaked to our skins. Coats, gloves, hats & boot liners were strewn everywhere in site to recover from the elements. Only the die hard (yes BZ, no JZ) went for the afternoon walk. We had spotted four bears from the indoor tower(upper loft). Off we went to get "a little bit closer". GOOD INTELLIGENCE ANDY & TERRY! We diverted a bear ambush! I also learned snap your pictures and run behind the biggest men (they would be far tastier than little ole me). I do not call that chicken, just very clever! Girls always want to have more fun. So Claire & I went to the "back yard", a chained linked area & multi observation stations for a few more moments of picture heaven. We were rewarded not only with "a bear on the rocks," but also a Sik Sik ( arctic squirrel). What were you thinking little guy? It's way too cold for you! That evening just before dinner we had a visitor at the kitchen "bar" window. Dinner smelled so good, one of the great ice bears came for a closer look. We all got a pre dinner "cocktail" photo shoot of Mr. Bear close up & personal.
The next day was to be our last morning! NO ONE WANTED TO LEAVE! The winds were in our favor! My wishes came true! The wind chill was -5 degrees! Our bags where packed. We were ready to go. The sky began to streak from shades of grey to the most beautiful baby blue. Never - the - less, to our luck, by early afternoon we were told we had to stay another night. (boo hoo?) We walked to the remnants of an old Cree ancestor camp ground, hundreds of years old. Just majestic! On the way back we were treated to a walk on the frozen water bed. Some areas where not as strong as others. Knowing that we were on shallow grounds, it was fun to see the ice crack. Trick? No, Treat! We got to see a frozen tundra sunset! Pinks shimmering on ice & snow. Boulders with swooshes and swirls of wind swept snow, somehow looked like we landed on a most magical Lunar landscape! The sun setting & the moon rising simultaneously . Snow looking like lace on the ice. WOW, just breathe taking! It was October 31st. We all got back inside to quickly make costumes! The range of the imagination was vast! Included in the merriment was a fireplace, assorted cats, fishermen, divers, girl in pajamas with Barney in hand, a witch and a clown. Mary, Queen of Scots even showed up! On the night of goblins & ghosts the guest of honor was not the bears, but the Aurora Borealis. Ever so faint, because of the almost full moon. It made a quick appearance! (pictures were far superior to the naked eye)
So we were like a pig in her pen, satiated, and readied ourselves to leave. Maybe, well...., maybe just one more parting shot. The plane, new guests arriving and a bear in view. SNAP, SNAP, SNAP....... the end of a fantastic experience and the beginning of fond memories!