November 10, 2010
“Was that beeping noise meant to let us know it’s time to get ready?” Mickey, one of my Churchill roommates inquired at 7:08am.
“That beeping noise was my alarm, which means it’s the last possible time we can wake up to get ready,” I responded.
“Oh good. So all I need to focus on right now is getting dressed!” Mickey said, relieved.
Mickey is one of my favorite people on this trip. She’s a kind, funny 77-year old woman, who lives in Montana, loves to go dancing, and plays along with our silly games. She’s known about this trip for a long time and felt this was the year she had to do it, “because I’m not getting any younger and neither is Chuck,” she explained the day we first met.
We got dressed quickly and made our way to the kitchen (kitchen by day; “bar” by night) for breakfast and coffee. There’s a strategy to the morning coffee consumption in Churchill: you want to drink enough coffee to wake you up and keep you going for several hours, but not so much that you need to go to the restroom every 20 minutes after we head out to look for bears. It’s a delicate balance and after 3 years, I still don’t quite have it mastered.
After ample nourishment and caffeine, we bundled up and headed out for some bear viewing. It was very overcast today, with weather reports threatening rain. “The problem with rain, “Chuck explained, ”is that then it gets cold and the ground could freeze. A layer of ice forms above the ground and foxes and other Arctic animals can’t get to their food source – voles, lemmings, and other little critters.”
Thankfully, we didn’t have rain today and we were lucky enough to see a red fox and a black-phase red fox. Fox are fun to observe because they appear playful, curious, and somewhat mischievous. The black-phase red fox approached us rapidly. Then, he eliminated in front of us, causing everyone to change their coos from “Awww, how cute! He’s coming over to see us!” to “Oh wow – he’s taking a. . .”
We also saw several beautiful bears today. You may have noticed in yesterday’s blog, there were a couple instances when I said I’d “fill you in later.” I’m going to do this again today and here’s why: I’ve been blogging about my adventures in Churchill for 3 years now and it has come to my attention that a hunting blog is republishing information about where the bears are, on what dates, and using these details to inform their polar bear hunting plans. So, I will give you as much information as I can now, without giving away so many details that I somehow help people whose intention is to kill the bears.
Two things I can tell you now:
- We’re seeing a lot fewer bears than we saw last year and
- We’re quite late in the season and there’s hardly any snow on the ground.
As we got back on the bus to head “home” for dinner, Mickey pulled me aside. “The people in the back of the bus always seem to be having a lot more fun than the rest of us,” she said. “You guys are always laughing and having a great time.”
I wholeheartedly encouraged Mickey to join us in the back of the bus. “Well, I would love to, but I don’t want to breathe in those fumes and the carbon monoxide.” Yes, it’s true – the bus has its challenges, but as Jeremy likes to say, “I guess it makes it more adventurous having this bus. . . you never know if you’re going to make it.”
“When I go out dancing,” Mickey continued, “there’s always one table of people who are laughing harder and more than most – that’s always my table!”
“I hope I ‘grow up’ like you,” I said. The laughter and adventures should never end.
Here are some pictures I took during our adventures today (click thumbnails for larger pics):
Until tomorrow. . .