I’m sitting in a teepee. Smoke fills the tent, as does the sound of twist-off caps being pulled off beer bottles. Howling from 27 dogs is our background music. And then a major representative of WWF tells me, “This may not be a popular opinion, but I kind of think they should just let the Panda die. It’s rather a useless animal.”
The evening started out at the Churchill town complex. Everything – everything – is in this building; the school, the hospital, the movie theatre, the skating rink, the library, the reception hall, the playground. It’s all in one sprawling shelter.
There, we were treated to another mind-boggling dinner for a small town. BBQ ribs. Seafood that I can’t name since I hate seafood, but everyone assures me it’s delicious. Bison. Elk. Cheeses. Berries. Fruit. Bread. Impeccable.
The speeches begin. I corner the Mayor of Churchill, Mike Spence, for my story package. Everyone is mingling before they’re shuffled off to the theatre, where we watch, stunned and buggy-eyed, at the Canadian sneak peak of To The Arctic, the latest IMAX film that will be released next year. I thought I had taken some good pictures today? HA!
Then Hayley, our tour guide/slave driver from Frontiers North, says we’re going to meet Dave Dayley, the man behind the Hudson Bay Quest, and the area’s best musher, or sled dog racer.
There’s a mental groan from everyone. It’s about 9 p.m., but we’re all exhausted. The fresh air and the whirlwind that was today has tired us all. But Hayley insists, cheerfully guilting us into it since Dave has started the fire and is waiting.
The next thing we know, we’re sitting in a warm cabin while Dave tells us a few stories about his dog sledding adventures, including taking his team from Hudson Bay to Winnipeg. That’s 1,200 km pulled by 27 “athletes” as he calls them, each of whom consumes 10,000 calories a day. That’s a lot of dog poop.
We move to the teepee, where we all get our second wind and I watch the group down wine and Fort Garry Pale Ale.
But while the weather gods have blessed us with warmer weather (it’s only about -5 C outside), they have not blessed us with clear skies. During my entire trip, the Northern Lights remain elusive.
– Managing Editor Elisha Dacey was sorely tempted to buy a hand-carved soapstone polar bear while in Churchill, but then realized she’d need to ask her boss for a major raise. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on twitter @elishadacey.