Seal River Lodge Day Six: Last day

Sad to say, it is our last morning at the lodge.

Early morning on out last day, and the sky delivers another stunning sunrise
Early morning on out last day, and the sky delivers another stunning sunrise

This morning’s bear is headed away from us.

IMG_1952

IMG_1954

Time to pack, vacate our rooms so the Lodge team can ready them for the next group,  and to wait for the plane.

My bed - with Churchill Wild Bears
My bed – with Churchill Wild Bear
Our room - Copter case in the middle
Our room – Copter case in the middle, camera gear everywhere
Bathroom - small but functional (bigger than the one in our cabin on the Endeavour)
Bathroom – small but functional (bigger than the one in our cabin on the Endeavour)
Charlie's bed
Charlie’s bed (note the ever present video camera)
View of the entry door and storage (note the house rules on bear safety)
View of the entry door and storage (note the house rules on bear safety)

Except the plane doesn’t come. Instead of a plane we are to get a helicopter ride back to Churchill – an exciting end to a magical week. To this point I had flown in  a lot of light aircraft,  my father had a private pilots licence and I’ve worked in remote areas in Australia, but no helicopters. Looking back at other people’s blogs, this has happened before and been met with the same sense of excitement. The luggage is to go by float plane.

Breakfast is special this morning – its dessert for breakfast, in the form of brioche warm from the oven. I’m so sad my tummy just wouldn’t take any more!

Before the helicopter rides begin, we go for our obligatory a stroll. No bush bashing and scrambling today – a dry walk in deference to us being dressed for travel.

This jewel like lichen forms where it has a good source of nitrogen (i.e. bird droppings).
This jewel like lichen forms where it has a good source of nitrogen (i.e. bird droppings).
Almost the first thing that struck me when we landed at Seal River were these lichen covered rocks.
Almost the first thing that struck me when we landed at Seal River were these lichen covered rocks.

IMG_1962

Ptarmigan
Ptarmigan by the airstrip
Ptarmigan - so fast!
Ptarmigan – so fast!

Its a windy day - Charlie had me take this to show why no Copter flight on our last day

Its a windy day – Charlie had me take this picture of the windsock to show why no Copter flight on our last day

Tides out at Seal River Lodge
Tides out at Seal River Lodge
IMG_1989
For once, not so camouflaged.

 

Returning from our last hike
Returning from our last hike

Now comes the wait for the helicopter.

The day is really warm, even with a strong breeze. In an attempt to find cool spots there is a fair bit of wandering around the Lodge.  I spend some of my waiting out on the front viewing platform, contemplating the landscape and some of its inhabitants one last time.

While I sit on the forward platform I'm joined by a Sic-sic
While I sit on the forward platform I’m joined by a Sic-sic

While I knew it got warm in the sub-arctic, experiencing it is another matter – the water, even at ten degrees celsius and with the potential for bears, looks really inviting. I don’t have the fortitude to follow through on mien hosts suggest “you fill your boots girl” on the swim thing – it would have been a sub-attic plunge.

Space limits the numbers that can travel in the helicopter, which means multiple trips and we are in the next to last group to fly out. This means we are “forced” to eat another delicious lunch at Seal River.

IMG_1994
Greeting the new guests

IMG_1996

 

Big smile of anticipation
Leaving, but with big smiles of anticipation for the flight ahead

 

As the helicopter takes off I race up the tower to document its departure.

IMG_2014

On my way up the tower I pass one of the new guests. He has a big cannon camera (1D) with a F series 100 to 400 lens and is eager not to waste a moment. I point out to him the Chinese guests out for a hike away in the distance and just in front of them Mamma bear and her two cubs in the water. It takes him a moment to locate the bears as he wasn’t expecting them to be in the water. I leave him enthusiastically snapping away.

IMG_2024
Helicopter taking off towards Seal River and Churchill across the intertidal zone

IMG_2039

IMG_2041

IMG_2046

IMG_2056

IMG_2058

IMG_2063

While we wait, the tide rises – there is about an hour between the photos below.

IMG_2048 IMG_2068

Tools of the guide trade - briefings for the new group begin ahead of their first hike
Tools of the guide trade – briefings for the new group begin ahead of their first hike

 

 

 

IMG_2069
Dining room

Finally and somewhat sadly, it is our turn to fly.

IMG_2078
Over the pilots shoulder
Aerial shot of the intertidal
Aerial shot of the intertidal as we take off

 

On the way to Churchill we fly over terrain that we had driven over in the six wheelers. Our tracks and those of other groups visible from the air and likely to be there until the snow comes.

IMG_2079

IMG_2081
Seal river?

The bay is still full of Beluga whales, some of the clusters are quite large. Charlie gets some good shots with his Sony Camera (I’m on the wrong side of the Helicopter).

Beluga whales in the bay
Beluga whales in the bay

DSC00618

As we cross the pilot spots a bear in the water.  The bear has a Beluga whale by the tail.

One of these white dots is not like the others
One of these white dots is not like the others

DSC00628

If you look very closely the bear has a tail clasped in his arms
If you look very closely at this photo taken by Charle the bear has a tail clasped in his arms

Unfortunately, the helicopter seems to have spooked the bear and by the time the helicopter turns to my side the bear no longer has its prize. While it may be good for the Beluga to have got away, I feel sorry for the bear and that the helicopter disturbed him – all that effort and no lunch.

IMG_2086

IMG_2088
Bear duck diving – looking for his lost catch?

We fly on, following the coast and then crossing over Hudson Bay toward Churchill.

Crossing the coast on Hudson Bay
Crossing the coast on Hudson Bay (Sony pic)
DSC00609
Sony picture
On approach to Churchill
On approach to Churchill
On approach to Churchill
On approach to Churchill
Churchill
Churchill

DSC00644

At Churchill the enthusiastic and helpful Stacey meets us, she takes us on a quick run around town, then out to the airport to check that we will be able to get the Copter case on the flight (given the issues we had on the way up). Turns out not to be a problem as the flight isn’t totally full and no freight to be accommodated. Stacey drops us in town to look around and have a bite to eat before our 8pm flight (this is essential, as no food on the flight).

Churchill wild storage
Churchill wild storage

We’ve seen surprisingly few “northern” breed dogs on our trip so far, and it was a treat to meet this cute pup outside the Trading post.

IMG_1926
Fortunately, Charlie howls malamute enough to get our young friends attention.

IMG_1925

Churchill is not much to look at, but friendly and  the food and beer is good.  Even this far north, fairies or ballerinas are still in vogue.

IMG_1930
Little girl, complete with ballerina/fairy skirt

Then there is the ute with its own power cord – we assume for the heater unit to keep it warm enough to start in the winter.

IMG_1931
note the power cord

IMG_1928

Through a truck window
Through a truck window

Finally, Stacey comes to pick us all up and drop us at the airport.

The flight back to Winnipeg is uneventful. Some of us are still together as we check into the airport Sheraton, and vow to meet for breakfast. Our group of thrown together guests has been an amazing good humoured and cohesive group, never short on a helping hand or someone to chat to (or a bad joke).

Our Churchill Wild adventure is over, time to start the journey home and the planning for the next adventure – maybe in the fall (Autumn) to get photos of bears in the snow? As well as bears in the snow, I still have wolves to see and those little arctic foxes.

 

One thought on “Seal River Lodge Day Six: Last day”

Leave a Reply to Jayne Shepherd Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>