My first thought is that it can’t be morning. It is still dark outside. But then, my brain kicks in and I realize that of course it is dark, my room has no windows!
I am planning ahead this morning and head for the dining room with both my jacket and my camera. I quickly pass through the cold breezeway only to find that today’s show has already started. Three little foxes are playing outside the dining room and a bear is lolling on the shore. Sea fog shrouds everything.
The original plan was to head out at 9:30. I am going to need multiple layers as there is a strong breeze! But you know, the best laid plans sometimes need to be changed and today the bears come to us so we spend some time in the compound.
The Lodge is surrounded by high metal fencing that helps to keep the bears and other critters out and the guests in. Not that the fence could not be bridged but generally it is safe for the visitors and safe for the bears when we are on opposite sides of this ventilated wall. We have been warned to keep a little distance between ourselves and the fencing and not to put lens through the openings in the mesh if the bears are very close….and they do get very close. There are several viewing stations and a tower that is useful in spotting bears at a distance from the lodge.
A bear follows the fenceline this morning and inquisitively pushes his nose through the mesh. Bonnie, with near frozen fingers, plays Tom Kovaks’, Mr Polar Bear, on her banjo and quietly sings. The bear sits back on his haunches and seems to listen. It is too cool!
Later, we leave the compound and walk the tundra once again. We come across a fox, a Gyre Falcon, and two sleeping polar bears who upon wakening seemed to have more endurance than we do. We finally called uncle and proceed in file along the road back to the lodge. The snow had picked up during the course of the morning and the ceiling is much lower. The willows were enshrouded and the snowy rocks were becoming ghosts as the horizon slowly disappeared into a sea of light grey.
As with all meals at Seal River Lodge, it was worth the walk back……Pizza for lunch and great peanut butter cookies for dessert. Yummy!
We were walking the compound and talking about what to do before heading out to the lake again when a bear came up to the fence… way close up! I have to make a dash inside to get my wide angle lens. That kind of a dash is not easy to accomplish as the camera that is already outside has to be left in someone’s caring hands. The hat and the boots etc have to come off so you don’t melt and don’t make a mess. Then the task becomes trying to find the right stuff quickly. Meanwhile back at the fence, Mike is recording, Bonnie is singing and Bill, an ex- Parks Canada staffer is risking life and limb by laying on the ground as the bear raddles the fence. Andy, our guide, repeatedly warns that it might not be such a good idea to be that close!
Eventually, the object of our attention moves away and we head off to the lake to see if this morning’s bear is still sleeping. We leave a trail, like a group of drunken soldiers, as we cross the tundra. The snow has covered the lingonberries and the track is no longer like a blood trail. At the lake, the bear sleeps on and hardly notes our arrival. We wait. He sleeps. A little ermine flashes over a pile of rocks and is gone in a flash.
We wander and wait but eventually go back to the lodge to see the shore bear who is reposed under an ever-thickening layer of snow. I wait and wait. He rolls occasionally but not enough for a real display. I eventually retreat to the warm lodge. Later, I am told that he eventually does just what I was hoping for!!!! .. a full roll….of course!
There is time for a shower and change before supper. A few more pics through the window — a fox and a fence bear. The bear settles in and eventually looks more like a snowbank. The fox moves faster than a speeding bullet. I take the time to check my Email from the dining room — the reception is the best there.
Supper is great….again… roast caribou with yorkshire pudding and apple pie for dessert.
A rousing chorus of Mr. Polar Bear with the Bear choir,“Allouettski”, and the Whooping Crane Song pass as entertainment. i guess I have been coming on these trips too long … I know all the words!
After-dinner there is a short presentation by Tara on the aurora. Nicely done but I confess I didn’t take much of it in. Some parts did seem familiar from a lecture in Fairbanks in 1993. I clearly need to read more about this.