True north

Canadian Geographic - - NOTEBOOK - Aaron Kylie

WWHOEVER NAMED Churchill, Man., the “Po­lar Bear Cap­i­tal of the World,” got it wrong. Yes, each fall through early Novem­ber it’s the best place on the planet to re­li­ably see the iconic Arc­tic preda­tors as they gather on the shore wait­ing for Hudson Bay to freeze so they can hunt ( above). But the town at the 58th par­al­lel of­fers so much more. It should have been called the “North­ern Cap­i­tal of the World.” Be­yond the bears, there’s a mul­ti­tude of other amaz­ing wildlife, in­clud­ing red and Arc­tic foxes, Arc­tic hares, ptarmi­gan and gyr­fal­cons, not to men­tion bel­uga whales, which gather in the thou­sands in the Churchill River es­tu­ary each June, where lo­cal out­fit­ters of­fer op­por­tu­ni­ties to kayak and swim with them. Then there are the north­ern lights, which were partly the rea­son for my first visit last March. The other draw was a oneof-a-kind, cold-weather fine-dining ex­pe­ri­ence you can read more about on page 11. (If I’m go­ing to sug­gest they call it the “North­ern Cap­i­tal of the World,” vis­it­ing in win­ter must be worth­while too, no?) The aurora bo­re­alis is typ­i­cally most ac­tive from Jan­uary through March, and be­cause of the town’s lo­ca­tion, it’s con­sid­ered one of the best places on Earth to ob­serve the show. An­other high­light of my March trip: dog sled­ding with David Da­ley of Wa­pusk Ad­ven­tures. A leg­endary Man­i­to­ban musher, Da­ley’s guests get a glimpse into his Métis her­itage along with a crash course on the lo­gis­tics and lingo of dog sled­ding — I now know “lead dogs” from “point dogs” from “wheel dogs”! Af­ter that, guests hit a short trail in a cus­tomde­signed three-per­son sled that al­lows one rider to stand to get a feel­ing of what it’s like to drive the team. More north­ern tra­di­tions are on dis­play at the ex­cel­lent Eskimo Mu­seum. Housed in a school-gym­na­sium-sized space, it’s jammed with a fas­ci­nat­ing col­lec­tion of Inuit ar­ti­facts, from thou­sands of years ago to mod­ern times. A big part of its ap­peal may be how sur­pris­ing it is to find such a phe­nom­e­nal col­lec­tion in a far-flung com­mu­nity. Of course, Churchill keeps de­liv­er­ing such north­ern gems. So, be it there, or some other Cana­dian com­mu­nity, get out and em­brace Canada’s win­ter travel op­por­tu­ni­ties this com­ing sea­son. Whether it’s Churchill or not, Canada is def­i­nitely home to the North­ern Cap­i­tal of the World. Go find it, and en­joy it.

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