The desolate beauty of the subarctic tundra sneaks up on you, as I assume, a polar bear must—with ease and a gentle face, yet backed with tremendous power and a be-all, end-all attitude. Churchill, Manitoba is the gateway to this cold, stunning environment, and its friendly inhabitants, abundance of murals and simple way of life are only an extension of the beauty one faces out on the rovers.
“Rovers?” you might ask.
Yes, Polar Rovers are the monster truck/school bus hybrids that plunder their way over the frozen tundra, ice, and water to allow eager tourists to see the incredible wildlife in this area. Among them is the polar bear, the King of the Arctic, which has become a celebrity of the region. Gift shops offer knitted polar bear hats, gloves and keychains resembling this beautiful creature. The seasons are marked by the amount of ice on the Hudson Bay, and these wild bears wander, waiting for their moment to step out onto the ice and hunt for seals. This is prime polar bear season, and its the reason why we are all here. Amidst the heavily sought-after polar bear viewings, my group was also lucky see a slew of other animals—Arctic foxes, cross foxes, Arctic hares, ptarmigans and snowy owls, oh my! Jaws drop, joyful exclamations fill the Polar Rover, and everyone is grateful for this experience.
But when I think of the desolate beauty that this area so perfectly epitomizes, it is much more than the wildlife and the unique town of Churchill that come to mind. For me, it is at the break of dawn, as we head out on the Polar Rovers with a sleepy silence in the air, staring into endless space with specks of crystallized snow and the deep browns of damp soil turned gold in the new sun that characterize this journey. It is an ordinary moment turned magical, playing this waiting game in a land where bears outnumber vehicles, hoping to see these romanticized creatures of the North but also being happy with the in-between that interweaves desolation with beauty.
This guest post was written by Nat Hab Adventure Associate Flannery Davis. All photos © Flannery Davis.