May 18, 2008 - June 28, 2008Photos and text courtesy of Capt. David O. Hill
I've always been attracted to the wildlife, and especially the birds in the higher latitudes, and made my first trip to the Arctic in 1959. Since then I've made a number of trips to northern Alaska, Iceland, Patagonia and various islands in the Bering Sea. Earlier this spring (March '08), I visited Tierra del Fuego and the Falkland Islands. All these places were reached by plane or by ship.
I became intrigued about the possibility of taking a car as far north into the great boreal forests of North America as possible. Driving offered numerous advantages, among them the nearly limitless amount of photo and other equipment that I could bring along. I chose Manitoba for several reasons: Its continental climate and temperature extremes brought arctic and sub-arctic conditions further south than anywhere else in Canada, and it had the lowest human population density of all the provinces.
My wife Charlotte decided to sit out this long automobile trip in Mexico where she has a house. My only companion on the 41-day journey was our 18 month-old female Bichon Frisé, Trinket. We departed Memphis early on May 18th, and followed the migrant birds north into Canada. We ended up exploring virtually every place where a road pushed into the wilderness, driving over 4,500 miles in Manitoba alone (7,901 for the entire trip). We encountered 175 species of birds in the province (212 for the trip), and 12 species of mammals, including, Moose, Elk and Black Bear. I was disappointed not to have seen a wolf, but we frequently observed their tracks.
We camped out every night as hotels were virtually non-existent, except for the three nights spent in Churchill, our northernmost destination (58° N Lat), which is accessible only by air or train - and where, by the way, gas for my rented 4x4 cost $7.50 a gallon!
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David also bought a GPS receiver, rented a satellite phone,
and installed a large winch on the front of his Suburban.
Captain's quarters. Trinket is guarding against bears.
David and Trinket slept here for all except three nights.
On some nights, the temperature was below freezing.
Down a country road
This is where it's nice to have the GPS, winch, and satellite phone,
just in case.
Up a lazy river
Not-so-lazy river (gorgeous scenery)
Pisew Falls near Thompson, MB
This baby Moose walked right up to David.
It was only a few days old - the size of a large dog.
Backwoodsman, in the dining car, glad to let someone
else do the driving and cooking, at least for a while.
David and Trinket relaxing at Churchill, on Hudson Bay
Sharp-tailed Grouse (in unlikely muskeg habitat)
Male Green-winged Teal
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker pair
Female Black-backed Woodpecker
Male Pine Grosbeak