Hauling Jeanne’s new gourmet kitchen through polar bear country and across the sea ice to Seal River Lodge
by Mike Reimer
Well folks, once again man pitted his slightly aging wits against the elements of Hudson Bay and survived. Thank goodness we were blessed with exceptionally good weather and sea ice conditions that were perfect for transporting materials to the lodges from Churchill.
Jeanne’s gourmet kitchen equipment and cupboards had been shipped from Winnipeg to Churchill by train a month prior and now all that remained was the “simple” task of getting them over the rugged Hudson Bay ice to the polar bear lodge.
All of our winter hauls involve a high level of adventure including high tide overflow, jumbled pack ice on Hudson Bay, raging blizzards, wind chills down to -50 degrees, marauding polar bears, frozen limbs, broken equipment and workers that actually wanted to eat more than once a day.
I think we could sell this as an “Extreme Adventure” to polar bear land or maybe do one of those reality TV shows! Fortunately other than some long, hard days in the saddle, the “extreme conditions” gave us a break this year and almost everything went off without a hitch.
The Hauling Team consisted of Mike Reimer, Dave Schellenberg, Fraser Issac and Steve Toews, ably supported by Doug Webber as chief cook and bottle washer. Due to the relatively light load (7000 kgs) we elected to transport everything via snowmobile and komatik rather than firing up the old D6 Cat we normally use.
Freighting went well, weather was brilliant and all pieces arrived safe and sound after a two day adventure. Once the hauling was done the real worked commenced, that being the business of collecting our supply of firewood.
Visitors to our polar bear lodges will quickly see that this in itself is quite a feat, as there is hardly a stick in sight! Luckily, travel and exploration inland by snowmobile usually yields some pretty good stands of dead timber for burning, some of it over 300 years old!
Fraser and Steve had a tough time keeping up with the old guys and probably won’t care to see a wood haul for a bit, at least not until next year.
When Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer’s daughters Kate and Emily invited U.S. President Barack Obama’s daughters Sasha and Malia to visit the polar bears in Churchill a few years ago it got us thinking. They probably considered visiting Churchill, but it’s unlikely they knew they could actually walk on the tundra with polar bears, or swim in Hudson Bay with beluga whales.
Churchill Wild eco-lodge owners Mike and Jeanne Reimer say the Obama and Doer families would be more than welcome to do just that at their Seal River Heritage Lodge 40 miles north of Churchill on the Hudson Bay coast.
“It’s the only place in Canada where you can actually go out and walk with the polar bears in their natural environment,” said Mike Reimer, who has been stomping the terra with the polar bears for over 30 years. “We would absolutely love to have the Obama and Doer families visit our polar bear eco-lodges and take part in all the activities we have to offer.”
That of course, would include walking with polar bears on the coast of Hudson Bay and snorkeling with beluga whales in Hudson Bay, not to mention eating gourmet meals straight from the award-winning cookbook series Blueberries and Polar Bears, which were co-written by Jeanne Reimer’s mother Helen Webber of Webber’s Lodges.
Helen is married to Webber’s Lodges owner and former Churchill mayor Doug Webber. She is certainly no stranger to hosting dignitaries at the Webber’s home in Churchill and preparing spectacular feasts for them, including Ambassador Doer when he was Premier of Manitoba,
Helen’s dinner parties in Churchill are legendary, the last of which was held for the top international executives of the Canadian Tourism Commission, who later flew out to see the polar bears at Seal River Lodge. The dinner, and the trip to Seal River Lodge, received rave reviews.
First Lady Michelle Obama, who is promoting healthy eating as her platform while in the White House, would likely enjoy herself immensely in Churchill Wild’s family-run tundra kitchen, which prides itself on utilizing the freshest ingredients available from the surrounding landscapes.
Mrs. Obama launched her Let’s Move initiative to battle childhood obesity and improve the quality of food in U.S. schools in February, 2010 and on March 16, 2011 she reached an agreement with Crown Publishing Group to author a cookbook in which she will talk about the garden she established on the South Lawn of the White House. Due out in 2012, Mrs. Obama’s new cookbook will also explore how improved access to fresh, locally grown food can promote healthier eating habits for families and communities. You can watch the video about the White House Garden here.
“Last year we built the new dining room,” said Reimer. “Right now we’re hauling in a new gourmet kitchen. It was designed by Len Friesen and it will be the first of its kind in the arctic. We’re planning on having a Celebrity Chef Contest at some point with a combination of original creations and recipes from the Blueberries and Polar Bears cookbooks that will feature seal, caribou, moose, goose, arctic char, northern pike, lake trout, local plant garnishes, wild blueberries, cranberries and strawberries. In between cooking sessions we’ll be out on the tundra with the polar bears or swimming with whales. We would love for Mrs. Obama to participate!”
But seriously, fabulous food and cooking contests aside, what about safety and secret service and fighter planes?
“We’ve never had a polar bear problem in the 30 years that we’ve operated our lodges,” said Reimer. “It’s a unique, once in a lifetime experience and our guests love being able to get up close and personal with the polar bears. It’s one of the few places on earth where you can actually go out and walk with the bears, and there are numerous safety measures in place. I’m not sure what the bears would think of secret service agents and jet fighters. They probably wouldn’t even notice.”
While he was Premier of Manitoba, Ambassador Doer persuaded numerous high-profile people to visit Churchill, including Janet Napolitano, who is now President Obama’s Secretary of Homeland Security; David Wilkins, the former U.S. ambassador to Canada; and Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Last fall, famous visitors to Churchill included George Stroumboulopoulos, Chantal Kreviazuk, Raine Maida and Martha Stewart.
Still, try to imagine the Turbo Beaver taking off from Churchill for Seal River Lodge accompanied by fighter jets. Or the curious looks on the polar bears’ faces when the secret service agents arrive with the Obama family. And what kind of boat would be required if the Obama and Doer families decided to go swimming with the beluga whales? Would the Zodiaks suffice?
“It would something very special for us,” said Reimer. “We would like to extend a heartfelt open invitation to both the Obama and the Doer families to visit Seal River Lodge any time. It would be an incredible honor.”