A cool breeze off the bay greeted us as we jumped of the ‘Bayline’. The train was late, arriving in mid-afternoon about five hours behind schedule and, keep in mind, this is behind the ‘new’ schedule where a few hours had simply been added to make us feel like the train was running on time. The more things change…
But, that familiar chill in the air is a good feeling. It means bear season is here and along with it, familiar faces, new friends and, of course, bears are bound to follow. The train station is a nice little mix of chaos and reunions. Vehicles jumble in the parking lot, suitcases and action packers tumble out of the baggage car, tourists stagger along the sidewalk, quickly getting their ‘sealegs’ and old friends wait with a wave and the latest news, even if there’s not much news – news is more of a ‘thing’ for the south.
Just north of the train station, the Port of Churchill lumbers on, pumping grain, ships and overtime cheques through at a breakneck pace. Grain cars wind their way along the track, leading to the track shed at the Port of Churchill. Most of them are empty, waiting to head south. Its been a bit of a rough go for the Port this year. A major derailment – the twisted metals remnants of which have now become a tourist attraction on the train ride up – shut down the line for almost a month this summer. After that, a labour ‘misunderstanding’ slowed things a bit more. What should have been another banner year has turned into more of an average, maybe below average season. Not a disaster but definitely not a bubbly press release either.
To the south, Merv’s backhoe works on the Navy Base, tearing down the old garage while Edgar and his crew shutter the windows and salvage a bit of metal siding here and there. The garage is a welcome removal; it just creates a big snow drift by December that stretches across the road. There was talk years back of converting the Navy Base building into a college or construction school but there’s a lot of talk in the north. For now, and probably forever, its just another part of the Churchill Town and Area Tour, a last rusting gasp of the major military presence of the 1950s and 60s.
Eight boxes of groceries from Safeway Thompson – only $27 for delivery to the train! – and four dog kennels (and dogs) loaded into the rental truck (three more days before our trucks arrive…) and we are off. Headed out to Camp Nanuq to check on the cabin. There are already stories of a ‘bad bear’ that was out there, hitting a few cabins at Spruce Ridge (just across the lake) and eating a freezer full of moose meat and a few shelves of chainsaw and snowmobile oil.