Showing posts from November, 2012

Live Freein' or Die in Deseret

With just enough time to unpack the parkas and load up the bike and climbing harness, I went south from polar bear country to Zion National Park with Josh and Katie from Mountain Time. Katie grew up in New Hampshire, so her state motto, for good reason, was a recurring motif throughout the week.

Fleeing religious persecution, the Mormons packed up their wagons in 1847 and left the Midwest. They traveled westward, looking for a place where they could live as they pleased, and on their own terms. One day, they came through a mountain pass and found themselves in an endless expanse of towering, snow-dusted mesas, lazuli skies, and vivid, glowing earth, painted with every color of the sunset. And they had this expanse all to themselves! So here they settled, and named this place “Deseret*.”

I can begin to imagine what the Mormons felt when they first saw this landscape. We drove through the night to get to Zion, so our first look at its gargantuan cliffs was upon exiting our tents at firs…

The Great White Bear

For most of the year, Churchill, Manitoba is your standard, picturesque tundra town. Located on the western edge of Hudson Bay, Churchill was once a critical hub of the Hudson Bay Company, an English fur trading empire. Now it is a big seaport for exporting central-Canadian grains to the Atlantic. But for six weeks every year, it is the polar bear capital of the world. 
Polar bears are seal specialists. They spend all winter and spring patrolling the edges of the sea ice for the breathing holes of unwary ringed seals. During the bountiful seal season, bears will almost double their body weight. The seal season ends as the ice on the Hudson Bay breaks up around mid-July. Then the bears surf southward on ice floes, pushed by the north winds until they run aground at the southern end of the Bay. For the next four months, the bears wander around in a state of “walking hibernation,” eating practically nothing for about four months while daydreaming about seals and waiting for the sea ice …