I think history buffs often have a travel bug as well. We spend so much time learning about the past in other parts of the world that it makes sense we want to see these places in the present. So for the month of February, the Damsels are taking a virtual trip around the world, starting in North America and traveling east.
This past August, my husband, in-laws, and I spent a long weekend in Victoria, BC. In preparation for this, my travel-literature-addict mom-in-law picked up a AAA book on Western Canada and Alaska. It didn’t have too much to show us on Victoria that she hadn’t learned from a previous trip, but it made for some fun reading. And I discovered a truly random place I
really want to go: Churchill, Manitoba.
This actually started with thoughts of a trip to Winnipeg, the capitol of Manitoba, near where my grandpa was born. He didn’t live there all that long before his family moved to Detroit, but I would still like to see it. But from Winnipeg, you can take a train to Churchill, Canada’s northernmost subarctic sea port on the Hudson Bay. Back in the mid-1700s, the Hudson’s Bay Company built the Prince of Wales Fort near this city to house 400 soldiers. In 1782, though, there were only 39 British soldiers occupying the fort when three French warships attacked. The British governer surrendered without fighting and the fort was abandoned. It’s now a partial ruin accessible only by boat, but there are many whale-watching tours that make a stop there. On the shore nearby, you can visit the Cape Merry National Historic Site, which hosts a stone cannon battery from 1746, which was built to complement the Prince of Wales Fort.
All fine and good, but there’s more. Wapusk National Park, just south and east of Churchill, is one of the most accessible viewing areas in the world for polar bears. They congregate in the north end of the park around October, where they prepare for the birth of their young in the coming months and for a re-freezing to the north so they can hunt for food. The park isn’t full of roads and trails like most national parks, so visitors must be part of an organized tour that uses air craft or a tundra vehicle.
Best of all, this is a trip we could do easily from our home in greater Seattle. Just hop on Amtrak in Seattle and in Vancouver, BC, change to a Via Rail Canada train to Winnipeg. Spend a couple days in Winnipeg, then take another train up to Churchill and pretend I’m one of the early Canadian explorers for the Hudson’s Bay Company, enjoying marine mammels, unspoiled wilderness, and the aurora borealis. Still talking my warmth-loving husband into this one, but some day…