A friend wrote to me this past week and asked if I had heard about the Road Scholar program. At first, I didn’t connect with anything, and then I found the web site and discovered, “The Road Scholar Educational Adventures created by Elderhostel, the not-for-profit world leader in lifelong learning since 1975.” Ah Ha! I said to myself and I’ll tell you why but if you don’t know about it, you should go to their web site and learn about this very exciting program for yourself.
And, how do I know about it? I thought you’d never ask. I couldn’t remember the dates right off but I found the Certificate of Achievement that I had successfully completed the Elderhostel Course “Lords of the North-Polar Bears by Churchill Northern Studies Centre, Nov 2-7th in the year 2000,” almost exactly 15 years ago. Over the next three blogs, I will fill you in on the details as I wrote about them at that time, well, maybe a slightly shortened version.
In a roundabout fashion, I flew from Livingston, TX to Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. The hectic late arrival of 31 world-traveling Elderhostel participants, coincided with a warning from a passionate young conservationist that would eventually teach four of our eight lectures, “Iron-barred windows are due to the polar bear concentration. This is one place people are not necessarily at the top of the food chain. Organized walks will be accompanied by guards with shotguns.”
Shortly, the female sector of my 60ish bunkmates experienced a major pajama party! My short legs manipulated the precipitous climb to postage-sized quarters on the top bunk. I encouraged a stiff plane-sitting-most-of-the-day body to disgorge its clothes while maintaining a modicum of dignity and modesty. The modicum was soon ditched and midnight worked its way into early morning. Snow swirled in the frigid November wind, clinging tenaciously to the windowpanes, bringing the Arctic winter up close and personal as I quietly entered the cold, bleak corridor at 6:00 a.m. The dining area was cozy and fragrant. Sizzling bacon and fresh coffee awakened my saliva and stirred us all into the excitement of the day and making new friends.
The above-mentioned conservationist accompanied us on all activities, patiently answered questions, and doubled as a guard (with shotgun). He painted a big picture of bears, other wildlife, humans, the ecosystem, how we all fit together, and what we should do to protect our interrelationship via public education and worldwide management sharing.
A daylight view of rough Hudson Bay reminded us that with glaciers retreating, Hudson Bay ice forms later and breaks up earlier, a definite sign of global warming. The early 1999-ice breakup and shorter feeding time revealed distinctly poorer polar bear conditions. We visited Churchill’s Visitor Centre for movies and interpretive historical displays. The Eskimo Museum highlighted native carvings and artifacts dated from 1700 BC. We snacked at the Gypsy Bakery, a popular Churchill restaurant and coffee stop. On the twenty-mile bus trip back to the Centre, a lemonade-colored polar bear padded across the ice. A lady squealed, “He’s so cute. I’d love to hug him.” A Centre volunteer commented, “He’d ‘preciate it.”
Next time I’ll tell you about the “Bear Jail” and our other adventures on Hudson Bay. God Bless until next time.
Winter in the Wilderness, (e-book & hard cover), and RVing Alaska and Canada are available through Amazon.com.
At 45, Widow Minshall began 20 years of solo full-time RVing throughout Alaska, Mexico, and Canada. Sharlene canoed the Yukon, mushed sled dogs, worked a dude ranch, visited Hudson Bay polar bears, and lived six months on a Mexican beach. She lectured at Life on Wheels, published six RV-related books and wrote a novel, “Winter in the Wilderness.”