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Good morning all! Been a little while since I've posted anything interesting here, life sometimes seems to get in the way...  However, happy to be back, and hopefully I'll be around a little more often!

Yesterday, a solar wind stream was helped along by a bit of a solar flare, and the sky lit up in Northern Manitoba Canada. My parents happen to be up visiting, so my mom, my daughter and I bundled up to stand out in the cold to wath the northern lights dance across the sky. It was a pretty good show! I set up my new camera, and over the course of about 3 hours (the lights were still goin strong), took about 840 pictures and made the following timelapse video. It had warmed up to about -29, but there was a bit of a breeze. -40 with the windchill, but worth it! Hope you all enjoy!!

General Winter Camping Discussion / Dogsled race - Hudson Bay Quest
« on: March 19, 2012, 03:20:30 pm »
This past weekend, I was working at a wilderness checkpoint for the Hudson Bay Quest, a 220 mile dogsled race in Northern Manitoba between Gillam and Churchill.  I had some time to kill after most of the teams had checked in, and was able to get some pictures of the dog park and some of the mushers taking off.

I was one of 5 Canadian Rangers manning the checkpoint at McClintock, the mandatory 6 hour rest stop.  We were tasked with recording time in and ensuring the 6 hours passed before time out, checking mandatory gear like stove and fuel, sleeping bag, etc, providing communications for the race headquarters, and monitoring the condition of the dogs.  We also were there for support, and had to go and pick up a few teams after they ran into trouble and activated the "help" alarm on the SPOT devices.  McClintock is an old abandoned siding on the rail line between Gillam and Churchill, so the teams that scratched, as well as the dropped dogs, were loaded onto freight cars and highrail trucks.

If you are interested in seeing more, I have a little over 100 photos on my photobucket account:

For more information on the race:

General Winter Camping Discussion / Busy month for Northern Lights
« on: March 09, 2012, 10:44:03 am »
Pretty good show last night.  Started out down at the beach, but it was dying down and it was time to head home.  Checked out the window later in evening, and around midnight, I had to set up the camera again.

The lights have been out for the last few nights, decided to take the camera out again.  Hope you guys aren't getting sick of them!  Got another short timelapse video.

And the video (I need to find a place to get decent background music):

Northern Lights in the Forest - YouTube

Trip Reports / Pre-trip report, Churchill/Wapusk
« on: February 21, 2012, 03:08:12 pm »
Leaving first thing tomorrow morning for a relatively long snowmobile trip with the Canadian Rangers.  We are leaving town here (Gillam), heading up to Churchill, then meeting up with the Churchill patrol and heading south through Wapusk to Port Nelson.  If the mouth of the Nelson looks ok, we will go across to York Factory.  Back to town along the north side of the Nelson river, along the abandoned rail bed.

We just got our letter of permission from Parks Canada this morning, and were warned that female polar bears with cubs will be leaving the dens and heading to the coast this time of year.  The camera will definitely be coming with me!  Pre-trip meeting and gear inspection tonight, then finish packing.

Should be back possibly by Monday, later if we run into trouble.

General Winter Camping Discussion / Northern Lights, Feb 18th, with video
« on: February 19, 2012, 06:40:42 pm »
Another good show last night!  Went and watched them on the deck for a few hours.  Anyone else happen to catch them?

Here's a few:









And the video:

Northern Lights, Gillam Manitoba - Feb - YouTube

Winter Camping Photos and Videos / Shot a bear today...
« on: May 01, 2011, 09:45:51 pm »
Just with the camera though.  Went for a walk with the dogs today and ran into this guy.  Coming out of the trail to the tracks, I thought I saw a wolf running into the trees, so I called the dogs and kept them close.

Got a little way past where the animal had ran into the trees, there he was, not a wolf though.  Didn't seem too concerned about us, the dogs didn't even notice him for about 30 seconds.  Then they were very interested, but they listened to me.

Winter Camping Photos and Videos / Northern Lights, April 24th
« on: April 25, 2011, 02:01:20 pm »
Aurora season is generally over by the end of March, beginning of April, but the sun is waking up from it's 11 year nap and has been producing some spectacular displays all spring so far.  Decided to go out and check the sky last night. Pretty nice night around midnight. Taken with a Nikon D5000, f/3.5, ISO 1000, 10-15 sec exposure time.

In case anyone was interested, I'm thinking about starting to sell some of my photos as prints both framed and not, and canvas gallery wraps in various sizes. Getting some ordered for ourselves, gonna see how they look professionally printed out and mounted.

© Tony Loewen

General Winter Camping Discussion / Northern Lights, March 9th.
« on: March 10, 2011, 09:13:10 pm »
Last night there were the best northern lights so far this year, at least visible to us.  Supposed to be just as good or better tonight, but of course, it's cloudy.  I tried a different location, I wanted to try composing some shots with some of the town lights in the frame.  I think they turned out ok, might have been brighter and more colorful out of town though.

They filled the sky last night, you honestly couldn't see them all at once.  From the Eastern horizon to the Western horizon, and above your head until you were looking slightly south.

Turning out to be a great year for solar activity, and it's just supposed to build all the way through next year.

Trip Reports / Trip to Churchill MB this past weekend.
« on: March 08, 2011, 11:09:57 am »
First up, it was by snowmobile, so I know I lose points for that.  But I doubt anyone would want to travel over 300km through the barrens, through THICK polar bear country, just as the females are getting out of their dens with their new cubs, on skis or snowshoes.

Got a phone call last week. Apparently when some of my friends were coming home from Churchill from the Northern Bison exercise, one of them ran into a bunch of loose wire under the power lines with his snowmobile. He was talking to the Division Manager at work (who is ultimately responsible for those lines), and because the group that normally maintains the lines is busy with other problems, four of us were asked to go up and clean it up for salvage.

So, we were to head up to Churchill, a little over 300 km through the northern edge of the forest to the treeline. The first day, we went up to a line maintenance work shack to spend the night, then headed up the rest of the way and cleaned everything up the next day. Work was picking up the cost of fuel, paying us rental on our machines, paying regular wages as well as any overtime required, and giving us bank time off for the weekend.

I hadn't made it up to Churchill yet, and being so close (relative term, still 300 km), I was really hoping to make the snowmobile ride up. Now it turns out that work was picking up the tab!

Now the pictures...

Just before Sky Pilot creek, the big hill.  Just a few miles north of Gillam, past Kettle Generating Station.

Looking down Sky Pilot Creek valley.

Somewhere around the Weir River I think, just stopping to check the machines.

Along between the Weir Lake shack and the Owl River shack.

Just following the line to Owl River.

Our home for the night.

Warming up the machines in the morning, getting ready to leave for Churchill.

Before we run out of trees at McClintock, another equipment check.

McClintock Siding. Two trapper shacks/hunting cabins on the Dog River, with an old J5.

Old cabin on the Dog River (I think, or Deer River)

Looking south down the tracks at McClintock.

Me at McClintock. Notice there's no rifle.

Saw these tracks just north of McClintock, maybe 5 miles. On the right you'll see what look like big polar bear only smaller. Momma with cub. Not very old.

Still see the fine drag marks on the footprints, she's not far from here, and she's going to be protecting her cub.

Not many of these little things that look like miniature trees around.

Real one-sided trees, from the strong winds that constantly blow and the northern latitude.

Now there's a rifle.

Stop to look at the machines after getting into the barrens. Wind's really blowing here. Following Giles' komatik put me in a good mood, always smiling at me.

Much warmer, can't go fast here anyway because of the constant, rock-hard drifts. And I couldn't easily get the rifle off my head if I needed it in a hurry. A lady at Gypsy's told us it was -52 with the windchill, temp was -30.

About 500 meters, maybe at most, from where we had to stop and clean up the wire and cable, which happened to come from the old railway telegraph line, originally from the other side of the tracks.

Hey guys, just a quick question as a friend and I were discussing building quinzees/igloos/etc...  In a survival situation, in the winter, would you rather build a quinzee or a lean-to?  Assuming you had a shovel, or something to shovel with like a snowshoe, and an axe, and that there was access to both loose snow (not drifts to build a simple snow cave or igloo) and to lots of easily accessible deadfall and spruce boughs.

I'll maybe wait for a few responses before I throw in my 2 cents.

Thought I would put this in the general section, because it encompasses so many of the other topics...

Well, definitely starting to get excited about another winter season up in the Great White of Northern Manitoba.  The caribou are around right now, and having had a caribou tag burning a hole in my pocket, I went out and harvested one.  Very impressive to see the migration.  The attached picture is just one of the hundreds of groups of 25-30 that pass through the area, not sure how many are in the area right now, but there are quite a few.

So after a couple of days of cutting and wrapping and slicing, I have a freezer full of caribou steaks, roasts, stewing meat and fast fry, and quite a few bags of jerky.  I made Honey Garlic, Teriyaki, Sweet Onion and Hawaiian Hot & Spicy.  This morning I made the rest of the scraps of meat into pemmican with the addition of dried apple, orange, pineapple, cranberries and a little cinnamon.  It's cooling in the fridge right now.  The dogs also have some bones and scrap meat waiting in the freezer.

I have the hide mostly cleaned, I have to thaw it out to finish scraping then I am planning on brain-tanning it and making a pair of big gauntlet mitts, among other things.

I have one toboggan ready to go, a couple of modifications to make to another one.  Got a new puppy last spring, so for the first time yesterday I had him pulling me on my cross country skis.  I am planning on getting a good harness and training him to be my ski-jouring dog.  He's some type of shepherd crossed with husky, a good northern Rez mutt, strong and cold-tolerant.

Tent and stove are ready to go, although I am seriously considering buying some silnylon material and seeing if I can copy the pattern of Kifaru's new Sawtooth shelter (the 10 man arctic bell military tent I have is awesome, but a little overkill for solo treks)

My little girl and I were out 2 weeks ago skating on one of the little lakes up here, on 4 1/2 inches of ice.  Then we got about 10 inches of snow.  Probably going to be a bad year for slush and thin ice on the bogs and streams, didn't have too much of a cold snap before the blanket of snow.  Saw that the big lake was frozen over yesterday, so it's just a matter of time before I can get back out to my island cabin.

Man oh man do I love this season!!

Just got back home last night from escorting a gentleman from Churchill Manitoba, who is running a dog sled team from Churchill to Winnipeg, through the vast and unpopulated Northern Boreal forest.  Myself and another Ranger joined Mr. Daley and 2 other Rangers from Churchill in Gillam on Friday on their trek to Thompson.  We got to Thompson last night around 4:45, spending 3 days on the land.  We went ahead on snowmobiles, breaking and packing trail, marking obstacles and hazards, and ready to provide support of any kind should any problems arise along the way.  We would set up camp in the evenings and make sure everything was secure for the night.  A couple of times we woke up to the dogs growling, expecting to have to chase wolves away.  Turned out the dogs were just having some disagreements amongst themselves.

After arriving in Thompson, the two of us from Gillam loaded the sleds onto a trailer and drove the 300 km back to town.  One of the Churchill Rangers was catching the plane back today, along with one of the dogs who has decided not to run anymore.  His sled is going back on the trail.  The other Ranger from Churchill is carrying on the rest of the way to Winnipeg with Dave.

Best of Luck Dave!

Winter Camping Photos and Videos / Little walk with the hounds
« on: December 01, 2009, 12:29:43 pm »
A couple of weeks ago I decided to go for a walk with the dogs.  Not really camping, these are just some of the trails right behind the house, less than 200m away.  Not a lot of snow in the bush yet, but it's still pretty early in the season.

Not entirely sure what they were running from here, maybe they thought I was going to turn around and leave them.

Definitely a lot easier to move around in the winter time.  This is a wet peat bog in the summer time.  Although there are enough black flies and mosquitoes to carry you across.

Another picture of the frozen swampy muskeg.

The big guy checking out something, likely the "scent" of a fox or wolf.

And the little weasel comes to check it out as well.  This is an old road that runs along a series of dykes.  It's blocked off at both ends with large concrete blocks, so it's a snowmobile/ATV/walking trail now.

Pups getting some exercise.

A little clearing on the side of the road, about to go down to the lake.

First set of tracks down the little cutline to the lake.

Zoomed in, it's an evil looking little weasel.

Down at the lake, about 700m from my house.

November 15th and we're out walking on the lake.  Little later than last year.

Starting to get a little dark, so time to head back home.

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