Camp Nanuq is a cottage subdivision, the polite term for collection of shacks – some verging on cabins, about 20 kilometres east of Churchill. There are about eighteen cabins, only three or four of them are actually used with any consistency. There is also a giant boyscout camp kind of hidden in the trees and a rarely used, public-use log cabin, less hidden and built directly in my unspoiled view which has invariably led to neighbourly discussions about just how big a trebuchet would have to be built to hit the aforesaid log cabin.
There is power but no running water and not much road in the winter. Usually by December, one or two off-road winter roads are cobbled in to access whichever cabin needs accessing that winter, usually dependent on who is in town, who is employed and who has a running vehicle. One winter I did actually chop ice to supplement my water supply from nearby Stygge Lake. On the bright side, its good honest hard work, on the downside, it’s a lot harder and time consuming that just turning on a tap – plus it takes time to find clean ice on a shallow lake.
Speaking of lakes, there are two small lakes at Camp Nanuq; both only a few feet deep but both home to a variety of bird life, including Long-tailed Ducks, Pacific Loons and even Tundra Swans. Two of Churchill’s rare birds can be found in the area, the Harris’ Sparrow (nesting in between my house and the ‘Wild Dog Bar’ next door) and Smith’s Longspurs, usually spotted amongst the tundra hummocks east of the lakes.
Just to the west of Camp Nanuq is Spruce Ridge, another cottage subdivision, this one in a clump of, ahem, spruce growing on a gravel beach ridge, again ahem. There are about ten cabins also in variable states of construction, reconstruction and deconstruction. The trees are old, thick and full of character, unfortunately for cabin owners, they are also full of squirrels.
In winter, flocks of ptarmigan and a gyrfalcon both take up residence in the area. Usually the gyrfalcon would do his (or maybe her) daily patrol, cruising by the cabin at 9am and again around three o’clock. Once in a while, he would manage to ambush a ptarmigan, flying in low using the willows as cover, anticipating his victim’s flight path for a stunning mid-air explosion of ptarmigan feathers.
And, of course, Camp Nanuq sees its share of polar bears. When I first moved out here, the universal response in town was ‘Camp Nanuq? Lot of bears out there, too many for me.’ Some years, this is true but generally it is pretty quiet. That being said, we have had bears in the yard, on the porch, at the door, in the kitchen, hiding under a vehicle, swimming in the lake, fighting with the dogs over a bag of laundry, stuff like that.
For this reason, most cabins have Churchill welcome mats (plywood boards studded with thick nails), bars on the windows, steel doors, loaded shotguns and polar bear chasing dogs. Then again, the only year of serious polar bear break-ins was the year that we had the house completely boarded up – he simply pried the nailboards off the door and pushed it in. Since then, my defences have dwindled and now I really don’t have anything other than some firewood piled by the windows and an old couch. Its been about five years now without a problem… still, I kind of miss chasing bears with Milo, it’s a nice man-dog bonding moment.
Camp Nanuq is, in my opinion, a nicer place than Churchill itself, it has a good, quiet vibe, lots of wildlife, enough wind to keep the bugs down and a lot fewer black flies than town. The only tricky time of year is the spring thaw when the winter road melts but the main road has yet to be plowed leading to a lot of slogging and cursing. I could just be writing this to increase property values though, after almost ten years and $20,000 in renovations, my cabin has likely only appreciated from $12,000 to $12,500.