Friday, January 23, 2015

A Dog Sled Experience in Churchill with BlueSky Expeditions

On my second day in Churchill, Oct 11th, we had beautiful, quiet piles of snow, the kind that make you feel kid-like excitement.  I finished my coffee and was out the door by 7:30 to go for a quiet walk in the magic before daylight.  
The polar bear statue and distant grain storage facility across the inlet viewed from the end of the main street of Churchill.
The inukshuk located in the same area.

Perfect weather for my morning destination--Bluesky Expeditions, for a dog-sled experience.  On the way to the facility I was lucky to ride in the front passenger seat of a truck with a beautiful, retired female sled dog as my companion.  She was polite, focused and excited about where we were headed.
I don't know how she knew, but she clearly knew we were going to Bluesky.  Above, one of Bluesky's active sled dogs.
Gerald Azure, owner and operator of Bluesky Expeditions, was born and raised in the northern Metis community of Commorant, Manitoba. His parents made their living with commercial trapping and fishing and dog sleds were their chief transportation until the 1970's.  Dog sledding and the aboriginal culture remain a strong tradition in the Azure family with Bluesky's 75 dogs trained primarily for the tourist industry.
Along with offering dog sled experiences, Bluesky operates the Bluesky Bed and Sled, a bed and breakfast for visitors to Churchill.
I am wearing multiple layers under my coat, plus a Bluesky coat on top of mine and a water resistant blanket over my legs.  It worked.  I was comfortable and dry in the wind and blowing snow!

The dogs love to run and were full of energy and eagerness.  The history of the use of dog-pulled sleds goes back 4000 years and pre-dates the use of horses for transportation.  The first documented dog sled race began in 1850 and ran from Winnepeg, Canada, to St Paul, Minnesota, US.
Ernest Azure, Gerald's eldest brother, provided the dog team for my sled experience. Ernest competed in the Hudson Bay Quest in 2014, a 220-mile wilderness course that goes from Gilliam, MB, to Churchill, MB.
In this great image taken by Jenafor Azure, Ernest begins the race with Gerald cheering him on (behind, second from his right). Gerald assisted with the care of his dog team during the race.  Ernest was the oldest musher to compete in the race, first to cross the half-way check-in, the first Churchill musher to cross the finish line, and finished 7th in a field of thirteen with a time of 38: 30: 23.
An amazing wilderness endurance feat with competitors facing harsh conditions even though health checks for the dogs and rest are built into the course.  Mushers and their teams must travel 50-70 miles a day to complete the race.  Above, Ernest and his dog team as they cross the Churchill River.
Husband and wife team, Gerald and Jenafor Azure, operators of Bluesky Expeditions and the Bluesky Bed and Sled.

Bluesky's hospitality includes Jenafor's Wild Berry Bannock bread and cookies with hot tea. Yummm!
When I wasn't busy with the dog sled or tea, Gray Jays provided delightful entertainment out on the porch.
A special thank you to Jenafor Azure of Bluesky Expeditions for providing the images found in this blog post (excepting images 2, 3, 4, and 14, taken by the author).

This is the thirteenth post in a series on my journey to Churchill, Manitoba, to see Polar Bears including a visit to Riding Mountain National Park.  Click the journey to Churchill link to see all the posts.  The most recent post will appear first.  When you reach the end of the page, click "older post" to continue with the series.

Next:  Polar Bear Ally

Blue Sky Expeditions
Blue Sky Expeditions on Facebook
Click here for Part 1--Polar Bears on the Hudson Bay and Part 2
Visit my sketchbook page on Polar Bears
Link to my Polar Bear video
Hudson Bay Buggies and Bears with Rail Travel Tours
Learn about Polar Bears
Hudson Bay
Eskimo Museum
History of Churchill from Churchill Science
Churchill History
the impact of sea ice decline


  1. How wonderful, how incredibly delightful each of these images were Vickie. I can see the excitement in your face and that gave me huge smiles. Thank you for sharing your adventures with us and I am sorry if I have missed any of the segments.

  2. Thank you, Mary. I had a great time!


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Your Uncapped Creativity...
"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action; and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. You must keep that channel open. It is not for you to determine how good it is, nor how valuable. Nor how it compares with other expressions. It is for you to keep it yours, clearly and directly." ----the great dancer, Martha Graham