July 7, 2018
Everything outside our window looks silver this morning—clouds, water, even the sky. Rain is forecast, but the possibility doesn’t even slow us down.
We are on the edges here of so many things: the northern boreal forest, the arctic tundra, the freshwater Churchill River, and the salt water of Hudson Bay. Here some plants are at the northernmost edge of their range and some at their southernmost edge. Spruce trees near the bay have a Krumholtz effect, with branches growing mostly on the downwind side of the trunk and only a few stunted branches on the side facing the bay.
Today we find flowers at edges.
Even a non-flower stop along the road to see the barricade across the tundra train tracks and the sign that reads, “Hudson Bay Railway, No Trespassing, Violators will be Prosecuted,” becomes a stop full of wildflowers. Almost as soon as we step out of the van we see northern lady’s-slipper, also called sparrow’s-egg lady’s-slipper, round-leaved orchid and blunt-leaf orchid (we have seen so many orchids we have quit counting them), the seemingly ubiquitous butterwort, and many of the new-to-us flowers that we’ve been seeing since our first day in Churchill.
Along another railroad crossing we find elephant’s-head (a tall purple lousewort whose flowers look as though they have trunks), pink pyrola in bloom, and a lovely little gathering of blunt-leaf orchid, large- flowered pyrola (sometimes called large-flowered wintergreen), and snow willow. Our instructor calls us into the woods bordering the tracks, where round-leaved orchids carpet the moss. Here we find northern twayblade–an orchid rare enough that our instructor says she will report it to the Manitoba Conservation Data Center. What a find!
We eat lunch at the edge of the Churchill River where the breeze keeps the ever-present bugs at bay, and the beluga whales rise to breathe in half-moon curves.
Cape Merry, part of the Prince of Wales National Historic Site, is our last visit of the day. Our guide fills us in on natural and cultural history. We are fascinated by the rocks (which we learn are greywacke), rising in graceful curves with cracks and dips filled with flowers. This might be one of the most beautiful places we have ever been.
The forecasted rain waits until later in the evening, then crashes over us in a thunderous cloud. We are safe inside the center, seeing it through windows and the aurora borealis viewing dome, where the edges of the sky meet the water and the land in every direction.