“Experience is the best teacher in this life. You learn best about a place by being in it. You learn how to do something best by doing it.” Mike Reimer, owner and manager of Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge in Manitoba, Canada, is a man of experience. This sage advice of his is well worn and trusted. All you have to do is watch Mike take a walk through the willows and snow of the Canadian bush to affirm it. Growing up on a farm in Manitoba, the Canadian Arctic has been Mike’s classroom since childhood. He has paddled, fished, trekked, sledded, hunted, and flown his way to expertise. Now, he barely needs a glance to identify an animal track. He knows the movements of the Northern lights by heart. He can call out to a raven and hear a response.
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The Reimer family’s four Churchill Wild fly-in eco-lodges—all located in Manitoba—were built much like Mike’s know-how: step by step. Because of their considerably remote locations (each lodge is more than 60 miles away from the nearest township of Churchill), the lodges are a product of the countless hammer swings, bush plane deliveries, and man-hours that building a compound by hand requires. Forging up little by little, they earned their place standing amidst Hudson Bay, the Arctic Circle, and the wildlife that personifies the land. Grizzly, black, and polar bears lumber through ice floes and wildflowers while hunting caribou and moose.
It makes sense that everything here in Manitoba, where four varied ecosystems meet, is the composition of many. Sitting in the great room of the Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, Mike is peering overhead at the wooden beams, constructed of second-growth Canadian pine. As he points out the subtleties of the timber, something a little more evident captures his attention. “Wolves!” Seven canines canter up the would-be airstrip outside the windows of the lodge just in time to wake a polar bear from his afternoon nap. As the predators meet, Mike’s eyes light up like a schoolboy’s. “Oh, this is rare! Polar bears and wolves don’t like to hang out together. See how the scout wolf is approaching first to find if the bear is a threat? Let’s see what the bear does, eh. He might run—or he might not” And while he watches to find out, you can see that this expert will never tire of learning from the world’s best teacher.
Between his full beard, sensible approach, and discerning eye, Josh Robson is a sage character. His 19 years of age come complete with a distinctive maturity and a seasoned proficiency for any endeavor set before him that is far beyond his years. He’s not an old soul, just a seasoned one. A Manitoba native, Josh flung himself from the North to the South as a teenager, traveling to Quito, Ecuador with the Manitoba to Ecuador non-profit organization to play soccer with and teach English to Ecuadorian children. “You travel to places you’ve never been and realize that even though it’s not your home, you are a part of a community. There is something special about being with people in a place where you can’t connect to what is familiar that allows you to become a part of it by sharing stories and time and experiences.”
That universal sense of kinship set Josh onto an adventurer’s trajectory, which currently has him stationed the exotic territory of his homeland: the Artic bush. “My father is the most adventurous guy I know. He’s worked every outdoorsman’s job at some point. My brother paddled the entire length of the bay until the ice floe caught up to him and he couldn’t get through. My sister has spent time out in the bush in the summer when the bugs are thicker than molasses because she studies dendrochronology—which is the study of tree rings. My mother will sit out on the edge of the water for hours painting scenes of this landscape. My entire family has somehow ended up out here at one point or another. I guess I was bound to find myself here for my own experience.”
So here he finds himself at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, guiding treks across the ice fields, swinging the hammer that builds each new addition to the compound, and bringing a true sense of kinship and insight that he has collected here, there, and everywhere back to the place where it all began.
Like many wilderness guides, Steve Schellenberg’s big life adventure is comprised piecemeal-style of the many adventures of the folk that he guides. Sea kayaking in British Columbia, treks through the jungles of South America, and surfing in California are the travel bookmarks that tourists experience, but they are just the everyday chronicles of the Winnipeg native’s outdoorsy lifestyle.
After spending the rainy spring season guiding multi-day kayak camping trips on Vancouver Island, Steve trades the wettest conditions of Canada for the coldest, and heads up to Manitoba to put his official Commercial Bear Viewing Association certification to good use at Nanuk Lodge. This winter, he is journeying to Antarctica to guide expeditions through the Lemaire Channel and Paradise Harbor.
On top of his cultured presence Steve is also an accomplished musician—able to tickle the ivories with the best of them. If the most interesting man in the world already exists, then he is the most intriguing man in the world. At any point of an expedition, he is prepared to start a backcountry campfire or throw down a freestyle rap on the current weather conditions. His charismatic demeanor and expert manner come by way of his seasoned guiding resume and impressive adventure junkets. “You learn to be a better guide by going to new places. Every day is different and every destination is different, so the way you navigate and explore has to be different.”
Follow Columbia Sportswear’s Directors of Toughness, Lauren Steele and Zach Doleac, as they journey around the world and put our latest gear through the harshest conditions on Twitter, Facebook, Periscope, Instagram, and Snapchat (columbia1938).
Lauren Steele is a Midwestern farm girl turned migrant. She is a writer who knows that the unknowns in life make for the best stories—and for the most amazing adventures. Chasing those stories from Chile to Switzerland have prepared her to become Columbia Sportswear’s Director of Toughness. You can follow Lauren’s journey as Director of Toughness here and social channels including: Twitter | Instagram
Zach Doleac is an adventure travel and sports photographer (and full-time outdoor junkie) born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. Traveling through places such as Central America, Canada, and the mountain ranges of the U.S., he only pauses long enough to make photographs of the people and places that he encounters along the way. You can follow Zach’s journey as Director of Toughness and social channels including: Instagram | Twitter