100-Year-Old Woman Fulfills Bucket List Dream to See Polar Bears in the Wild

Courtesy Nancy McDonough Greenhalgh

It's hard to forget Elsa Bailey, the 100-year-old whippersnapper who wanted nothing more than to celebrate her 100th birthday last May by hitting the ski slopes at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area in Keystone, Colo., just as she did when she turned 90, for one final whirl down the mountain.

But Bailey's adventures certainly didn't end on her birthday. The tenacious centurion just fulfilled another huge accomplishment from her bucket list, to take a trip to see real-life polar bears in the wild.

"It was wonderful," Bailey, of Colorado Springs, told GoodMorningAmerica.com of her surprise trip to the tundra. "I've always loved animals, ever since I was down in Tanzania years ago watching their migration."

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A self-proclaimed lifelong rebel, Bailey has "done a lot of fun things" during her extremely active existence, but seeing polar bears in the wild was one adventure she had yet to conquer.

Coincidentally, an employee of Natural Habitat Adventures, a company that helps organize polar bear tours, had been on the slopes the same day Bailey was celebrating her 100 th birthday, and later that night while watching the news, heard Bailey admit "she still had a bucket list, and atop it was her desire to see polar bears in the wild," Andrea Reynolds, the tour guide who accompanied Bailey on her trip, wrote on a blog detailing their adventure.

The group decided to surprise Bailey with a week-long trip to Churchill, Manitoba in October, an experience she says she'll never forget.

"I've wanted to see polar bears for years," said Bailey. "When the opportunity came, I jumped at it," especially, she notes, because the group she went with was "so nice, so helpful, and they made things as easy as they could for an old-timer like me."

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Bailey traveled around the tundra in "these great big tremendous vehicles they call polar rovers," she recalled, with windows on both sides for her to peer out of telescopes to help her spot the bears.

"We were looking for them and saw them coming," she said. "They're so used to these polar rovers they just came down and began playing together right in front of me. They're such wonderful animals, but in this season they sometimes get bored because there's nothing for them to do, so they just play together, which was magnificent."

One of the highlights of her trip, however, was a different animal - the sled dogs. Bailey got to ride along with a professional dog musher for an exhilarating half an hour.

"It was wonderful tearing along behind the dogs through fresh snow and through the woods," she said. "I got a front seat."

Now that Bailey is back home, she's already got her eyes set on her next bucket list endeavor.

"Yellowstone," she said without hesitation. "I've wanted to go there for years. I just want to look. Apparently, it is a great big geyser with a lot of hot magma underneath and I'd love to see that. It must be glorious."