Aug 22 Heading South

Aug 22 Written from a campsite in Eagle Plains heading south on the Dempster Highway

Inuvik a solution to dark winter days

Inuvik a solution to dark winter days

I am sitting at a picnic table at a campsite at the Eagle Plains Service area. The sun is hot and the fireweed fluff is blowing past me. It is a beautiful afternoon. I am headed south again and each kilometer brings me further away from the Arctic Circle. I am sad to leave. Not having a couch surfing host I didn’t spend enough time there although I wonder what amount of time would be enough. Certainly I would have to try a winter of total darkness to really appreciate it and even then, I met more people who love the long dark than who hated it. I guess those who don.t like it pack up and go home.

Yesterday I met Naudia at the info centre. She is the woman that Evelyn in Dawson recommended that I look up. We spent lots of time discussing life and the state of the world. We spent some time talking about the changing weather and what it means not only to the north but to the world. “The mother is tired of our constant meddling.” she told me…and with the things that are happening right now it would be hard to disagree with that.

Mackenzie Delta

Mackenzie Delta

My Mackenzie Delta boat tour didn’t happen for various reasons but I did get in a Cessna 207 at the surprisingly large Inuvik airport and flew over the delta to Tuktayuktuk where I met Boogie and had a two hour tour of the hamlet.

The plane. Not a float plane but pretty darn good.

The plane. Not a float plane but pretty darn good.

Boogie lives off of the land and to supplement his income, if he is in town he gives tours. His family was one of the first 3 families to make a permanent home in the area when the government was encouraging the people to make permanent settlements in the early 1960’s. Boogie was educated on the land but also sent to a school to learn English and other things that have helped him have a good grasp on what is going on in not only his community but in the larger picture. I found him to be really knowledgeable.

Another view of the delta - it is huge

Another view of the delta - it is huge

His first lesson for us was to quit thinking of all first peoples as being the same. It didn’t seem to be a hard concept but he insisted that we always get it wrong. His people he said were Inuvialuit not Inuit or Qwit’chan. My sense as he spoke was that we can no more consider all first nations peoples as a unit than we could look at Europe and consider all of the people there to be the same. The French would balk if you mixed them up with Turks, the Germans claim not to be the same as the Italians etc.  Why do we do that? I guess it is the same as being rolled into a lump with women’s issues, the rights of the handicapped or Canadians. None of those groups would stand up and say that each one of them have the same interests and yet we love to generalize.

Tuk from the air

Tuk from the air

I did get my toe into the Arctic Ocean…kind of. At the Mouth of the Mackenzie, Boogie told us that we were dipping mainly into the warmed river water. I was surprised that even though the brisk wind was cold, the water although not balmy was not too bad. I would have dunked my whole self in except our flight was leaving I didn’t really have time to take my shoes and socks off let alone find a place to change and jump in. (I did have my bathing suit) For those of you who know that I won’t go into water less than 85 degrees, I had decided that I would suffer just to say that I swam a stroke or two in the Arctic and so the only reason I didn’t was circumstances. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Lightly dipped into the ocean

Lightly dipped into the ocean

The story of Tuk and the way it has become a community was facinating. I won’t go into it all here because….who has time but I do want to tell you about the ice house.That was amazing. In the 60’s when many people moved to the area to make permanent homes, Boogie’s dad and some of the other men of the community dug a hole into the perma frost for the community to have a freezer. They dug a hole 30 feet into the ground and then made 3 halls off of that hole. Each 60 foot long hall has a number of rooms lining it and the rooms have doors. Each family has a room down there and it is their walk in freezer. The temperature stays a consstant -7 degrees. There are no lights. Boogie brought us down with a flashlight. I have some pictures but I am not sure that they will give you the idea. We went into one room tha thad a caribou and a number of geese in it. Baring something happening to the permafrost, it is a forever freezer. I wondered about the box of baking soda that would need to be down there to keep it smelling fresh…which it did. It just smelled cold and I really wasn’t dressed for the weather. It was amazing how warm and bright the top seemed when I climbed out.

Ice Hut

Ice Hut

Looking down the hole

Looking down the hole

One of the 60 foot long halls - it needs a bit of a defrost after all these years

One of the 60 foot long halls - it needs a bit of a defrost after all these years

Tour buddy John emerging from the depths

Tour buddy John emerging from the depths

We got home late from our adventure. By the time I settled in my campsite it was almost nine. I read in the van until midnight without the light on. I left all of my curtains open hopeing to see the northern lights when and if it got dark but when I woke up at 4ish, it was already pretty bright so I didn’t see any. If this keeps up I may have to wait til the winter when I come back to Whitehorse for Desiree’s baby to try and catch the illusive aurora borellis.  Trouble is, I am always asleep before they sneak past my window.

Pingo - Still growing

Pingo - Still growing

There is so much more I would like to say but I am on emotional over load right now. My heart is a tangle of “what if’s” and “holy smokes.” I am alternately profoundly sad and cranked to giddy. Lucky you aren’t here. I think I would be hard to live with.  A couple of days of driving should help but the scenery is so over whelming I am not sure when I will be grounded again.

Did that sound negative? Sorry if it did. It was not meant to. It all feels really good. I am remembering to breathe and it feels like a good house cleaning.

Talk soon.

One Response to Aug 22 Heading South

  • Janice Turner says:

    Hello Vicki
    The scenery is magnificent! I think your moods sound exactly how they should be especially the highs…you might have to add some of those strap on weight to your ankles to keep from floating away. I thought for a moment in your picture that you were standing in the water with boots on and then I realized those are your bare legs and feet!!! Ahh too crazy.
    I feel bad that you have to leave already, it seems to soon. Well enjoy your trip back and try and keep those grizzly bears at the speck kind of distance…sounds like a good kind of distance!
    Smooth sailing for you and Vincent
    Janice

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