Okay, first of all, I have returned from the Arctic only to have snow fall on April 23 in Syracuse. It just doesn’t seem fair. My trip was absolutely incredible. I have never visited any place else on Earth that even came close to approximating the desolation and stark beauty of the far North. It took 2 days and 4 flights to get all the way to Cambridge Bay. The local airline that we flew from Edmonton, FirstAir, was surprisingly nice. We even got fed on the tiny cargo planes !?!
Even in April, there is so much snow and ice everywhere that it is nearly impossible to tell when you are on land versus the water. The local folks told us that the ice doesn’t start to break up until June. The wind just whips through the area since there are no trees to act as any kind of a wind break. Most days, the wind chill caused it to feel roughly 20 degrees F cooler than the actual temperature.
This far North, everything has to get flown in from far distances. A trip to the local general store was a real eye opener. Bags of salad greens were $9.00, a pineapple was $12.00, and you better hope that you are a lucky hunter since a beef roast was $56.00! We couldn’t resist checking out the local KFC/Pizza Hut that was attached to the general store. They were out of pizza, bread sticks, wings, and chicken strips. And they didn’t even have fried chicken on the menu. We settled for a $13 snack of popcorn chicken.
The local Inuit people are a model of hardiness and innovation. They don’t just survive but actually thrive in the harsh cold. And they could not have been more friendly and welcoming to us. One afternoon, we got to go out fishing with a small group of local individuals. They cheerfully drove our group out in sled boxes pulled behind snowmobiles. Even one of the guide’s 2-year-old daughter was out with us. She was bundled up from head to toe in fur and homemade clothing without an inch of skin exposed. When she finally became cold, the mother placed her in a papoose on her back, and literally zipped her in under her jacket. Unfortunately neither Nick nor I caught any fish, but the experience was certainly unforgettable.
The ice was between 6 and 8 feet deep. It was incredibly clear and smooth, allowing to see through it in some spots.
Muskox – no idea if this was ice or land….
We stayed in a cabin one night about 12 miles from town. It was a cozy set-up with propane heat, and bunk beds. One of the local women cooked for our group. I don’t think a simple stew has ever tasted better after being out in the cold for 9 hours. Typically this cabin is used in the summer for a place to hunt and fish from. The sunset was incredible.
So that was our Arctic vacation. The title refers to the fact that I still have all ten fingers and toes. Although, I did get a touch of 1st degree frostbite on my hands. With my mittens off for only 2-3 minutes, I had sensation loss in all ten digits even with liner gloves on. Fortunately I didn’t have any tissue loss, but I still have numbness and tingling of 6 of my finger tips. Check out the wolf gloves that I was borrowed while I was up there: