Why did I do this trip? That’s a question that I don’t actually have a solid answer for. There are several reasons, but I always find myself sputtering when asked. I know that sounds a little odd. I traveled 755 miles through the frozen Arctic by snowmobile while camping out in sub-zero temperatures with polar bears, dangerous ice conditions, and blizzards all constantly looming, and I can’t think of a solid reason why.
George Mallory said it beautifully when he was asked: “Why do you want to climb Mount Everest?” His reply: “Because it’s there.” Mallory died attempting to climb the mountain. I am not a mountain climber and I can’t relate to his fate. It does remind me to stay safe. I can relate to his answer, though, and I’m going to roll with it.
Why? Because it’s there–the Arctic with its punishing winds and spans of treeless wild country and its challenges and mystique. Being part of it makes me feel alive in a way I think few will ever experience. The 50-pound lake trout are there and waiting to be caught in one of the most massive and beautiful lakes in the world. The pure water is there, and while I was there I drank straight from the Great Bear several times. It’s a great feeling to eat fish out of that lake while sipping ice-cold water straight out of a cup you dipped through a hole in the ice. To me there is nothing so pure.
Why? Because I wanted to spend more time with the people of the North who taught me a little bit about their way of life and the lives of their grandfathers. I’m intrigued by the stories of survival I hear. There are a lot of skills that can be learned from people who rely on hunting and fishing for food and not sport. One of the reasons I decided to go to Ulukhaktok was to meet up with my friend, Pat, a hard-core Inuk landsman who always has a story of a successful hunt to share. He is a wealth of knowledge and was the one who spawned the idea of this snowmobile trip.
Why? Because this trip gave me the chance to do something that very few people have done. Few people get to witness Arctic scenery as I did. The towering cliffs on western Victoria Island with a sparkling dusting of snow on them, the sun setting over the frozen Coronation Gulf as winds blew snow past seemingly endless snowdrift formations, or the herds of muskoxen running across the frozen tundra.
The icy grip of winter can be beautiful. Few people ever cast their eyes on such things or understand the feeling of satisfaction I got from being able to complete a trip of this magnitude. Few will learn what I learned, feel what I felt, or live as close to the land as I did.
But I’ll do my best to share the experience. Over the next few weeks I’ll share a series of video clips that’ll give you a good look at the wilderness I traveled and the lessons I learned along the way.