No matter where we went in the North, we experienced amazing generosity from people. In Tulita, a man named Brian let us stay in his heated trailer when we were getting things organized at the beginning of the trip. Tyler helped us drill out our rail and install ice-scratchers. The job took a lot of his time and all we could do was get him to take a couple gallons of gas in return. Ron followed our progress on our SPOT Messenger to help make sure we were safe. Leeroy in Deline helped us learn how to troubleshoot problems with our machines and showed us a couple great tricks on how to get our machines unstuck. He also fed us and talked about our route.
Isaac and Gerry helped us choose a safer route from Kugluktuk to Ulukhaktok. In Kugluktuk, Allen offered to put us up for the night, and had previously emailed me his waypoints for the route from Great Bear to Kugluktuk. Allens’ son John invited us into his home for coffee and we traded stories. Larry drove us around town and was, in general, a good guy. Berry at the Enokhok Inn let us use his heated garage and power tools to fix our toboggans.
Of course Pat and Gene in Ulukhaktok were amazing, too. They fed us and let us stay at their place for a good night’s sleep. Gerry was the one who gave us some of the caribou he killed on Great Bear. The meat was very tender and delicious. (One great thing about winter travel, you never have to worry about your meat going bad, it’s always frozen solid.)
We would not have been able to do the trip if I hadn’t spoken with these people. Most of them have done part of the route before and shared their knowledge of it with me. I picked up many tips on ways to travel, fish, and camp more successfully. It re-enforced the notion that it’s important to learn from people more experienced than you when planning an expedition like this. Even if you can’t find someone who has done your whole trip, ask them about the part they know. Or, if they tried and were not successful, ask how they would do it differently next time and listen to their suggestions.
There is no doubt that life in the North is tougher. It’s pitch black for three months of the year, it’s often 50-below with howling winds. A jug of Tide detergent costs $50, a jug of chocolate milk $15, and a can of pop can be as much as $4.50. Hunting and fishing for food becomes far more important with prices like that. I think people in the North know it will be easier for everyone if they help each other out. I hope I brought a little of that hospitality home with me.