End of the Road

Published: June 26th 2017
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Geo: 68.368, -133.743

Today is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. In Canada, today is also Aboriginal Day, a day to celebrate the original Canadian inhabitants (i.e. "Indians"/"Eskimos"😉. So, what better place to be than Inuvik? It is inhabited by something like 70% native Canadians and is the furthest town north you can drive to on a public road in North America in the summer.

All day long they had events scheduled. Unfortunately not many of the locals are very interested in doing...anything, so the day didn't start out too fast. There was a breakfast at the community center at 10am, but there were only about two dozen people there, about half tourists. At noon they had a parade that included a contest to see who could create the float with the best aboriginal theme. We really should have entered because there were 4 cash prizes but only 3 entries. Only the first place winner put any effort into their float.

Anyways, the better part of the day was the gathering at the park in the middle of town. They had several entertainment items scheduled, including a blanket toss, a modern cookout of hamburgers and hotdogs, a cookout of aboriginal foods, various musical groups from around town, and a feast in the evening. We sat around for a couple hours whiling away the hours until we could hopefully take a flight up to Tuk on the Arctic Ocean.

At 4:30 we headed over to a tour agent and took a van ride over to the airport and caught a flight up to Tuktoyaktuk (Tuk), a village on the Arctic coast. The only person in the airport was our pilot. Despite looking something like a small modern airport, I could tell the place operated a lot like the single-wide trailer FBO that I learned to fly out of in mid-missouri. The pilot was a young guy in his 20s and took flew us up there in a Cessna 207, a 6 seater plane. We flew about 300-500 feet off the ground the whole way in kind of an indirect route that followed the river north and then went east to the town. From the sky, you can tell the terrain is very pock marked with endless nameless ponds and lakes, interrupted occassionally by a pingo here and there. Pingos are the pimple looking hills in the ground that are formed from underground water sources freezing and pushing the soil up.

The only person in the airport at Tuk was a short native man wearing jeans and a fleece. He introduced himself as "Boogy" and proceeded to take us around town in a van. Our first stop was a hilltop where we stood and overlooked the town while he talked about its history and stuff. The only problem was that it was maybe 45 degrees with a 30mph wind. There was another couple about our age with us and both me and the other guy were taking the stiff wind as best we could with our wives hiding behind us. The local guy didn't seem to mind, although he did have a bit more natural insulation than we did.

After that, we drove around a bit and saw a few things here and there. They have a little monument thing where the Trans Canada Trail is supposed to someday come through Tuk and go all the way back east along the northern coast. We stopped at a little beach head and touched the ocean and took a few pictures.

Our last stop was the ice house, an underground cavern carved of the frozen ice-ground to act as a freezer for storing meat throughout the year. A 30 foot ladder takes you down underground and then hotel-like rooms line 3 hallways. Of course it is all dark except for flashlights, so it kind of has a crypt-like weirdness to it. That ended the tour and our pilot was waiting to take us back to Inuvik. The return flight was fairly uneventful, other than we flew at a higher, smoother altitude and took a straight path back.

We got back just in time for Cari to participate in the Midnight Sun Fun Run, a half-marathon taking place each year in Inuvik during the solstice. The half-marathoners took off at 10pm and ran to the airport and back. The 5k/10k runs took off at midnight. I got a really good picture of Cari running past the "Welcome to Inuvik" sign and another good picture of her running past the finish timer.

While she was running, I went back to camp and set up our tent. The wind kept gusting to 30mph and the campsite is on a hill, so the entire time I was fighting mother natures efforts to break the tent and blow it away. The other problem was that because most times of the year it is snowy and/or muddy, you have to camp on these wooden slats built up from the ground. So, I have nowhere to stake the tent that is blowing uncontrollably. After 45 minutes of work, I managed to secure each of six tiedowns to the wood using all kinds of engineering magic. I took several pictures of of the tent because of how proud I was to solve such an annoying problem. If it had been dark, I would have given up. Thank you midnight sun.

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