I made it to the Arctic Ocean!
Since there is no road access to the ocean in the summer, I had to fly the last 60 miles to Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, a tiny Inuvialuit community right on the ocean.
Rain delayed my flight, so I camped in the parking lot of the tour operator that was booking my trip.
After two days of hanging around, blue skies finally break through and I get a knock on my door, “If you want to go, we have to go right now!”
We make our way to the airport and I see the tiny Cessna that will be flying me to Tuk.
I’m not afraid of flying. But I am anxious about riding in an old single engine plane piloted by an unknown boy who looks like he hasn’t graduated high school — especially when I seem to be designated the emergency co-pilot.
I also know that flying is all about checklists and details, so, looking down, I’m hoping that the guy making the plane safety signs is not the same guy in charge of plane safety.
The flight to Tuktoyaktuk is extraordinary, and from the sky you can see why there is no road access in the summer. In winter, there is, as they just drive over all of these bodies of water on the winter ice road.
Upon arrival, I meet my tour guide, a local Inuvialuit woman from the community.
Tuktoyaktuk, or Tuk, is a community that still depends heavily on fishing and whaling for food, so the tiny town is surrounded by seaside smokehouses where families cure fish and beluga whale meat:
I was also given a tour of the community ice house. A catacomb-like series of hallways and rooms, the underground storage facility is used by the entire community to store their catches of fish, caribou, and beluga whale meat. (And, presumably, anything you’d like to keep frozen.)
A tour of the ice house also lets you see what the permafrost (permanently frozen ground) actually looks like.
This tour is not for the timid. You have to descend down an icy, and sometimes bloody, ladder into the frozen earth:
After the tour of the ice house, we headed to the ocean.
I collected rocks, dipped my feet into the icy water, took photos, and got kind of emotional.
It has been such a long journey. I emerged from my deep depression almost a year and a half ago. Getting healthier and developing a clearer mind, I realized I needed to simplify my life – to shed all of the excessive materialistic ’stuff’ that I’d surrounded myself with (and gone broke collecting).
At some early point, as you know, I started to blog about it. I started to connect with others online who had simplified and gone nomadic, were in the process of doing it, or, like me, were just hoping to.
As I was walking along the ocean, I couldn’t believe that I’d made it to this point. That I actually had gotten healthier, that I had simplified my materialistic life, and that I’d taken a journey I was terrified of taking.
I also felt a little sad that this trip was over. I recognize that I still have to drive back down the Dempster and Alaska Highway, but it is different. I don’t feel so frightened by it, but I guess that is the whole point.
I’ve met many women along the road who’ve said to me, “Wow, I’d be too afraid to do that,” and I always reply, “Oh, I am very afraid!”
People have also suggested that I was trying to ‘conquer’ something in my quest to cross the continent, but I don’t feel like I’m trying to conquer anything either.
I feel like I have become more aware of myself as someone who is more connected to a larger world around me. It is not just my extended visits to beautiful natural environments that has cultivated that sense of connection. This blog that I meant to use as a mere record of my journey evolved into an unexpected instrument for it.
But I’m headed to Alaska for a long visit with my husband, so the blog might be quiet for just a little while.
I don’t know where I’ll head from there. I will continue to post updates, but they might be less frequent.
In the meantime, I hope those of you who are in this process will take the time to blog and share your journey with the rest of us.
Thank you for sharing this journey with me!