Aug 21 (day 13)
It’s always great when Darryl or Julie cook – breakfast is the predictable but filling and stomach pleasing ‘sunny boy’ with much coffee. Fancy fooling grub is nice but I’d rather just fill the tank and motor on. Today is the last day of our hike: twinges of sadness cross but warm temperatures and sunny skies soon lift my mood. Hundreds of char, their black bodies visible in the water, mill at the junction between the Stecker and Ramah rivers. I stand still, in spite of the water temperature and the char brush by my sandaled feet. Finally succumbing to numbness, I stumble to the banks, haul myself out, and marvel at the sheer numbers.
Mary is in the lead, it’s up the slope and across another level terrace. Below, multi- coloured ponds of blue, green and varying combinations, sparkle. Caribou alarmed at our approach, dash off before turning around for a second look, then retreat more slowly. The views up and down the valley are glorious, again all conditions are fantastic. We get caught in a maze of small steep banked ponds, lined with cat tails and bulrushes and have to double back looking for an alternative route to keep feet dry.
Ahead, Ramah’s waters gleam a tempting blue. The tide is out, exposing mud flats. Not a good place to walk, as it’s boot sucking mud - some unlucky hikers get wet feet as it slops over the top. The better route, although not direct, is along the shore which winds in and around rocky headlands that peel thin rock pages directly into the ocean. Caribou seeking to escape inland flies wade farther out in the receding tide. This time, they pay us no need.
Time seems to be accelerating, events unfold rapidly. We locate the barrel cache that was deposited 10 days ago – high on the slope, it appears to be untouched. There is no sign of David. We dump our backpacks, drop down to the shoreline and walk at a rapid pace towards the old village site of Ramah. It’s on a broad wedge of land about 3 km east, we hurry as the weather seems to be changing. I notice a dead seal guts, skull, ribs, and some skin still intact on shore…hmmm. There are polar bears which frequent the coast line, preying on seals (and rumour has it hikers), but we have a gun and someone knows how to use it and isn’t the gun with David somewhere? Pay no heed to this little niggling voice as we race to beat the tide before the headwalls become flood and result in significant detours. Daryl and Julie turn back, Mary and I press forward, dazzled by the intricate rock patterns and mix of colours.
After spooking two more caribou, we reach the old mission site. Not much remains except the stone outline of the cemetery, an headstone engraved in German, a wood head board with the date ‘1904’ (?). Abandoned aviation fuel drums lie rusting against the slope. Other flotsam such as bricks imported from Europe, coloured broken crockery fragments, lie scattered in the tall grasses. On closer inspection, an odd plant catches my attention – it is 100-year-old rhubarb in flower! Depressions of old sod houses line the shore – we stand inside and try to imagine life here in the winter. The walls have collapsed, the bone roof rafters long gone but some life essence remains. Gazing up on the slopes, other small man made structures catch my eye but we are running out of tide time and start back. An intriguing place, evidence of historical crossroads: Labradorians – Moravians – whalers - Vikings - Inuit – Thule – Dorset cultures, unlabeled others, their passage noted only by the uncaring, enduring eye of Ramah Bay. I’m thrilled to stand here, inhaling the same salt air, viewing the same slopes, wanting to see what they saw and know what they knew.
Torngak smiles…a minkie whale arches, blows close to shore, waking me from my reverie. I can practically smell the stink of its breath. Two dun coloured ptarmigans cock their red combs, cluck and strut their chicken walk away. Faintly, a peregrine screams, its echo high in the hills in contrast to the harsh croak of a raven. Small groups of caribou browse scattered on the green slopes. Canada geese, flying in V–formation, land on the opposite shore, their honk, carries distinctively across the water. My senses tingle, buzzing with the energy that washes throughout the land, sea and sky. I’m beginning to see…
It’s a dinner of celebration…the wine is poured, accompanied by yesterdays fish, rice glop and cheese cake desert. How sweet life is!