March 12 (Day 15)
With the late night action, I’m a late riser. The coffee is already brewing at 7:30am, the wind still gusting and temperature hovers around –25C. It’s a layover day, I’m glad given the conditions and lack of sleep. Most people also plan to sleep, read and relax. After pancake breakfast, with little luxuries of like heated maple syrup and sausages, I head out side.
There’s a ridge with steep cliff overlooking Menihek Lake that I intend to explore with the idea of obtaining an overview of yesterdays route and tomorrows. Approaching from the gentle north side, the elevation slowly climbs, passing through gardens of different sized erratic and patches where the strong winds have cleared snow away to the bare ground. Wind has scooped out hollows at the base of the rocks and on the larger ones, I can comfortably crouch down to gain wind shelter of my own. Other animals have done the same as evidenced by the rabbit pellets. The stunted trees which have only the most marginal toe hold in soiless rock crannies. Its blue sky above, I feel like king of the world! Its exhilarating again to breath deep and be thankful for good health, good weather and the freedom to wander at will. Not a single inukshuk marks the summit and for that I’m glad….still a wild untamed dot of land unpolluted by inappropriate graffiti.
More learning goes on. My wind anorak was only partially successful at keeping me warm up top, and even after donning the down vest , the wind bites through and I’m chilled facing the wind and descending back to camp. After lunch again I head out with Garrett on a hunting expedition…this time a black spruce grouse feathers fluffed against the cold, makes no effort to hide, cheekily regards us from larch tree perch. Still feeling somewhat guilty from the last occasion (our larders are well stocked, somehow it seems an egotistical power play to take a life wantonly), I ask Garrett I’d like to shoot only with my camera and he agrees. We return to camp empty handed but film full.
I can’t get enough of this winter landscape. Without the sled, it’s pure pleasure to wander thus off I go, this time following a small creek upstream before climbing yet another summit. The surface has a hard crust from the rain and when snow shoeing across it shatters like a champagne glass, tingling, a delicate slight sound, music to ears accustom to more brutal harsh human sounds. From the top, I can see Howell Lake, from where we came 2 days ago – the sun is shining over the ice like a vast sea. Sun dogs parallel the horizon. I soak up the scene like a thirsty traveler at a desert oasis, balm for soul and weary spirit.
It’s coming to end of the trip, I can’t shake a melancholy feeling. What a wonderful vacation, living like a vagabond, with nary a care in the world. The trip was pure pleasure: a huge new winter camping experience in the traditional mode, meeting some very interesting people, the benefit of outstanding guides and cooperative weather. Too bad it had to end, I’m ready for another month of this!