I’m up early again, before the 5am sunrise, dressed warmly this morning against the predawn chill. The sun climbs quickly from ocean depths with no land to impede its ascent. The colours are most violent before the sun crests - once over the horizon, the hues lessen, bathing the Wonderstrand in a cold golden glow.
I stand quiet, watching. Three seals swim parallel to the shore, fishing in the high tide swell. Ducks fly so low overhead, I can almost touch tail feathers – startled, they veer skyward, avoiding me.
Coffee is done by 8am and the sun’s rays have still not warmed camp. The tent fly is soaked in dew, a big change from yesterday’s dryness. Inside the tent, condensation has collected in the corners despite the screen and fly being open. Calm cool nights: fall is waiting patiently around the corner.
Its another magnificent weather day! I can’t believe our luck…a leisurely breakfast of bannock and another coffee before packing up camp and returning to the beach. More fresh wolf tracks searching (as we are) for in vain for caribou or rabbit or other careless furry prey. Its completely wind calm – we doff our shirts, airing out armpits before the rubbing of pack straps forces us to re-cloth.
Passing Rocky Point, we notice a long 4” plastic pipe coming out of the sand bank, emitting a trickle of fresh water. Nearby, ATV tire tracks and foot prints mar the sand. It seems this is a source of fresh water for the residents of North River. Curious, we climb up the bank towards the three legged wood marker and decide to follow the suggestion of a trail. It’s marked but must be used mostly in the winter as the summer grasses have grown tall and debris lies where it has fallen. We set off, ready for adventure.
It’s tough walking. Staying on the beach would have been more prudent. We labour over uneven mounds of wet tundra hummocks, sweating and swearing under the hot sun, feet stumbling in deep moss. Even the bake apples have rotted from their stems. An hour later with little progress, we halt and rest on a rocky outcrop, reassessing the situation. Ahead, it looks to be more of the same tortuous slogging. Shifting our gaze northward, the ocean with the firm level beach sand, beckons. We sigh, load up the packs and start bush crashing north.
Finally, we emerge from the spruce scrub to the high grassy ridge that parallels the shore. Below on the beach, a black bear and her cub feed on something we can’t make out. Deliberately, we noisily descend down to ocean level and the bears retreat up the ridge, lurking just out of sight. Thus we’ve switched positions. I turn my attention seaside: the tide is quite low, empty purple mussel shells strewn across pale sand. Is this what the bears were feeding on?
Reality rudely intrudes. We must swing south, crossing Sandy Point to return to North River and the stashed canoe. But before that, there will be at least one more night in the tent which has become home.
By sheer luck, we find easy passage between sandy dunes and then onto firm taiga. Large sandy depressions are lined with pebbles, polished smooth by wind or perhaps some long ago glacial action.
I’m torn between exhaustion and wanting take advantage of the wonderful light conditions. We are in dire need of fresh water – it’s been four hot hours since our last drink. Fresh water availability usually dictates the campsite location….however, tonight, it’s a crap shoot. I set up camp and Alfred goes off to search for water. Within minutes, he’s back, with a smile on his face and pot of cold water in hand. A tiny creek has retained enough moisture to provide for our needs.
With slackened thirst and established camp, the photo bug bites hard. The sun is at that unique, short lived, perfect time when everything looks great – the gorgeous light (and my film supply) will be exhausted long before I run out of energy.
Dashing this way and that, I excitedly snap photos with little thought to proper exposure, framing or subject. I’m flying in that rare euphoric state where things just can’t get any better. Alfred is afflicted with the same disease, his video camera whirring, battery levels dropping.
Eventually, the sun sinks too low and we return to camp, happy beyond belief. Peace and contentment follows the frenzy…drained of physical energy but brimming with emotion, we watch as the light of Cartwright shine in the distance. Mind empty of distraction, I float onward, carried by undulating waves.
It’s quiet tonight: no ocean surf booms, camp is too far inland, just a whisper of wind through larch leaves. The dark sky, familiar. A hazy constellation, the big dipper, my long time summer friend, nods a final greeting. Have I not always lived here?