09/13/2005, Wisconsin, USA
View Photos from All Three Resupplies CLICK HERE
As our last update announced, we are back in the US of A, far from the Canadian tundra, temporarily separated from each other, and without our sacred Bell canoes, that sit dry and still in Gjoa Haven, awaiting their departure on the October barge. Fortunately, we've been greeted by a strange phenomenon called "summer" which has made our return a bit more bearable.
I just called Karen to ask where she left off on her last update from trail, to which she replied, "I called in the update from Montreal Island right before we ate that caribou." How could I forget? One week home and already these memories seem uncomfortably distant. Our 18ft. motorboat journey from Cockburn Bay to Gjoa Haven (King William Island) was nothing short of epic. We were wind-bound, salt-bound and down to a few beans and a lot of sausage to placate the roar of our appetites. Paul and Aaron, our Inuit motorboat guides, tolerated, even laughed at our endless inquiring of the weather forecasts, departure expectations, weight concerns, and fuel consumption. It was the first time in 3 months that we had to relinquish some control over our meticulous routine of operation. We quickly learned that in the Arctic, planning ahead doesn't make much sense; people go when the weather is good and stop when the weather is not good. Paul and Aaron were generous and patient men from who we learned a great deal. On one wind bound morning, the two returned from a hunt with two caribou and invited us to feast on the meat, fat and broth (soup). The once vegetarians eagerly accepted.
Our arrival in Gjoa Haven, an Inuit community of about 1000, was incredibly welcoming. We were immediately swept into the home of Michelle, the head RCMP officer who then planned a dinner party for our first night. The community's two police officers attended, as well as Melissa, an elementary teacher, the head nurse (also named Michelle) and Cindy the community health advisor. Of course the BPE made two cakes thinking that 10 people was a crowd. The next day, we gave a few presentations at the school about our journey to Gjoa Haven. We spent some time with Melissa's 3rd grade class where we spoke about Manito-wish and how it has impacted our lives. We then taught them to make macramé necklaces like campers do. We also attended the girls' after-school dance class and got the opportunity to talk a bit about the value of all-female experiences. The children were curious, affectionate and beautiful. It didn't really matter who we were, but just that we were there, talking and playing with them. After speaking with one 9 year-old boy for about 3 minutes, he gave me a decorated piece of paper with his name on it "so I would never forget him." I haven't.
The same grace could be noted of all the people of Gjoa Haven. We met soapstone artists, seal hunters, and newborn babies; people who were born on the rivers, people who had never seen the rivers and people who were moved from an entirely different Arctic region. There were elders who spoke only Inuktitut and families with 12 people to one household. The people of Gjoa Haven (mostly Netsilik) have preserved a great deal of their traditional practice since the time they've were moved off of the mainland (they began to inhabit the community in the 1970's), although the strain of transitioning from their natural, nomadic lifestyle is strong and visible.
We would like to send out a most heart-felt thank you to everyone in the Gjoa Haven for sharing your home and time with us. We are honored to know you and will never forget your stories.
Our two plane rides and 3 days in a Manito-wish-bound van were expectedly bittersweet: bitter to be leaving, sweet to be returning. My heart wrenched then I saw the trees at the Yellowknife airport. Rick Monserud, Andrea Ward and Rob Williams, our three fearless and fantastic friends made the trek all the way to Edmonton, Alberta to pick us up and drive us South--one direction we hadn't ventured this summer. Thanks again to them for bringing us music, fresh fruit, camp stories, mail and the most spectacular sighting of the great Aura Borealis. We couldn't have asked for greater people to bring us home.
At Manito-wish, not only were we greeted by our families, our amazing families, but also by the reason and inspiration for this expedition: camp. The five of us sat on the waterfront steps, silently clinging to each other, and could simultaneously hear the summer sessions that came and went while we were away and the sounds of our own summer of rivers that still roared in our minds and hearts. We could feel the pinnacle of all our Manito-wish years on those steps as we attempted to make sense of a day without a paddle or an hour without each other. So the next step has to be made: sharing our adventure
There will soon be a new webpage that will have continuous postings of presentation dates and news from the Borealis Paddling Expedition. We have several talks planned for the Madison/Milwaukee area over the next couple of months, and plan to reach out Minneapolis, Duluth and even to the Vermont/Connecticut area (home of Nina). We are excited to have raised about $28,000 for the Borealis Campership Endowment and are eager to raise $22,000 more to reach our goal. Thank you to Anne Derber and Ellie Orbison for managing and maintaining the energy of the endowment while we were gone. We're excited to charge it forward!
A couple of final, very important thank yous:
To the BPE web team: Phil, Cheri and Jessica. These are people that managed our website while we were away, waited and translated the blurry updates phoned from the Arctic and methodically responded to emails, phone calls and the alias for us. We are so grateful to have been blessed by your patience and diligence throughout the summer. Thank you for making BPE updates possible.
To Bell Canoe Works: Our Alaskan Canoe sponsors. Our Alaskans endured 95 days of paddling big winds, maneuvering technical whitewater, hauling over 50 different kinds of ice, dragging up dry riverbeds, blowing (nearly blowing away) in tundra windstorms, and carrying 5 women and 8 packs for almost 1500 miles. In a word, they were PERFECT. We would (and will) take them again in a heartbeat and we appreciate your confidence in us and support of our mission.
We're off trail but the journey is certainly not over. Please continue to share your thoughts with us or have questions about our route, food or gear. We'd love to hear from you and hope to see you at a slide show soon. Thank you for staying tuned this summer!