We woke up today, to biting winds and -30C temperatures. No surprise, the extreme cold was expected; as was the headwind we skied into all day long. A little bit of ‘frost-nip’ to contend with as a result, but that’s ok.
I’m delighted to say that we are now on Simpson Lake. A big lake, that takes on a narrow, elongated shape, (roughly at 68N by 91W) viewed on the map, but Lake Simpson is actually quite wide to the West, takes a small dip to the South, then reaches West again. This will be our route.
It’s possible we have (unintentionally) camped near a fox-den. Obviously, with a sled full of food, it didn’t take long for a crafty and inquisitive little nose to wind up where it shouldn’t. I fired off a couple of ‘screamers and bangers’ and we never heard from the fox again. Where we are now, we’ll be keeping a watchful eye out, not just for Arctic foxes, but also for wolverines and… grizzly bears. Grizzly bears? Yes.
Several days ago, we crossed paths with some Kugaaruk friends going to Gjoa Haven by snowmobile. It was nice to catch up on news, but their parting words to us were, ‘take great care and watch out for grizzly bears’. Hmm…interesting? We were, to some degree, already aware that we were heading into territory known to be occupied by both grizzlies and polar bears. Still, we found their warning worthy of note, to say the least.
Cold day, cold night. Our stove is going full tilt to build heat in the tent. Richard and I, both caught a bit of a chill today, and need to warm up to get comfortable. The welcome warmth that is building slowly inevitably leads into one of our evening chats.
Over our now many days, out here battling the elements, the team has hypothecated on and mulled over, a diverse number of topics, some lofty, some light, some even trite. Tonight, finally getting a bit warmer (thank you stove) and nearly thawed, we discuss the many contributions England and Scotland have made to world cuisine, and the elevation thereof.
‘Well, Scotland, gave the world, haggis. Yes, a fine meal if there ever was one, says I. ‘Everyone knows that!’
‘Well, hold on, England too… think bangers and mash,’ Richard says, which prompts a quick retort from me, ‘yeah, and fish and chips!’. Yes, fish and chips would do nicely. Pizza actually, would be nice. And so it went. Eventually, one thing led to another. Uh, finally it was, with apologies to, “roast beef and Yorkshire puddin’ with all the trimmings and lots of gravy,’ that we came to the conclusion that what we both really, really crave …right now…this instant… is ‘a Bacon Butty’ —that’s two pieces of bread, lots of butter, plenty of fried bacon between, dressed with a liberal dollop of HP Sauce. Nothing would go better tonight.
After three weeks on the go, living on freeze-dried meals, your tastebuds are looking for a change, which then morphs into a whole lot of visualizing and wishful thinking about what it is we will eat, just as soon as we finish this journey. But, in all honesty, the freeze-dried food we have on the expedition is great.
With the memory of Rae and his companions travelling Back’s route to Simpson Lake, fixed in our minds, we are now at the lake he travelled on. This is the lake he surveyed. This is the lake where he met Inuit. This is the lake where he heard the first stories of the ill-fated Franklin Expedition, from them.
We are really in the thick of it. And as we ski along and look up at the surrounding hills, a few of them prominently displaying cairns at their tops, our minds harken back 165 years, to when Rae was here. We continue to draw inspiration from this great explorer and gain energy from his achievements, as we follow in his footsteps. He is here with us. We are making good progress.
David and Richard [and the Arctic Return Team]
Arctic Return wishes to acknowledge the terrific folks at 72 HRS Survival and First Aid, in Vancouver. The freeze-dried food they supplied to keep us going has been absolutely great! Good people and good expedition food. Thank you! (@72hours.ca)