Special thanks to Lara Johnston, Humber College
Episode 5: Angela Ready, Marlaina Lanese
Motion Graphics: Gabriel Pontes
Assistant Editors: Felipe Chaparro, Shayne McGreal, Aman Agarwal
Post Coordinator: Kiani Shimada
Series Post producer: Geoff Rayes
Coming to the final days of my journey across the Ungava Peninsula, I had to trek a bare minimum of 20km per day to reach Hudson Bay before mine and my dog Buck’s food ran out and to rendezvous with our ski-doo pick-up. Relentless blizzards had prevented us from traveling for many more days than anticipated. Both of us were on half rations at this point and each day was a long, hungry march.
In the weeks before the trip, I’d told First Mate Pet Foods that I would try eating some of their canned food, (I’d brought mostly kibble but a couple cans for Buck too). They’d asked me to eat some, and I sheepishly obliged. (I needed sponsors badly). Well, I was blown away when I ate it, it’s actually good. Better than Spam, way better, that’s for sure. Buck looked at me with a surprised face when he saw me eating his food. I thought it was going to be gross and I laughed in disbelief after trying it. Really, it’s just cooked puréed Salmon. What’s there not to like?
By this time in the trip, we were getting into May and one night we had heavy winds and very wet snow with temps around 0 or 1 degrees Celsius. Because of this, the boulders that scatter the tips of many of the hills and ridges emerged through the melted snow. In addition to this, warmer temps had created slush conditions on many of the lakes and softened the snow. Winter was gone, it was early spring now.
It was my last day and I needed to make it 25km in order to reach Hudson Bay. I was rendezvousing with a couple Inuit from Akulivik who were picking me up by ski-doo for the 30 km lift along the coast to the community. There is obviously no cell service here, so if I didn’t make it, I’d miss my pick up. At this point, all I had for food was a small zip-lock bag, half full of protein powder.
Buck has been slowing the pace a lot as I was trying to make time. He’d get his sledge hung up on a snowdrift or one of the exposed rocks and he’d bark behind me, unable to pull himself free. After calling and calling him with no result, I’d take off my pulk straps and head back to get him. Then, every time, right before I’d get to him, he’d just pull himself free all on his own. At this point the warm weather had softened the snow too. Before it had been very hard packed, now I was sinking in almost to my knee with every step despite my snowshoes. It made things harder for Buck too but we pushed on.
I had to cross many steep river valleys and there were many huge, boulder-strewn ridges that are about 250’ high and steep that needed negotiating too. Buck was having trouble, he kept getting hung up on boulders and that mixed with the deep snow and steep incline made things very hard for him. I had to keep dropping my pulk straps and going back to haul his stuff up. When I saw another gigantic ridge in my path that evening I though there was no way I’d make it to Hudson Bay in time to meet my pick-up, or I’d have to be hauling across dangerous boulder fields in the dark. I was almost at the top of this ridge when I secured my sledge before heading back for Buck who was some 200’ below. As I made my way back down, I was blown away when I saw Buck’s head pop up over the include! I couldn’t believe he’d made it! It was so steep and he’d managed to weave through and haul over many boulders! He’d figured out how to do it. I was so proud of him. As we creased the top of the ridge, I saw Hudson Bay. It was closer than I thought! We powered out the final 2km arriving just before dark. We did it! If it wasn’t for Buck saving me so much time by managing to ascend that ridge we wouldn’t have.
The next morning I found myself camped in an area that had clearly been used for hundreds of years. I saw old hearths, stone tent rings and caches marked with long black rocks. Snow had melted off of the site exposing many low bush Arctic Cranberries that had frozen onto the plants the year before. That’s when there the sweetest. As I ate handfuls of the berries, I look back at the end of my trail and imagined where it had begun, some 360 kilometres to the east. It was a surreal feeling to put one ocean at your back and then arrive at one in front of you. Before long my ski-doo pick up arrived and we rode to Akulivik. What an adventure. In all, it took me and Buck 36 days to complete our crossing and from my knowledge I am the first on record to compleat a self-propelled winter crossing of the Ungava Peninsula.
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