I keep returning for the landscape. It starts with the two-hour flight north from Yellowknife over the tundra to the Burnside River delta and small cluster of buildings of Bathurst Inlet. It continues with the landforms we see and come to understand of as we explore the Inlet, trekking along glacial rebound beaches and along diabase sills and over saddles in the Bathurst ridge.
I return for the birds. Shorebirds nest here after long migrations from South America. White-crowned Sparrows and redpolls sing in the bushes outside my cabin. Loons and eiders nest on islands. Jaegers and Peregrine Falcon soar overhead.
I return for the ‘unscheduled performances’ of Caribou, Wolverine, Grizzly Bears, Muskox, Arctic Wolf, and Arctic Hare. As we ply the waters and walk the land, I try to develop the Inuit’s ability to scan a landscape and see “what doesn’t belong there”. Maybe someday I’ll be the first to point out the day’s best sighting!
I come for the garden of Arctic flowers abloom on the tundra - lousewort, lupine, fireweed, avens and orchids, and so many more that Page Burt, the lodge’s naturalist, has documented in her Arctic flower guide, Barrenland Beauties. And I come for the rock gardens along the shoreline, with their beautifully coloured and shaped and layered rocks, laced with patterns of yellow, orange, and grey lichen.
I return for the early human history of the area, evident at Inuit archeological sites with tent rings, meat caches and caribou runs, and in demonstrations of traditional tools and clothing. We learn the European history in the area, such as Franklin’s exploration of the Inlet while seeking the Northwest Passage… and the lodge itself being a former Hudson’s Bay trading post.
And always I return, knowing that I will be met with the gentle and tireless hospitality of lodge staff – the Inuit families, the Warners, and Page Burt. I can think of no better place to connect with and learn about Canada’s amazing Arctic than with these people and at this place: Bathurst Inlet.