Frank Wolf paddling on the Back River in the Northwest Territories, leading to Nunavut. Frank and his buddy Ryan Bougie paddled 1,800 kilometres from Yellowknife to Gjoa Haven, Nunavut this past month. (Submitted by Frank Wolf) As Frank Wolf and Ryan Bougie reached the finish line of their 1,800-kilometre canoe trip from Yellowknife to Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, they were greeted with a pleasant surprise — a kind, elderly couple camping out on the land.
It had been 35 days since the travellers interacted with others humans.
"We came upon an Inuit encampment," recalled Wolf, a self-proclaimed adventurer who’s travelled wilderness around the world. The remote camp was near Chantrey Inlet, south of Gjoa Haven. Marth and Jacob Atqittuq were camping out on the land when they met two paddlers who had just finished their trip. (Submitted by Frank Wolf) Elders Jacob and Martha Atqittuq from Gjoa Haven received the strangers.
"He just welcomed us with open arms and his wife Martha, they fed us," said Wolf, whose trip concluded on Aug. 2.
Eventually, Wolf and Bougie got a ride to town and stayed with the Atqittuqs in their home.
For the next five days, the travellers, elders and their family members shared stories, food and games. Wolf said the smallest child to the oldest elder spoke Inuktitut, and he saw the family had a strong sense of connection to their culture.
"Everyone kind of came over, then they shared with us their traditional food — fermented seal meat, all parts of char, lots of caribou, narwhal," said Wolf. Wolf, left, hanging out with elders Jacob and Martha Atqittuq at a camp near Gjoa Haven, Nunavut. (Submitted by Frank Wolf ) "[They] really gave us a really intimate experience on how they lived."
Wolf said he learned that the 75-year-old Jacob grew up in the Back River area in skin tents and igloos, hunting caribou. He said Jacob’s knowledge of the land was impeccable — the elder could tell what’s safe drinking water just from the tide levels.
"He knows where all the fish are. He knows where every single rock is in the area," said Wolf. Wolf and Bougie with the Atqittuq family at the finish line of their 1,800-kilometre journey. (Submitted by Frank Wolf) Jacob’s benevolence was overwhelming, especially when he kicked some family members out of their beds for the two paddlers.
"We felt kinda bad," said Wolf. "We said, ‘no don’t give us their beds,’ but he insisted that we take the beds."
Wolf said he left Jacob his canoe. Wolf and Bougie paddling the Great Slave Lake in N.W.T. (Submitted by Frank Wolf) Animals like ‘ephemeral giant ghost’
Wolf said the trip was also memorable for some rare encounters with animals.
A curious wolf wandered into their camp one day, then scuttered away.
Wolf’s birthday fell in the middle of his trip, and nature gifted him a nice surprise.
"We happened to just come around the corner on the Back River, and it looked like the whole hillside was moving," said Wolf.
At first, he thought it was molting geese. Instead, it was herd of caribou. Wolf’s photograph of the caribou herd in Nunavut. (Submitted by Frank Wolf) "Then all of a sudden this kind of mist just rolled in over the river, and then literally [they] disappeared like an ephemeral giant ghost in to the mist."Wolf was named one of Canadian Geographic’s top 100 explorers in 2015. A photo of a muskox during the paddlers’ recent travel through N.W.T. (Submitted by Frank Wolf) "I think that’s a label that they use to kind of make it more sexy, maybe, to be someone in the outdoors," said Wolf."But I’m […]
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