Monday, July 13, 2009

The Call of the Wild

My friend Steve called me a couple of weeks ago and asked if I might like to go to Labrador. For the last three years, Steve has gone to the Torngat Mountains National Park in northern Labrador for a week of rugged and remote wilderness camping with none of the amenities. Air Inuit offers charter flights into the Park--otherwise, as the saying goes, you can't get there from here.

The only problem being that the dates of the trip corresponded exactly with my annual week-long sesshin with Boundless Way Zen. I posed the problem to Steve (who is himself a Zen priest): "For me, this trip is a pilgrimage. It is itself a means to experience that 'original mind' that we experience on retreat." The word sesshin means "to touch the heart/mind." Is not stepping out into unknown territory--a true wilderness--a kind of sesshin, with all the challenge, struggle, and moments of awakening that such entails? I was sold.

And this is what I read about the Torngats on the Parks Canada website:

From the Inuktitut word Torngait , meaning “place of spirits”, the Torngat Mountains have been home to Inuit and their predecessors for thousands of years. The spectacular wilderness of this National Park comprises 9,700 km2 of the Northern Labrador Mountains natural region. The park extends from Saglek Fjord in the south, including all islands and islets, to the very northern tip of Labrador; and from the provincial boundary with Quebec in the west, to the iceberg-choked waters of the Labrador Sea in the east. The mountain peaks along the border with Quebec are the highest in mainland Canada east of the Rockies, and are dotted with remnant glaciers. Polar bears hunt seals along the coast, and both the Torngat Mountains and George River caribou herds cross paths as they migrate to and from their calving grounds. Today, Inuit continue to use this area for hunting, fishing, and travelling throughout the year.

Place of spirits. That works for me.

So now I'm engaged in the task of getting organized--begging, borrowing, and stealing (actually, purchasing) what I need for the trip. Layers of clothing mostly, a few hiking accessories, and enough insect repellant to keep the mosquitoes and black flies at bay. A week from Saturday, we drive to Montreal, then fly to Kuujjiak, an Inuit community in northern Quebec and, finally, take an Air Inuit charter into Saglek Bay. When that plane takes off, we'll be quite alone--just us and the caribou, polar bears and golden eagles, among other wildlife...

Stay tuned.

Image Source: Saglek Bay and Fjord. Photographer unknown. From the album of photographs furnished to the Newfoundland Royal Commission, August 1933. Courtesy of the Centre for Newfoundland Studies Archives (Coll-207), Memorial University of Newfoundland Library, St. John's, Newfoundland.


Sarah said...

Woo hoo! Have a great time - can't wait for the stories and the photos!

Geoff said...

I'm in awe of this trip. Wow.

David Heald said...

So am I ( in awe, that is...) Thanks for the comments and good wishes!

Heathers T and E said...


I would also like to go to Aurora Village near Yellowknife, NWT (check it out on the web)

Sukie Curtis said...

Yup. Pretty darn cool.