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Husky Lakes, NT: a true wilderness frontier

"The Husky Lakes are a system of brackish estuarine basins in the Northwest Territories of Canada. Formerly known as the Eskimo Lakes, they are called Imaryuk in Inuvialuktun, the language of the Inuvialuit. Together the basins cover an area of 1,933 km2 and drain an area of 9,543km2. They average 13m in depth with maximum depths of 100m."

A local Inuvialuit man, Dang Dang, is a friend of mine who has been graciously showing me some of his favourite spots on the land, and this trip out to his family's hunting cabin on Husky Lake was a truly wild experience.

After an hour drive up the ITH (Inuvik Tuk Highway), we parked the truck and trailer at a pullout marked by two sleds stored along the dirt road, and began unloading the quads. Swarms of mosquitos helped us hurry to load the sled up with our overnight gear. Towed by a quad, the sled was packed with bags and fuel, leaving room for one person to ride along. We headed off toward the lake, a 30 minute ride, before arriving at the spot where the boat was pulled up onto the shore. Moments after we transferred the gear to the boat, we were off on the final leg of the journey to the remote cabin. Another half hour passed before we saw the little blue cabin perched perfectly above the lake. The entire journey I was overly excited by the birds I was seeing: Short-eared owls, Northern hawk owls, Tundra swans, Arctic terns, and a Long-tailed jaeger, to name a few. The evening was spent enjoying food, a game of crib, and a fire in the woodstove while we relaxed in the small, shared room by the evening light.

The next morning we packed up the boat for some exploring and fishing, first heading straight across the lake to explore an old abandoned fishing lodge nearby a long sand spit. Old caribou antlers, skulls, and whale skeletons decorated the tundra around the cabins. The buildings were in rough shape with the exception of one cabin still used by local hunters. It was so interesting to me how remote this place felt, while also recognizing that it has been trafficked by Indigenous people since time immemorial. Where the physical relics have deteriorated back to the earth, the stories remain and can not be claimed by the water or land. There is a rich history here - you can almost feel the presence of the many travelers before you as you observe and explore. As a guest on this land, it is a comforting feeling to be so humbled by this.

As we pulled away from the shore, the fishing lines hit the water almost immediately on both sides of the boat. This time of year, the fish generally move into the deeper water and can be difficult to catch. Accordingly, the Lake trout were either not interested in our lures or had moved on to the deeper water and weren't biting at all. I didn't mind the lack of action on the water as it allowed me to focus on scanning the shoreline with my binoculars and it wasn't long before I was rewarded with a reindeer sighting. The young male was on his own, browsing near the waters edge. I learned from Dang Dang that this herd and the local Bluenose Caribou herd have meat distinct from the Porcupine Caribou further south near Inuvik - he describes it as a salty flavour from feeding around the Arctic Ocean and salty waters of Husky Lakes.

Reindeer, Rangifer tarandus, on the shore of Husky lakes

By 4pm we were at the shore where we left the quads, our journey at Husky Lakes almost complete. On the way back to the truck, I was packed into the sled, cozied up in moose and caribou skins. The ride was smooth and comfortable as we slowly made our way across the tundra. We unloaded gear and stashed the sled away on the side of road before piling into the truck and heading even further north for the next adventure...

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