On Tuesday evening I returned home after my most recent adventure to Rigolet and Happy Valley-Goose Bay. You may recall that I was supposed to have travelled to Rigolet in February but Old Man Winter had other plans that included blizzards, snow, more snow, freezing temperatures, delayed flights, more snow, cancelled flights, rebooked flights, more snow, cancelled rebooked flights, and even more snow. Fortunately, he opted to spare me the same fate this time.
Unlike all of my previous visits to Rigolet, this trek was a solo one. Most of the regular band of misfits who would typically travel with me were busy with work-related travels to non-Rigolet locals, thesis writing, or studying for PhD qualifying exams. In the game of Who lucked out in this situation? the winner was clearly me.
And so early Wednesday morning last week I made my way to the airport to board my chariot to Rigolet. I shared the plane with 3 other passengers (excluding the pilot and co-pilot), and enough boxes of frozen food to feed me for several years. Although the flight duration was short, it was timed perfectly with the rising of the sun which seemed to provide some rather spectacular views. The snow and ice that covered the water below slowly transitioned from a soft blue to fiery orange and red as more and more shadows gave way to the light. It was beautiful and serene and somehow the perfect antidote to the stresses I had been carrying with me long enough to assume they were my baseline.
As I stepped off the plane I stretched and breathed in my surroundings. An incredible wispy blue sky was separated from the snow-covered everything by a line of dark and quiet trees. I smiled and inhaled deeply, letting the cold air fill my lungs. It felt good to be back.
Between chatting with people in town, much of my time was spent with Sandi, Karl, and Daniel, or working away in their bed and breakfast. I had no reason to set an alarm and very little distraction from email or social media (mostly due to poor internet connections in the community). It was incredibly peaceful and relaxing, and as usual, Sandi and Karl made me feel like I was at home.
My visit also coincided with the Tikkiaksaugusik Festival, which included target shooting, dog team races, and other activities. The weather couldn’t have been better for either of the events. Despite some snow that fell on the two days after my arrival, Friday through Sunday offered clear blue skies and a lot of sunshine. To enjoy the races I jumped onto the back of the snowmobile with Sandi’s cousin as we travelled west to Double Mer. We bounded through well-trod paths lined with trees that looked almost lifeless and black against the brightness of the snow and sky. And as we approached the lake we were greated by what seemed to be most of the town, standing next to their snowmobiles, sharing chili and coffee and smiles, watching as the five teams traced their way around the lake.
It was just over an hour later that Sandi noticed the first sled approaching the finish line. Despite my best efforts and furious squinting, I couldn’t differentiate the team of 5 dogs and their driver Carl from anything else on the horizon. I took Sandi’s word and joined her as we waited at the finish line for them to cross. Eventually, the gap between the winning team and me shrunk sufficiently for me to see them approach. And even though there wasn’t a single team anywhere close to challenging for first place, the crowd roared. One by one the dogs crossed the finish line, followed by the driver. Half of them seemed exhausted, the other half looked as if they could fly around the lake again. Despite the fact that his beard and moustache were covered in a thick layer of ice, Carl’s eyes gave away a huge smile as he was lifted, sled and all, by his cheering audience.
By the time I returned to the B&B my feet and hands were thoroughly frozen. I made some tea, wrapped myself in a blanket burrito and settled in for a quiet evening. The next day I prepared to head home.
On my last day, as the sun began to set on Rigolet, I loaded up the snowmobile with my luggage, said goodbye, and headed to the airport with Karl. The sun hung low in the sky leaving long shadows behind me. The air was incredibly crisp and relatively balmy, and the snow covered fields and trees to my left and right seemed untouched and perfect. There were sharp edges where the wind had carved itself through the snow. And even though the scenery flew past me as we drove towards the airport, it seemed as if everything was still and quiet and asleep, and it was absolutely perfect.
Boarding my plane, I couldn’t help but think how lucky I am that I get to experience this part of Canada, the stillness and peace of this land, the incredible community of Rigolet, and the people who call it home. And I honestly can’t wait to return.