August 25th, 2019
We made it! We reached the Polar Sea! What a journey it was. We awoke at 5:30 to a clear morning that promised warmth and sunshine. We took our time during breakfast, relishing our final minutes in the bug tent. We pushed off at 7:00 AM and Class #1 rapids sped our progress to Bloody Falls, which was only ten miles away. We reached this final obstacle in no time, not bothering to scout it as we had been told by everyone that it was not possible. We portaged up a steep slope on the river left side and followed a clear path over wooden planks and rock for one kilometer.
The portage was not terrible, but after over a week since our last overland carry, it wasn’t easy. Bram and I joked it seemed impossible to imagine how we had made it to this point if the Bloody portage felt this difficult.
At the end of the portage we ate some nuts and watched a fishing boat in the distance. With less than ten miles to Kugluktuk, there was no denying the approach of human development. We pushed off and began our paddle to the final destination. It was during this stretch of paddling that my heart and throat swelled as I contemplated the culmination of our efforts bringing us to this place. I was so proud of myself and of Zach, Bram, Quinn, James and Paul. A young southern wind blew in behind us as the sun reflected off the clear water. It felt like the world was ushering us forth, whispering encouragement and approval to our souls. Joy and love overcame me and I sobbed quietly in the stern.
We pulled over on a shallow sand bank only a couple of miles away from Kugluktuk. Zach and Bram switched positions in the boat so Zach could better record the final paddle strokes that took us to the ocean. We held the shore nearby as the horizon stretched before us one last time. We beached in the town and a man on an ATV drove right up to us. From a distance he looked like he was wearing a massive puffy but as he neared our boats, we realized he was simply morbidly obese and his outerwear was nothing special. We greeted him warmly but received no response or anything but a vacant expression hidden behind sunglasses. After twenty seconds of terrible awkwardness, Zach approached the man and began enthusiastically telling him of our adventures. He never received a response and our “moment” was effectively squashed.
Thankfully, another man named Donald pulled up in his truck and warmly greeted us. He directed us to a free campsite further down shore and assured us he would stop by shortly to help us find showers.
The boys explored town while Bram and I stayed with the gear. We met a local woman named Andrea and her young daughter Ayesha while they were fishing. Andrea invited us to her home to shower and wash our clothing. We accepted her offer and ended up sleeping on her floor after she assured us that Grizzly bears hung around the campsite on the beach. We bought our flight home for the following afternoon and called our loved ones. It was time to go home.