Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The hottest day of the summer in the Arctic: Long Point Beach

My goal for the day was to get a sunburn.

I woke up in the morning, and before I opened my eyes, I knew, somehow, that this was going to be the hottest day of the summer.  This, I decided, was going to be a beach day.

Who knew the Arctic could be so warm and lovely?  It was 22°C, which was unthinkable, considering how a month ago we were complaining about how hot it was at 8°C and opening all the windows.  As I sat on my front porch (which, to be totally honest, is actually a series of wooden crate racks pushed together), sipping my iced tea, wearing a sarong dress, and listening to Washed Out, I had to ask if this really was still the Arctic.  Everything was just feeling so uncharacteristically warm and summery, I could have easily been in California instead of Nunavut. Eventually though, the sewage truck came around to pump sewage out of my neighbours' houses and I was pulled back to reality. Yes, this is still Cambridge Bay.

We decided to head to Long Point Beach for the day. Long Point Beach is this magical place that the locals speak of with much fondness, maybe fifteen kilometres out of town, past the airport, past gravel pit, and past the cabins. You'd swear you were in the Caribbean.  A business could probably set up a tourist beach resort here, if only the Arctic Ocean wasn't so frigid.  It's miles and miles of fine white sandy beach stretching on forever, with shallow green-turquoise-blue waters.  Unlike beaches down south, you get total privacy too. Usually there isn't another soul around.  These are the benefits to living in one of the least densely populated regions in the world. The entire population of Cambridge Bay could put down a towel at this beach and it still wouldn't look anything like Kitsilano beach.

So we piled kayaks on top of Bram's van, which by the way, I have decided to name the Bram Van 3000, after the similarly named totally awesome Canadian band of my adolescence.

The Bram Van 3000 is awesome. It may possibly be older than me. It is older than Nunavut, because it still has a Government of Northwest Territories logo, from whom B bought the van from.  Some kids stole the keys out of the truck one day, so now B starts it up by hot wiring it every time.

the van key

we love the Bram Van 3000

As we were packing the Bram Van 3000, P showed up on his sick new mountain bike.  He's been training like crazy for the Arctic Summer Games in Kugaaruk, so he's probably one of the fittest guys in town.  
"What's up?" I said.
"Just riding. What''s up with you?" he asked.
"We're heading out to Long Point Beach to do some kayaking."
"Bet I could beat you there!"
And then all of a sudden, he was back on his bike again. And I'm pretty sure he made it all the way there too.

It's a bit of a rough road to get to Long Point Beach, and to make it all the way there you need: 1. four wheel drive, 2. good shocks 3. high clearance for your undercarriage.   The Bram Van 3000 had the later two, so we went as far as we could on the dirt road, and then kayaked the rest of the way.

See the horizon? That's Long Point Beach.

It was the most beautiful day I had ever seen for kayaking. The horizon was obscured by smoke from a distant forest fire in the mainland (really distant...somewhere where there are trees!) so you couldn't tell where the ocean ended and the sky began. The water was the calmest I had seen, so paddling my kayak felt like a knife cutting through the water. I felt like I was sliding on glass, or kayaking in the air.

motor boats (cheaters!)

gloria emerges from the skies

Long Point Beach is a lovely place that seems like a vision, a mirage in an unlikely environment. Who else would expect such a beautiful sandy beach in the middle of the Arctic? This the freaking Arctic. Yes, I know Ella Fitzgerald sings about how California is too cold. Yes, I know Prince Edward Island's waters are cold all the way to July. Yes, I remember that time we went swimming at the cottage in Ontario when there was still ice covering part of the lake. But this is the Arctic, where it snows in July, where the ocean only melts in June and has frozen over again in October. But a few weeks of the year, it's summer. And a few days of the year, it's warm enough to wear a bikini and hang out on the beach just like you're a Hawaiian teen surfer (albeit a very pale one).

the tip of Long Point Beach

S and me

look at how clear that water is!
look at how fine that sand is!

obligatory selfie

S, standing on the highest point to try to work the cell phone.

The best part of Long Point Beach: No cell phone reception so you can't Instagram your selfies, with captions like, "LOOK, INTERNET, LET ME SHOW YOU WITH MY MINI-COMPUTER  HOW MUCH I AM ROUGHING IT IN THE WILDERNESS."

In this case, S was trying to reach our friends.  Our friends, as it turned out, were on the other side of the beach. Long Point Beach is...really long.

"Do you think there's a body buried under there?"
"That's a survey marker, Gloria."
While the simplest explanation is usually the correct one, I prefer the most interesting one.

The ocean was still cold though.

Checking out the G's seadoo

Presenting: the worst sand castle ever built. Hey, I had no tools, and I was out of practice BECAUSE I LIVE IN THE ARCTIC