I had the question posed to me tonight: Where would be the one place you would go in Canada, if you could pick just one? I didn’t have to think long and hard about this. I’ve thought about it many times. But my answer is not one you might commonly hear: Quttinirpaaq. Ever heard of it?
Quttinirpaaq (an Inuit word meaning “top of the world”) is a national park on Ellesmere Island in Nunavut – the northern-most tip of Canada. To get to it, you must first get to Resolute Bay and charter a twin otter to fly four hours to the park. Yup. Its remote. This would, indeed, take some bravery on my part for many reasons. First of all, the thought of flying in a twin otter is enough to make my toes curl. Next, I’d be camping in the park and there are polar bears there. Yikes! And its remote (did I mention that?) The closest community is Grise Fiord with a population of 148 and is 640 km south of the park. Not exactly a commutable distance.
So why would I make this park my destination of choice? Let me explain. Quite a few years ago now – nine to be exact – Roberta Bondar (Canada’s first woman in space) published a book of her photography called Passionate Vision: Discovering Canada’s National Parks. A few years later, the collection of her photographs was on display at the Museum of Nature, here in Ottawa. Full sized, and I’m talking BIG, photographs filling the walls of the dedicated room with such compelling beauty, I could have looked at them forever. It was then, that I decided that before I die, I must visit the national parks of the north, and in particular, Quttinirpaaq.
Further reading on Quttinirpaaq revealed that it was a land of the midnight sun. I have no idea what kind of effect this would have on me. My only reference is Al Pacino’s character in Insomnia which, of course, doesn’t bode well on a trip that takes me so far from home. And don’t think that I’m the Voyageur type. The very idea of going to Quttinirpaaq is completely out of my comfort zone. But when I look at the photos and imagine standing there at the edge of the Arctic looking over the Fiord toward the snow covered mountains with the sun shining at midnight, I can’t help thinking …this could be the experience of a lifetime!
I don’t know when I’ll go. Maybe when the kids are older. It sure will take some planning. I’ve always felt that seeing all of Canada should be a priority for me. Shouldn’t it be important to see all of one’s own country – even if its as big as Canada? I’ve seen some of it. I’ve driven from British Columbia to Ontario (approx. 4786 km) with many stops along the way. On a separate trip I’ve driven from Ontario to Cape Breton in Nova Scotia (approx. 2224 km), also with many stops along the way. I have not, however, seen Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, or any of the territories. But they’re all on my list and the star attraction is Quttinirpaaq.
I would love to hear where you would go in your country and why!