Today is probably going to be my last day in the Richardson Mountains and I wanted to make the most of it, so I set off with the idea of heading to the highest summit I could find. The idea that anyone could “conquer” a mountain is a fallacy, but in a world where most things are made easy, standing on a mountain top remains a challenge that one must earn. I was out for about four hours total, and at times the wind was so strong that I could barely stand — at one point I was on all fours, freezing wind trying to rip me off of the mountain, clawing my way through a snow bank and onto the top of one of the many peaks that make up the Richardson Range. The windchill was going places that I didn’t even know were possible, but the experience was a tremendous way to say goodbye to this place.
As I was getting back to the Subaru a guy in a pickup truck stopped to chat. One of the things that I love about remote areas is that when you do meet other people it’s a special occasion — in the city we ignore one another, but out here when you see someone you generally stop to talk for a bit, and Albert even went so far as to offer me a cup of coffee (which was about the best thing anyone could have done after my deep-freeze expedition). The topic of conversation among almost everyone is the same — caribou — and like most people I’ve met Albert had come down from Inuvik hunting. We parted ways after fifteen minutes or so, but given the scarcity of traffic at this time of year we are something like neighbors, and it is ironic that I’ve already met several of my “neighbors” up here while in the city I’ve lived in places for years and often never even met the person living next door.