Saturday, May 25, 2013

IQ Day - Ice Fishing

One of the benefits of my job is experiencing IQ Days - a couple of days a year where we get to go out on the land and learn about the Inuit culture/traditions. Short for Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, translated as "that which are long known by Inuit", it allows us an opportunity to step away from the office and enjoy the land.

For our day, my office planned an ice fishing trip about a 40 minute snowmobile ride out from the town's border. Knowing that I get cold pretty easily, I was told by numerous people that I needed to wear lots of layers because although the forecast said it'd be 1 degree outside, the snowmobile ride would be very cold. I layered up in so much clothing I felt like a marshmallow (long johns, leggings, snow pants, 2 pairs of socks, winter boots, a tank top, a long sleeved tshirt, a thin fleece hoodie, a thicker hoodie and my Canada Goose parka, gloves, and a knitted headband to cover my ears. I also packed my spring jacket, a hat and a scarf!) I'm glad I layered as much as I did, because I spent most of the day without my parka, but I did wear both my sweater hoodies and my headband because my neck and ears were really cold - something that I never would have dreamed of a year ago when anything under 25 degrees was cold to me!

We met at the office and drove down to the dock to meet up with the snowmobiles and sleds. Unfortunately, the dock was a little slushy and the truck we were in got stuck and had to be pulled out  by one of the passing plows!
Group shot before we head out!

Snowmobiles and qamutiqs

Stuck truck

As we were getting ready to head out, a convoy of snowmobiles drove by - turns out the schools were having their land trips this week and they were taking a group of kids out as well. We passed them as we were driving out, and they were sliding down a hill and all sorts of fun things!
Hi kids!

The sleds being pulled are called qamutiqs and is basically a box on a sled, or just the sled part (no walls). For the first bit of the trip, I rode on an open sled which was lined with furs and you held onto ropes that were wrapped around the sled so you don't fall off. I rode in an enclosed one later, and much preferred the open one! You don't feel the bumps over the snow as much, and it was nice to feel the wind around you.

We set off and found a spot about 40 minutes away from town and decided to stop there and try to fish. We had brought an auger and they started to try to break through the ice using the auger and a little "scoop" at the end of a long pole - which you use to scoop out all the snow that gets created from drilling.
Plan of attack

Drilling and scooping
Unfortunately, with one extension on the auger, it still wasn't long enough to get through the ice. They estimated that it had to have been around 13 FEET of ice before it was going to break through, and the auger was probably only 6 feet long. Boo. :( No ice fishing there. We made the most of it while we came up with a contingency plan, so some people went snowmobiling and sliding down a hill, a couple of the boys went to try to hunt, and then they made hot dogs on a portable bbq while we waited! Nothing like a snack of weenies at 10:30 in the morning. :)

On to Plan B! We drove back towards town, closer to where a row of hunting cabins were in hopes of finding thinner ice and some fishing holes that were already dug up. We set up camp and tried in two different spots to fish but still no luck. We even waved down people driving by and got another extension for the auger, but even with that it didn't work...and then the auger broke! We did manage to open a water hole so we had super fresh drinking water, so all that drilling wasn't a waste!
They're really trying!!

Fresh water hole

While all that was going on, lunch was getting started! We had to melt ice for the beef stew (no caribou to be had, darn) and once we got the stove going it was a just waiting for everything to cook together!
Chop, chop, chop

Melt, melt, melt
So...what did we do while we waited for lunch to cook and we couldn't ice fish? There was a rousing game of kick ball, rides on the sled/snowmobiles, driving lessons (guess who got to drive a snowmobile for the first time??), and a lot of appreciation for nature!
Going for a ride!

Pink soccer balls are the best

Our gorgeous view for the day
When lunch was ready, we had delicious stew and baked bannock - traditionally a fry bread, but baked this time to make it a little healthier. Let's not mention that this batch happened to have bacon in it, and we ate it with Klik (I finally meet people who like Spam as much as I do!). They were going to fry up some fresh bannock but no one remembered to bring a frying pan, oops!

Klik and bannock - such a guilty pleasure!

Beef & barley stew - great after a day in the snow
After lunch, we soaked up some more sun - speaking of which, Arctic sun, surrounded by reflectively white snow, is *strong*. I lathered up liberally in SPF60 sunblock all day, and I've still got a nasty sunburn on my face today. Also, the "raccoon" tan (white around the eyes, tanned/burnt around the rest of the face) that we all tried so hard to avoid by taking our glasses on/off all day, is very apparent on my face today. Booooo!

We packed up late in the afternoon and headed back to town with full bellies and memories of a fun-filled day on the land. It was such a great experience and an exciting day, we were all a little sad to have to pack up. At the end of the day, it was such a good time then I didn't even mind that we didn't get to fish. It's freeing to know that a mere 15 minutes out of town, you literally feel like you're in the middle of nowhere. Can't wait for next time! :)

Time to go :(

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