Craig Kakolak is an experienced snowmobiler who has made numerous long journeys from one Kitikmeot community to another.
Even though he packs a variety of gear, he knows things can still go wrong. And that’s happened to him twice recently.
Kakolak made his first snowmobile trip between Kugluktuk and Cambridge Bay, leaving Kugluktuk on April 29.
After covering ground for about 36 hours, his snow machine started to overheat about 40 kilometres outside of Cambridge Bay. He detached his sled and let his snowmobile cool down. He then marked the location on his GPS and rode the final stretch into town, without the sled, his body sore and tired from the trip.
“I didn’t want to sleep on the ocean,” said Kakolak.
He went back out to retrieve his sled a couple of days later, on May 2, but then his trusty GPS died when the battery drained on his way back to Cambridge Bay.
Kakolak, 38, tried to orient himself but wound up heading east.
Fortunately, he spotted some cabins where some teenage boys were hunting small game. He pulled up and asked them for directions to make sure he was driving toward Cambridge Bay. They told him which way he should be going.
“’I’m so glad that I met up with you guys,’” he told them. “So these boys were kind enough to help me out to get back into town.”
If he hadn’t encountered them, he predicted he would have ran out of gas heading eastward.
But he said he never felt a sense of panic.
“I was OK. I have to go home to my kids. I’ve been away for a month so that’s what’s keeping my momentum going,” he said of this two children.
The setback has hardly deterred him from making other treks. He has plans to snowmobile to Gjoa Haven, where he’s going to make his new home.
He has previously made some snowmobile journeys from Gjoa Haven to Kugaaruk and from Kugaaruk to the Naujaat area – each of those legs taking approximately 13 hours.
When he’s heading out on the land, he makes sure that he carries a SPOT device, which makes possible emergency notifications to search and rescue. He also consults with the hunters and trappers association to find out which areas to avoid while travelling. As well, he possesses trail maps from his ancestors, showing commonly-travelled routes.
For Kakolak, spending so many hours zipping over the Kitikmeot landscape is generally a joy.
“Nature’s work of art brings pure solitude,” he said.