This week’s dream
An arctic wilderness open only a few weeks a year
Touching down in Canada’s Torngat Mountains National Park “feels a little like arriving on the moon,” said Adam Leith Gollner in Travel + Leisure. The vast wilderness preserve is that remote: It occupies northernmost Labrador, and, owing to the harsh climate, the base camp—a collection of “extraterrestrial-looking” geodesic domes—accepts visitors just four or five weeks a year, from late July to late August. Even during those weeks, reaching the park can be tricky, as dicey weather regularly grounds the small planes that transport visitors. The ride in our Twin Otter was cold and cramped, but it offered “mind-blowing glimpses” of the landscape below. Moose roamed the woodlands. Porpoises cavorted amid icebergs in the Labrador Sea. When the glacier-capped Torngat Mountains finally appeared in the distant mist, I thought they might be “some kind of low-air-pressure-induced hallucination.”
The word “Torngat” means “place of spirits” in the language of the Inuit, who inhabited the territory for millennia before the Canadian government forced them to relocate a half-century ago. In 2005, the government ceded the land back to the Inuit, and they now run the 3,745-square-mile park, whose base camp doubles as a research facility. The scientists who live there often wander among the camp’s domes wearing full-body mosquito suits, adding to the otherworldly vibe. To overnight at the park is to feel oneself “part of a tiny human enclave set within a vast, permafrost wilderness.”
Cruising the coastline by boat was transporting. We gazed down on colonies of sea urchins through the “gin-clear” water. We also watched bearded seals frolicking off the ice floes and saw polar bears—the region’s alpha predators—everywhere. “Every new vista brought a fresh astonishment.” That night, around the campfire, we were serenaded by Inuit throat singers as the northern lights appeared overhead. At such times it’s not hard to see why Inuit shamans came here to commune with the mystic world. As one of the singers asked: “How can you not believe in spirits in a place like this?”
Four-night packages, offered by the Torngats park authority (thetorngats.com), start at $4,926 a person.