In the Footsteps of Explorers
It was 1981, and I was a student. We were north of Wood Buffalo National Park in the Northwest Territories; our job to map the outcroppings of the Great Canadian Shield. That May we were deposited by float plane on the shore of a long finger lake where we made our home for the next 4 months. It was rustic, but still luxurious, with large canvas cook, shower and work tents. We slept in pairs in the famous Canadian canvas Logan tents.
Each morning I was taken by helicopter (think M*A*S*H!) and dropped off at a spot I'd designated the night before on my air photo and topo map. In the evening, the copter would pick me up at my designated pick-up spot.
Back in those days GPS was still a military secret, so skills with compass and maps were essential. There were no roads. There was no human habitation.
Each day as I crossed from outcrop to outcrop, navigated shallow swamps and peered across expanses of stunted trees I knew I must be one of the few human travelers ever to have been here in this unsullied wilderness. But, several times I came across piles of white quartz knappings and I knew that perhaps thousands of years before, hunters had crouched on this same ground. I was not the first.
I think back on that quiet but rich experience and wonder if I could find that finger lake without my creased and bug-spattered map. There are still no roads, but decades later, I enter the lake's little-known name into Google maps on my smart phone, and there it is.