land. It was the wettest northern summer in recent memory, and there was no end in sight. Deep puddles obliterated long sections of the dirt road leading east from Ross River. I held my breath as Chris Ferguson (Ferg) inched his Subaru through coffee coloured water that sloshed against the doors and threatened to flood the engine. Fifteen kilometers short of the North West Territories border, a flooding creek had washed a deep and wide cut in the deteriorating track. This obstacle marked the end of the road, at least for our vehicle. Ferg shut the engine off, and we sat in silence. I watched raindrops splatter opaque patterns across the foggy windshield. Neither of us leapt eagerly from the car. It was not the type of weather that encouraged one to depart for eighteen days in the wilderness.
I generally agree with the great Victorian thinker John Ruskin, who once wrote that ‘there is really no such thing as bad weather, just different kinds of good weather.’ But the moment of embarkation is an exception. While the transition from ‘civilization’ to ‘wilderness’, from ‘comfort’ to ‘hardship’, is normally packed with eager anticipation, a moment symbolic of freedom, inclement weather dulls all idealism, and the sanity of the undertaking comes into question. Whether tearing oneself from a warm sleeping bag on a frigid morning, or unloading canoes from a float plane during a freakish summer snow squall, one feels a reticence to begin. Of course once underway, one easily deals with whatever natures presents, quickly falling into the rhythm of the land, managing clothing, schedules, and expectations appropriately. And you truly enjoy it all; the rain, fog, sun and wind. But starting in foul weather? That just feels wrong.
Eventually it became clear that delaying the inevitable was getting us nowhere, so we jumped from the warm car and hauled our bulging packs from the trunk. Anoraks were retrieved, hoods pulled up, cameras stuffed into garbage bags, and gators tightened over our leather hiking boots. After edging across a slippery beam that spanned the creek before us, we strode off side by side, down a wide gravel track that lead onwards into the misty mountains. Willow scrub stretched out in all directions, covering the gently rolling land like a prickly green blanket. Apart from the soft patter of rain, the wilderness sat under a veil of silence. Even the birds had taken refuge. Within minutes the car had disappeared from sight behind us. Our destination lay three hundred and seventy kilometers (230 miles) away, along an abandoned and long