Gerry Kisoun meets us at Inuvik airport. He's our guide for the next few days, and over an excellent burger, he outlines his plan. I call him Big Gerry because he's big in size and in personality. Everyone knows Gerry. He nods his head, waves, and says hello to pretty much everyone we meet during our time together.
He was an officer in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for 25 years, and for the last 14 has worked for Parks Canada, the country's national parks program, as a community liaison officer. "I love my land, being part of my people, and sharing my experiences and culture with others. It's what it's all about," says Big Gerry. "This is one of the few places in the world that is truly untouched. It's beautiful."
We're lucky with the weather. Sure, it's brain-hurtingly cold out there-that NEVER changes-but the sun is shining, there's not a breath of wind, and the vast sky is a hard sapphire blue. We load up the Jeep and Big Gerry's Dodge Ram, which act as a mobile rescue camp, with sat phones, safety tents, a massive snowmobile, a powerful heater unit, and plenty of other safety gear.
Meandering our way through Inuvik's half-dozen side roads, we take a sharp right on to a broad arrow-straight road. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a flotilla of boats and barges sitting high and dry on the hard shoulder. I'm on the ice road. Just like that. No big neon flashing sign, no cheesy shops. Just a yield sign and we're away.
The ice road is incredibly wide, almost 100 feet from shoulder to shoulder, and thick. At three feet, probably closer to four feet, the ice is easily capable of supporting the heaviest of articulated trucks. The surface of the road is not what I expect. Instead of it being glasslike and slippery, it's rough, dry and grippy-like emery paper. It certainly poses no problems for the Jeep, which simply gets on and does what needs to be done without any fuss or problem.