July 10, 2006

The Enchanted Valley

Blacktop Ridge – (Day 12)

After breakfast, we head for Blacktop.
It looks much closer than it is. It takes us fully 2 hours of bouncing along, splashing back and forth through Blacktop Creek as Dave scouts for a safe route. “This is spectacular,” I say, and it is. “The best is yet to come,” Dave replies. He’s right. At the base of Blacktop is a narrow valley between two sheer rock walls that remind me of the descent into the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River. The valley floor is a wonderland of cotton grass dotted with wildflowers of every color. It is pure enchantment, another place on Ellesmere touched with magic. We unload the quads and climb a steep hill, settling on the flank of the ridge to scan for herds of musk oxen. The wind is fierce, and the sky boils with dark clouds.

We retrace our route and wait until 8:00 before heading to the den. The rain stops, and we start the long trek out to the den where Bottle Brush and Grayback, the nannies on duty, take turns entertaining the pups and playing with them.

Edgar Comes Home

It is very late when we head back - early morning, if one goes by clock time. Pausing on a ridgeline to rest, we glance back, and what to our wondering eyes should appear but a miniature black speck in the distant sky. You guessed it. It’s Edgar. He sails in for a landing beside us, looking deeply offended and put out with all of us. We head back in stages, pausing every so often to let Edgar get over his fits of pique and catch up. Eventually he strays off into the sparse underbrush and obstinately refuses to come farther. But we console ourselves with the certainty that he knows how to find us. Nonetheless, we sound like grumbling parents complaining about a teenager who is late coming home. "He'll be here later!" we reassure one another.

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