July 09, 2006

Hike to the Rock Garden – (Day 11)

Walter Medwid talks about a place on Ellesmere he calls the rock garden. His eyes are misty and his tone is reverent as he speaks of this spot, still so clearly etched in his memory. The rock garden is a pit den used by wolves long ago. Dave has given detailed directions, and as I top the ridge, I consider my options. I walk along a shallow drainage and then turn west. Ahead of me is a jumble of boulders, and I head for that. Perhaps the den is there. I climb up on the rocks and look down, and I know immediately that I have found the place. It is littered with well-gnawed bones, some very large, and among the fragments are clumps of saxifrage and lousewort and bright yellow poppies. I skirt around the end of the rock spill and descend. The hollow earth den is evident, and the little caves and recesses in the rocks are filled with miniature arctic flowers. It is a magical place. I am reminded of illustrations in a book I loved as a child, and I can’t think what the title was or even what the book was about. No wonder Walter remembers so vividly and yearns to return to this spot. To the west, the ice fields of Axel Heiberg shimmer in the perpetual summer sunshine. To the north are the brooding flanks of Blacktop Ridge where we will go tomorrow for the musk oxen count. I find a smooth rock and eat supper – or is it lunch? Whatever. A snow bunting joins me – good company.

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