July 31, 2020

A Winter Adventure

By Stuart J. Sorkin, MD

“Dad, can we go on this trip?” asked my teenaged son, Brian. We were fishing one summer in Wawa, Ontario, about 25 years ago when he found a brochure for the Little Bear, a local train in the subarctic, northern part of the province that went from Cochrane to Moosenee, carrying “hunters, trappers and Native Canadians.” I quickly agreed.

The next winter we boarded the train, dressed in our finest longjohns, sweaters and parkas. We saw no hunters or trappers. There was a wedding party of Native Canadians in their Nikes and Calvin Kleins. In fact, Brian and I were the only passengers who looked unusual on the train, which made a weekly stop in the middle of nowhere to drop off a case of beer for someone who lived in the wilderness.

After four hours traveling past snow-covered forests and an occasional power plant, we arrived in Moosenee, just south of James Bay, the "Gateway to the Arctic," where it was -40 degrees Fahrenheit! We stayed overnight at the Polar Bear Lodge, the town's only hotel. It had a community TV with only one channel. The sink and the toilet shared a common water supply; we didn't drink from the sink. We had chili dogs at the town’s only restaurant and browsed at the Hudson’s Bay Company store, which sold everything from clothes to cars. We did meet a family from North Carolina who were there for cross-country skiing (crazy). The locals that we met were extremely welcoming.

The next morning we made the return trip on the Little Bear. The scenery didn't change. Would I do it again? Absolutely! It was a bonding trip for me and my son that we’ll never forget. And hopefully when the coronavirus crisis passes, my older son Adam and I will be going on a long-planned bucket list trip. Where to? Greenland.