Day Four: Radisson to Chisasibi

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When we woke up, the wind had not abated; if anything, it had gotten worse.  We heard plow trucks clearing the parking lots outside and a quick glance out the window confirmed that sunlight would not be much of a factor in any of our exterior shots for the day.  Our goal was to shoot as much footage as we could, though, despite the weather, and we had come prepared for it in any case.

I went outside to get the car ready, and found it to be sitting in a strange little bowl that the snowdrifts had made for it.  There was almost no snow on the car itself; the wind had just swirled drifts in to surround it, as if curiously inspecting it from a safe distance.  I started it up, then kicked some of the snow away and drove out of the snow circle without any trouble.  The snow was very dry and light, which was encouraging because our car was very small and light.  We wouldn’t be powering through any heavy snow very easily.

We loaded up with our day kit, and oh what a joy to have a car only 1/4 loaded with gear!  Eric marveled at how easily it was to reach everything — we wouldn’t have to unpack half the car just to reach something we had inadvertently buried anymore.  I was delighted that I could now see through the rear window (although that would soon no longer be the case, due to the build-up of snow and ice cast on the window from the road).

Our cameras mounted and readied, we set out for the town of Chisasibi, about 60 miles to the west.

The wind was unrelenting over our entire drive, and it was an experience not quite like any I’d had before.  Although the road is maintained by plows (we saw at least one), they clearly had a hard time keeping up with the intense drifting.  At some points, the road was half covered by three feet of snow that had been blown over it.  Where there weren’t large drifts, there were smaller, more frequent ones that reached out and striated the road like the infinite fingers of a giant hand.  Driving through them slowed the car in brief surges, reminding us of the bounce of a speedboat over water, or of the constant rebounding of mogul skiing.

The wind brought the snow alive, making it dance and swirl over the pavement in strange, ghostly forms.  It was nothing I hadn’t seen before at home in Vermont, of course, but the enormity of the steel transmission structures towering over the weather-stunted black spruce trees lent the sight a coldness that struck me as unfamiliar and remote.

As we drove deeper into the territory surrounding Chisasibi, we began to see road signs we hadn’t before.  As part of the James Bay Agreement, the Cree have exclusive hunting, trapping and fishing rights on their land.  No one is allowed to pursue those activities there without the Cree’s permission.

It was not a relaxing drive, but it was certainly an interesting one.  We arrived in Chisasibi proper around midday, and set out to get our bearings.

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