It was in the early morning of the tenth of June, 2013, that the last journey began. Desultory and sleepy-eyed I dragged my frayed rucksack into the domestic departure hall of the Vancouver Airport, scouting for the fastest way past exuberant vacationers and equally erratic rolling suitcases tightly leashed to their double-breasted business owners. A glance at the bright and uninviting electronic glare of the self-check-in terminals reminded me that thankfully by now I had accumulated enough airmiles to qualify for the privilege of human contact. I made a beeline for the deserted frequent-flier counter and the bored-looking agent behind it.
“Where are you flying to, Sir?”
“Deer Lake,” she confirmed in a sullen tone, “it’s a very popular destination today.”
“I can only imagine,” I smiled and heaved the several pounds of extra baggage—tent, inflatable mattresses, and the rest of the camping gear—on the scale.
“Have a good camping trip.”
Camping, this time, wasn’t part of the research agenda. With a few spare dollars in the budget it wasn’t a fiscal restraint, either. It simply was, Jon and I agreed, a more fitting experience. Unable to find off-grid cabins for rental this time, we had surmised that camping in national and provincial parks would provide us with final, longer-lasting tastes of the off-grid life: a warm fire, a simple but efficient shelter, self-catered meals made from unpretentious ingredients, and a dark starry sky for evening entertainment. To boot, for some obscure reason incomprehensible by both our scientific minds, we found that a cold creek kept a bottle of beer infinitely much cooler than a hotel’s mini-fridge.
Many hours later we settled into a fir-shaded grassy site, as the early evening Newfoundland sun slid shyly behind the western mountains. Gros Morne National Park’s Lomond campground was tucked alongside the fjord-like East Arm of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, meandering away into steep hiking trails and hidden kayaking routes. It was a pity to be on a schedule. While a tinfoil-wrapped dinner of fish and potatoes slowly roasted over the campfire, we idly compared notes about that afternoon’s interview.