Our truck wasn’t the only vehicle bouncing up the road. We passed several RVs, likely those of tourists from down south. The government of the NWT markets the highway as a “milestone” and “the first road in history to reach the polar shore of North America.” The federal government, for its part, has linked the road’s opening with persistent and troublesome narratives of nation building, heralding it as connecting all Canadians “from coast to coast to coast.” I wondered how many of those tourists saw the highway that way—as simply an avenue to the Arctic Ocean, a handy bucket-list adventure. To me, and to those who live on either end of the highway, the new road is about connecting with ourselves.
Our first stop in Tuktuyaaqtuuq was the beach at the end of Beaufort Road, also known as The Point, where the landmark Arctic Ocean sign stands. There were a dozen or more rented vehicles and tourist buses parked and a long lineup at the latrine. Megan and I hoisted ourselves out of the truck, still stiff from driving 3,300-plus kilometres. Quinn, now untethered, sprang from her car seat and sprinted toward the water—an act to get any parent’s heart pounding. I chased her down the beach, fighting through a thick cloud of mosquitoes that dissipated once I reached the water’s edge.