Inuksuit – A Cautionary Tale

We set off on a hike early one morning last week with a book in hand on “British Columbia: A Natural History”.  The intention behind this hike through our local and breathtakingly beautiful park (Capilano Regional Park) was to begin identifying the trees and plants of our temperate rainforest.

We have hiked this park many times.  In fact it is the place I often wander into alone to lose myself for a couple of hours every week. It is a park crossed with many trails so no matter how many times you walk through it you inevitably discover something new, like blankets of bunchberry blazing with white flowers, nesting bald eagles or an extraordinary view of the  Capilano River between tall boulders.  The forest scenes for the Twilight movies were all filmed here.

We decided on the Chinook Trail because neither one of us could remember having hiked it before and because it was, surprisingly for this time of year, devoid of backpacking, bear-spray carrying tourists and weed packing teenagers.

The trail began as an easy upward slope of welcome green (see):

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Chinook Trail – Capilano Regional Park


And then we spotted him.

photo 1



And then him.

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Inuksuit.  If you watched the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games you will no doubt remember these enigmatic stone creations.

The word inuksuk means “something which acts for or performs the function of a person”. The word comes from the morphemes inuk (“person”) and -suk (“ersatz” or “substitute”).- Wikipedia



“Ilanaaq”, the mascot logo of the 2010 Winter Olympics, located on Whistler Mountain

Before we knew it we were following Inuksuit through the forest and had abandoned the trail altogether.  We had this strange feeling we were being guided and indeed we were no longer going up but down a log-strewn path towards the river!

We slid and crawled most of the way down this unmarked path but when we finally cleared the trees and the rocks we came to this:

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Capilano River gorge

and this

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The river glistened clear in the afternoon light so we removed our boots and socks and dipped our toes in and listened for sounds from the  band of stone brothers a short distance away.  I wondered what compelled someone to create these Inuksuit.   I still wonder.   Why in our modern, ever- shrinking world do some people feel the need to leave behind markers?  Something that screams ‘I was here!’ even if it was only for an hour.    Maybe these Inuksuit aren’t markers.  Maybe they’re art.  Maybe someone was compelled to create.  Like I am on a daily basis.

What do you think?  

An hour passed in the sun and having drunk every last drop of water in our bottles we decided to head back.    The return hike involved more ‘walking on toes’ and slipping and root grabbing than I’m used to and was definitely hard going but we walked out of the Park feeling especially blessed or ‘gifted’ like we were among a chosen few guided to that beach.




18 thoughts on “Inuksuit – A Cautionary Tale

  1. On many of our travels (in Canada and the US) we have come upon the Inuksuk – lonely sentinels on hills ablaze in the setting sun, markers set along trails, statues moving out along a rock strewn beach. I am always caught up in the wonder of the creation. As you ask – who built this and for what purpose? All I know, is that when I see these structures, I feel as though I am in the presence of mystery.

    • I have read that journalists have trouble finding anyone who will admit to actually building these enigmatic structures which only adds to the mystery! And I do love a good mystery 🙂

    • Did I mention slippery slope? fallen tree trunks? Made me feel like I was trying out for the Special Forces 😀
      Mmmm maybe there is a story here, thanks Eric.

  2. So, I need to add ‘British Columbia’ to my travel-list.. 🙂
    How fun it is to leave an ‘inuksuit’ trail in the middle of the forest.. he traveled a long way 🙂
    A few years ago, a friend gave me a book and an authentic Inuksuk artpiece from his travels up north to Greenland etc. Fascinating landmarks, bearers of an ancient culture which is kept alive up til today I believe.

    • It is a lovely idea but so mysterious as this is the first time I have encountered them in this Park and there are A LOT of them. I stopped counting after the tenth one.

  3. I’ve never heard of Inuksuk before, Yolanda. What a great adventure this must have been. I’m not a hiker, but that may be because we have too many snakes here to venture too deep into the rain forest behind our house. One day when I can get some sturdy boots (that go from toe to hip) I’ll set out on a journey of my own! 😀

  4. This is magical Yolanda – just the kind of mystery I love. Funnily enough I wrote a story recently about something similar – something created in a place for no apparent reason that maybe nobody would ever see.

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