It was good to cross the tree line again today. As much as we love
the barrens there is something comforting about knowing
that you have shelter and firewood should it ever be
needed. Also it is so much easier to cook big fish with
wood rather than our little stoves. One of Walter’s
major talents is constructing fireplaces. He is an
engineer by training and creates elaborate masterpieces.
They smacked of overkill when we were cooking with our
single burner stoves on the barrens but now that we are
back amongst the trees his edifices are more
appreciated. Dick accompanies each result with a
perfectly evenly sawed, split and stacked wood supply.
Perhaps we are not doing enough miles each day to
properly tire those two out.
July 26: 13 miles total the last two days. Yesterday morning we
arrived at the complex on Red Rock Lake where the most
amazing couple spends their summers. Marjorie and Max
Ward welcomed us into their compound and were the
perfect hosts for a wonderful 24 hours. They have a
beautiful Twin Otter parked out front for their commutes
into Yellowknife. Max, 81, is one of the original bush
pilots, and flew out of Yellowknife decades ago before
starting an international airline. It fact, it is one of
Max’s earlier planes that is perched on the pedestal at
the Yellowknife airport. Anyway he helped carry Randy’s
boat into the shop to repair the bottom where it had
been rubbed through dragging over rocks and ice. We also
used their laundromat and showers and set up for the
night in one of their guest sub mansions. The cook baked
cookies until we were stuffed and after dinner we all
sat around to tell stories. Max has been in the north
even longer than Dick and it was one of those perfect
evenings when everyone ruefully trots out their most
outrageous experiences. In the morning we scarcely
paddled 3 miles, just out of sight, before stopping for
the day. Sandy is suffering after 42 days on the trail.
She is both sick and worn out and tonight she and Randy
are struggling to decide whether they should return to
the Ward’s and fly home or continue on with us in the
morning. It would be a sad thing to see them leave
Week #7: What a perfect week, just the way summer trips should be.
Lots of rapids and fun stretches of river, along with
wolves, caribou, musk ox, moose and grizzlies. Easy
days, fine weather, great scenery and wonderful camping.
Everyone should be sure to do the Coppermine once in his
or her lives. Summers are so nice in the north. There
seems to be at least one good week almost every year.
July 27: 15 miles. Thunderstorms this morning so we had breakfast
in bed. The green canoe has decided to continue with us
and we are all glad that decision is finally behind us.
Nice weather today and we are camped on an esker at the
end of Rock Nest Lake.
July 28: 13 miles. There are 4 sets of intricate rapids below Rock
Nest and each canoe made its own way. At the bottom we
came upon a capsized canoe lodged mid-stream with all
its gear. We wrestled it ashore and left it for whoever
comes next. It belonged to two young women who
apparently survived their mishap. We were attacked by
angry terns today that kept clipping the stem of our
canoe in their efforts to head us off from their
nursery. Big moose outside camp tonight.
July 29. 34 miles. We startled a sleeping grizzly with her two cubs
on shore today. Imagine our surprise when she woke up
and leapt toward us. Once she saw that we were six
however the three of them quickly detoured into the
brush. She was very tall on her hind legs; most
impressive. We’re camped on a high bank at the edge of
the woods tonight and it is very plush with nice moss to
sleep on. A mother wolf and her three pups are just
across the way. We are pretty much at the Arctic Circle
now and will be crossing the tree line back onto the
barrens before long.
July 30. 30 miles. Three moose today, also a wolf with six pups,
the most we have ever seen. Caught my first arctic char
for supper tonight, about 30 inches, maybe 10 or 12
pounds. The traveling has been great, what a wonderful
July 31. 31 miles. Cold and windy today. Saw a robin.
August 1. 23 miles. Cold and rainy all day long. We made a big fire
at noon to warm ourselves up. Tonight I got so
frustrated that I put my fish rod away for the rest of
the trip. All I hook are char now and they are just too
big for my outfit. I lost two lures to snapped lines
this evening before landing a 15 pounder which Dick is
turning into chowder. Once I had him hooked and tiring,
Dick was able to wade out and herd him into shore with
his raincoat. Moose, wolves and caribou today. Grizzly
tracks on the flats down by the canoe tonight.
Week #8: Fall arrives and we go home.
August 3: We only got 6 miles yesterday and by then the wind and
rain were kicking up waves so huge they kept filling the
boats and it was not practical to continue. We set up
an elaborate tarp/canoe shelter back in the trees and
are here again today sitting out the storm. I guess it
is fall now. Suddenly the caribou have reversed course
and they have been streaming southwards past our camp by
the hundreds for the last two days. It got up to about
45 degrees Fahrenheit at noon. The wind is howling out
on the river but we are all snug in camp. The bugs are
gone now. Really it was a pretty good summer insect wise
as they scarcely lasted two weeks.
August 4: 25 miles today, temperatures in the low 40’s, north wind,
mixture of cloud and sun, caribou everywhere. Saw musk
ox. Nice current and rapids. Passed Rocky Defile at
lunch and one group ran while the others portaged this
big rapid. Pretty easy day except for the 30 mph head
winds. We passed the Kendall River and are camped on a
bluff across from the September Mountains.
August 5. 37 miles. Another good travel day; cool and overcast with
occasional rapids. Another wolf, more caribou. Very
picturesque country. Camping just below Muskox Rapids
August 6: 23 miles. Camped along the portage above Escape Rapids.
Kind of a rainy morning but this evening is great. Lots
of huge ice chunks along the shore today. Also saw a
hole in the river we will not soon forget. We came
around a corner to find Randy and Sandy jammed in along
the rocks, pointing upstream. Like them we did an
unplanned revolution, then swung out around them with
the bow hanging out over the edge of the hole before
surging safely by along the cliff. They managed to
paddle back upstream a few feet, then spin around and
edge by the hole also. Then Dick and Walter made it too.
Kind of scary stuff. Guess we should have been on the
other side of the river! Grizzly wandering around
outside camp tonight. Beautiful spot.
August 7: Camped at Bloody Falls tonight. A little disappointing,
have heard about it for years and had expected something
more earthshaking. 11 miles to town tomorrow. We plan to
pop in early to see if we can catch a flight out.
August 8.: Got in to town shortly after 8 am but cannot leave
until tomorrow. Alistair Harvey is the man to see here.
We made arrangements with him to have our boats barged
up the Mackenzie to Hay River and then trucked back to
the east coast. Cold and windy here and very exposed.
Snow squalls off and on all day long.
The Coppermine is a marvelous river and I cannot
recommend it highly enough. It was a wonderful summer.
We have traveled with Dick before and he is a great
companion. If we had realized how special the Coppermine
would turn out to be perhaps we would have gotten around
to doing it sooner but there are so many great places to
visit. Recollecting back, I marvel at our good fortune
to have traveled in the north so many years. Margie and
I started travelling together in 1965 and next summer’s
trip on the Kazan will mark the completion of our first
40 years of wilderness exploration. What a wonderful
journey it has been, and how we look forward to the