Chronologies 1997


Ray Jardine


Once again the year has been a happy, interesting and busy one for Jenny and me.

We began with another revision to our PCT Hiker's Handbook. With this, the book went into its 6th printing.

Then came another aerospace composite kayak building project. Our intent was to improve our design and building techniques over the previous year's efforts. Again we designed the boat using the computer program I had written. After building the mold from scratch, we built the kayak using kevlar and carbon fiber impregnated in epoxy. And to achieve the highest strength and lowest weight we vacuum-bagged all components. Altogether this project required eleven weeks of full-time effort.

Additionally, we spent several weeks making gear for the summer's Arctic journey. This gear included polypropylene fleece clothing head to toe, a Primaloft sleeping quilt and parkas, Gore-Tex rain coats, neoprene spray skirts and boots that we glued to our Gore-Tex drysuits, extensive modifications to the tent, and so forth.

Prior to the Arctic journey we traveled twice to New Jersey, once in early spring, and again in early summer. The purpose was to attend week-long wilderness survival classes taught by Tom Brown Jr.

We sent the new kayak by truck to Fort Providence, located in the Northwest Territories of Canada. Then On June 11 we flew to Yellowknife, from where we rode a bus to our starting point on the magnificent Mackenzie River, Canada's largest. After paddling the river's 975 mile length to the town of Inuvik, we hired a float plane to transport us, boat and gear to our turn-around point at Komakuk. It was here that we had ended a 1,400 mile journey the previous year. This year's coastal journey began with a portage around a huge ice floe covered with hundreds of seals. Then reaching open water we enjoyed mostly ice-free but boisterous seas to the village of Tuktoyaktuk, a few hundred miles to the east. That represented two weeks of very rough going in unremitting headwinds.

Eastward of "Tuk" the polar ice pack extended in a near solid pan, and this frozen condition looked like it would prevail through much of the remaining summer. So with utmost reluctance we switched to Plan B, which was to retreat inland and paddle another of Canada's big rivers. Flying back to Yellowknife, we then waited a week for the kayak to join us by air cargo, all the while taking advantage of the region's beautiful hiking. But everyday the airline kept putting us off, until eventually we had to admit the impracticality of transporting the kayak back to Yellowknife. So we arranged to truck the kayak home, even though most of our gear lay packed within the kayak. Imagine how we felt, walking dejectedly into the local Wal-Mart and buying a cheap Coleman canoe, paddles, life jackets, and rubber boots! This was not the recommended outfit for negotiating one of N. America's most remote rivers, but it would have to do. So after buying a month's food at a local supermarket, we hired a float plane for the three-hour ride eastward to Lynx Lake at the headwaters of the Thelon River. The infamous "Barrenlands" proved to be some of the most beautiful and spectacular country either of us had ever experienced. And during our three week, 575 mile journey down this stupendous river we experienced an almost complete lack of people, unending and beautifully verdant tundra, scores of musk ox seen at close range, and a herd of some 2,000 caribou that practically surrounded us one day. Arriving at Baker Lake, near Hudson Bay, we sold the canoe to a villager and boarded a plane for home.

Returning to Oregon August 20, we painted the house, entertained my folks visiting from Colorado for a few days, then flew back to New Jersey for nearly three months of classes. Of course the classes weren't all work, as we managed to slip away for a week's break to relax at our favorite resort in the Caribbean. At any rate, we attended these classes on a first-name-only basis with the instructors and fellow students, so many were surprised to find me posing centerfold   in the current issue of Backpacker magazine (Feb '98). The final evening I was honored to start the ceremonial fire with a bow drill. And as my tinder burst into flame someone quipped with a gleam - "That's the Ray way."

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