Canoeing Coppermine River & Pikes Portage

Yellowknife to Arctic Ocean

Northern Paddling Adventure #8

39 days, 960 miles, Jul-Aug 2005

Ray & Jenny Jardine

2005-07-26 page 21 of 40

Day 21 - Aylmer Lake

Lots of wind all night; the tent rattled. We woke up in the middle of the night and sky was incredibly bleak with very low gray clouds, drizzle, some heavier rain. Because of all the wind, we slept in late.

The wind diminished to about 8 knots northwest, so we set off at 8:40 am. Straightaway we crossed nearly a one-mile stretch of open water, heading west-northwest among a group of islands. And so we continued, now on Aylmer Lake, for several miles.

Crossing open water, heading for a group of islands.

Map in hand, I'm climbing the hill in order to scout the way ahead.

At the last island I climbed high on the bedrock slabs for a grand vista and to see what direction to steer for on the open crossing to the main shore. Then we went around the north side of a huge island and during this time the wind dropped to nearly zero, much to our surprise and delight.

We found ourselves paddling nearly calm water for the rest of the day, with a few bits of light wind and sprinkles from passing clouds. We also had some sun which was wonderful.

I've seen this effect many times, mainly in the states, where the river's current creates a vortex that sorts the rocks by size. Then you come upon a rock bar where all the rocks are the same size. Even though these were about 18 inches in diameter, the powerful current has no trouble moving them around during flood stage.

From the northwest tip of the island we paddled open water west then south-southwest for 6 miles altogether, to the southern tip of a long peninsula. From there it was an easy hop over to Williamson Island and continuing west through a group of smaller islands and west across another open gap to the main shore again.

Paddling along a small island in quiet waters. The netting patch on the spray deck is the blade part of a "paddle keep," rarely used.

Scouting the route ahead from a higher vantage. And also verifying our position on the map. In this day and age, one's position is readily shown on a GPS map screen. But back then, we had to navigate mainly by identifying features on the map, and correlating them with features we could see around us. back then, the GPS only gave numbers, and it was time-consuming to plot those numbers on a paper map. Easier was to just climb a hill and see where we were. And it was good exercise.

Wading upstream on the Thonokie River.

A few more miles to the mouth of the Thonokie River. In this one day we had traversed our intended route across Aylmer Lake 6325/7112 is a southward jutting peninsula and some of the finest barrens country we have seen. It would be an excellent place to revisit with a fishing boat. There were a couple of long sandy beaches, myriad places to fish. the terrain was higher and to us it was much more beautiful than any of the other lakes we have been on.

The Thonokie River was wide and extremely shallow and from the very start we experienced difficulties. We waded for a couple hundred yards. The rocks were extremely slippery with deep holes between them. We could not line because the shore was too far from navigable water. Also, the mosquitoes were ferocious. So we hauled out and portaged half a mile. This was very difficult also because of the lush willows and bushes and abundance of rocks. We did the portage on the right bank in 2 carries, hand carried the canoe. We saw a caribou also.

Then we paddled a stretch of lake-like water, then hauled out on the left bank, portaged a few hundred yards up to the top of the embankment overlooking the river. It was 10:30 pm, and here we stopped for the day to make camp. This is where the river bends to the left. It was decent camping. We are pleased to have made it this far up the river on our first go. After the sun set, it got very cold. Inside the tent I could see my breath.

Almost dark, I have the camera's aperture wide open.

33 miles, 14.75 hours. Camp #21: UTM 12W 0602748 7114181 Map 76C

The story has 40 pages. This is page 21.
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