Canoeing Coppermine River & Pikes Portage

Yellowknife to Arctic Ocean

Northern Paddling Adventure #8

39 days, 960 miles, Jul-Aug 2005

Ray & Jenny Jardine

2005-07-27 page 22 of 40

Day 22 - Thonokied River

Breaking camp and preparing our pack loads for portaging.

Twenty-two days ago we had started with 4 food bags. Now we are down to two. So we are able to load our entire outfit on our packboards. At 7 am we set off on the portage with our fully loaded and very heavy backpacks. We went a ways, then went back for the canoe and carried that to our pack loads. From there we carried packs and canoe in one go. No returning for a second load. But plenty of "rest" stops along the way. By "rest" I mean setting down the canoe, and just standing there with our backpacks on. They were so heavy that taking them off, and putting them on the ground, was usually too difficult. And even more, picking them back up and lifting them to our shoulders. Easier to just stand there wearing them - usually.

A "rest" stop, where we set down the canoe, and just stand there with our backpacks on. They were so heavy that taking them off was out of the question, usually.

We paddled a widening in the river which had formed a small lake. This was easy paddling but the mosquitoes were intense. They kept us in our headnets most of the day.

At each bit of water, we placed our loads into the canoe, without taking the bags off the backboards. Then when the padding was competed and the next shore was reached, we lifted the loads out of the canoe and put them on our backs, ready for the next portage.

The sky was quite overcast and some drizzle, which today was most welcome to keep us cool. We spent most of the morning making portages. I carried an enormous pack with the shotgun slung on top. Jenny also carried an enormous load with the paddles slung on top. With me at the bow and her at the stern, we hand carried the canoe. This was somewhat slow going, but it meant that we did not have to return for a second load each time. This saved us a great deal of walking and time.

We reached the upper lake area at 11:15 am and from there it was paddle, line, and portage our way up the river. All along the banks we saw caribou hair we found several caribou crossings with deeply rutted trail. One trail had hundreds of fresh tracks. It looked like a herd had passed here only a day or two before.

On a couple of the small lakes we paddled past a certain type of small duck that was not very timid. Three of these ducks swam toward us and followed us a ways. The other types of waterfowl do everything in their means to get away from us (danger). There is one type, possibly young geese, that motorboat away with all possible dispatch and travel 50 times farther than they need to for safety. I wanted to shout out to them, not waste so much energy. But maybe something else chases after them that does go that far. Perhaps they are wary of wolfs.

We saw plenty of fish surfacing, but we didn't want to add to our loads by carrying heavy fish over the portages. So we saved the fishing for late in the day, but by then it was too late, their wasn't good area for fishing around the evening camp.

At the northwest end of the first real lake (just southeast of Afridi Lake) we came to a sight that defied description. It really took us aback. From a distance we asked ourselves: It that what it looks like? Were we living in denial. No, it couldn't possibly be! The closer we got, there was no denying. The river was five times wider than what we had been traveling, very shallow, and jam-packed with rocks. Just a huge field of rocks. This was completely unexpected. Of course this required another extended portage (with a few brief stretches of paddling).

The river was wide and shallow, and jam-packed with rocks. And that is what exploring is all about: the unexpected. That we know about, only one other party has passed through here before, in modern times. Doubtless there have been others, but we didn't run across their trip reports. So we were playing by ear.

The day was starting to get late, relative to our supply of energy. We completed three-quarters of the first portage and at 6:15PM stopped to made a nice camp on a bluff overlooking the boulder field. At 7:00PM the evening turned warm, with sunshine and no wind. It was a luxury, not having to wear a pile of clothes. Jenny even went down to the river for a clothes-on bath. And when the wind is blowing now, it is not nearly as frigid as the past few days.

Camp #22 at the boulder field

17 miles, 11.25 hours. Camp #22: UTM 12W 0586283 7125706 Map 76C

The story has 40 pages. This is page 22.
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