Canoeing Coppermine River & Pikes Portage

Yellowknife to Arctic Ocean

Northern Paddling Adventure #8

39 days, 960 miles, Jul-Aug 2005

Ray & Jenny Jardine

2005-07-31 page 26 of 40

Day 26 - Desteffany Lake

At about 3:30 am I awoke to find 13 mosquitoes in the tent. Most of them with blood - namely mine. Apparently the tent mate was not being careful when opening and closing the tent door in the dark for the pee bailer. We all make mistakes and while on the subject Jenny is absolutely the finest padding partner I could wish for. She is amazingly strong, good natured, and she is a great cook! And she does fifty percent of the work, whether paddling or portaging.

We began our day with something completely new and surprising. Fog, thick, soupy, dark. We set off at 5:00 am navigating by compass, we could see virtually nothing. We crossed the small lake to its end, but we could not find the river. We realized we must have gone into the wrong bight. To add to the confusion we could hear the roar of water in the opposite direction, from a creek coming into the lake somewhere we thought.

Fog and mosquitoes.

Now on the river, we encountered about a dozen sections of rapids and had to portage every one. The river is low and it's difficult to wade because of the slippery algae on the submerged rocks. In higher water I think one would be wading on submerged clean rocks, which would offer vastly better footing.

The algae on the submerged rocks is extremely slippery.

There were a couple of nice looking runs that would have fun had they not terminated in boulder fields. Hitting these rocks at speed would be ugly. Some of the portages were easier than others. All were reasonably short.

Wild hobby-horsing in the oncoming waves.

Between each rapid was a section of lake and for most of the day the wind was blowing northwest, so the lake paddling was not much of a respite from the exertions of portaging.

The bags sometimes shift while padding rough water, so we have to straighten them out before the next stint of portaging.

This set of rapids we will portage around.

At last we reached Desteffany Lake and headed for the island, which was a real long grind straight into the wind, blowing steady 15 to 18 knots. We went around the island to the left. At the constriction we had to portage 100 feet. We were very tired at this point, so decided to stop and cook a pot of corn spaghetti, an early dinner for some energy and also a rest.

When we left the dinner rest stop, the wind had reduced by about half, so we set a course directly for the north end of the island due west. This took us about one mile from shore.

The closer we got to the island the stronger the headwind. We reached island, then around the back side the waves were getting worryingly large for an open canoe. So we stopped on a rocky slab and fitted the spray cover. We found that putting on the spray cover makes a big difference in seaworthiness and in the comfort factor.

So we pressed ahead, continuing west and eventually reached the end of the lake. With a great deal of effort I scouted then next rapid. At first glance from the canoe it looked like an easy sluice, but on closer inspection I found that the sluice led directly into a boulder field.

We hauled out and made camp at 8:30PM. The wind died and the bugs were thick. Jenny said the day felt like and uphill day.

Camp #26

28 miles, 15.5 hours. Camp #26: UTM 12W 0458416 7166668 Map 76C

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