Canoeing Coppermine River & Pikes Portage

Yellowknife to Arctic Ocean

Northern Paddling Adventure #8

39 days, 960 miles, Jul-Aug 2005

Ray & Jenny Jardine

2005-08-08 page 34 of 40

Day 34 - Coppermine River

We had had lot of good rest from our forced half-day of rest, so woke early and set off at 5:30 am. It was very cold, in the high 30s, cloudy and with a faint whisper of headwind. The storm had not completely passed, the clouds still hung fairly low.

In a couple miles we came to a group of canoeists camped on the right shore. Everyone was tucked away up in the spruce, except for one early riser who was near the water's edge. We could see they had a community cooking tarp pitched under the trees.

We pulled up and talked to the one fellow for 15 minutes. He was from Edmonton. Part of his group had started at Hilton, somewhere near Jasper. They had been going for 84 days. He had been going for 60 days. They had come down the Athabascan and the Slave rivers. From Fort Resolution they had driven around to Yellowknife. Then with 60 days of food they had gone up the Yellowknife River which he said was quite tough.

They, too, had been stopped by yesterday's storm, after paddling until 11 in the morning. His expression was "the robins were flying backwards."

As we continued on, the headwinds gradually picked up and these persisted throughout most of the day, sometimes more, sometimes less. Fortunately not as strong as yesterday. And fortunately they were not so strong that we could not stay in the best current. And the current for the first half of the day was pretty good, 1 to 2 knots, sometimes more.

We had a fair bit of cold rain. We were feeling quite cold. Our feet mostly and our hands. Despite the exercise we couldn't seem to warm up. Then came a bit of sun so we landed ashore and spread our wet socks and mittens to dry on the rocks. Jenny made hot cuppas and they were wonderful. Holding the hot cups in our hands warmed our hands.

With everything spread out to dry, suddenly the sky went dark with a cloud that started raining. We quickly put things away, pulled our waders and rain jackets back on. We couldn't afford to stand around in the cold rain. We needed metabolic warmth, so we set off again with bowls of hot corn grits ready to eat.

In the next bit of sun we got our socks and mittens back out to dry again, as we continued paddling. And so it went for the next couple of hours. With the onset of every shower I stuffed the socks and mittens down the front of my rain jacket and into the sleeves. Then in the next bit of sun I pulled them out again and laid them on the cross bar.

At regular intervals throughout the day we saw some type of wildlife. First it was three swans, then a moose, a wolf, another wolf, a moose, a siksik, a bald eagle, a third moose, a gaggle of geese approximately 60 or them, a flock of ducks, probably over 100 of them, a small flock of maybe 15 terns. These birds seem to be gathering their numbers here, readying for migration. Then four more swans, a caribou and a wolverine.

As usual up here in the far north, our depth perception is sometimes off. What we thought at first was a moose, from quite a distance away, shape-shifted to a duck, and then back to a moose, and so on.

For the second half of the day the river was slower. We passed through a lot of sand flats with sand bars and shallows. For awhile the wind died and we had more trouble following the current. Then the next black cloud came along and we again had headwinds and waves, wind against current. It seemed that every few miles there was some place we could have camped, contrary to what the guidebook says.

Finally at 6 pm we pulled off on a sand bank, found a nice protected camp up in the spruce, very cozy and beautiful. There was light drizzle while we set up camp and cooked dinner.

Camp #34

50 miles! 12.5 hours. Camp #34: UTM 11W 0565441 7408168 Map 86K, 86N

The story has 40 pages. This is page 34.
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