Canoeing Coppermine River & Pikes Portage

Yellowknife to Arctic Ocean

Northern Paddling Adventure #8

39 days, 960 miles, Jul-Aug 2005

Ray & Jenny Jardine

2005-08-13 page 39 of 40

Day 39 - Arctic Ocean

The Arctic Ocean.

It felt ironic, having arrived at Kugluktuk, to realize that the trip was not yet over. We were still out in the elements, enduring this storm. But this was a familiar situation. Here on the coast of the Arctic Ocean we have experienced many storms like this, during our trips across the top of Alaska - with persistent strong and cold northwest wind lashed with rain.

During the night we had very strong wind and lots of rain, but we were snug, warm, and dry. The tent was solid and stable, and held up surprisingly well for such an exposed location.

The campground consisted of the wooden platforms, a repulsive outhouse, a couple trash cans, and a couple fire rings. But it lacked water spigots so Jenny walked 1/8 mile back to the First Air building where in the large, clean and warm restrooms she took a sponge bath and filled our water bottles. These water bottles were 39 days old and suddenly seemed incredibly grody. Strange that we hadn't noticed this earlier. The drinking water here tastes over-treated with chemicals.

The next job was to dismantle the canoe. First we stripped off the spray covers, removed all extraneous items, then tipped it upside down to drain it, After that we dismantled the frames and longerons, and wiped clean the foam floor on both sides.

We laid the longerons on the fabric and rolled the fabric tightly around them. We wrapped one half of the spray cover tightly around that, then lashed it all secure with cords and a great many knots. Jenny set on pack frame on the wooden tent platform, carefully placed the frames and seats on top, then sandwiched the frames with the second pack frame.

Dismantling the canoe.

We tied this bundle together tightly, wrapped it with the other spray cover, then lashed it all together, like the first bundle. So our canoe now consisted of two compact and secure bundles.

Then we lashed our gear bags together in two equal-sized bundles. All this was done in a bitterly cold wind and rain. Our fingers and hands were numb and stiff, but we knew we would soon be warm and dry inside the airport terminal.

During this time we had two visits from locals. One fellow, Joe, the former mayor of Kugluktuk, and his wife Suzie. He now held some high government position. They were very nice, personable and on our wavelength concerning the value of the land and the wildlife. Joe opposed damming the river, mining, and other exploitation. He was concerned with conserving resources and managing wildlife. He said he was born on a small island (Deer Island?) just east of here. In the 1950s his family was relocated here and they moved all the houses here. They couldn't build new houses because there of the lack of wood. Suzie was from Holman (on Victoria Island?). No doubt we were getting the garnished native viewpoint, but it was wonderfully refreshing talking with people like this. We felt very comfortable with all the people here. I'm reluctant to compare them with people back home, but back home we know very few people we feel comfortable with. But neither would we want to live here and get to know these people too well   (tongue in cheek) Joe and Suzie wished us well then departed.

A short while later another truck drove up, two women and a child. Jenny had grown chilled while standing idle talking with Joe, so had retreated into the tent to pack bags. The women invited both of us back to their house for coffee to warm up and talk. I stood outside the tent, leaning against their truck with my elbows on the open window and talked with them for another 10 or 15 minutes. Again, friendly and warm people. They wanted to know about our trip, but mainly I was asking them about life here and about the wildlife, their boating and fishing way of life.

At the appointed time Al, the taxi driver, came by and helped load our wet gear into the back of his large van then whisked us away to the airport. The warm dry air on board the airplane signified that the trip had finally reached it's successful conclusion, as we settled into the comfortable seats.

The story has 40 pages. This is page 39.
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