Canoeing Coppermine River & Pikes Portage

Yellowknife to Arctic Ocean

Northern Paddling Adventure #8

39 days, 960 miles, Jul-Aug 2005

Ray & Jenny Jardine

2005-07-10 page 5 of 40

Day 5 - Hearne Channel

We had a very good night's sleep on the rock, again no rain with the wind calm. Jenny emerged from the tent and exclaimed, "the water has come way up!" I was thinking, that would be possible in a very strong blow; but the wind hadn't blown. Then she went to the shore for a better look and said, "hmmm, optical illusion."

We packed with no further natural anomalies and set off at 7:51 am. The lake was flat, barely a ripple anywhere. The sky held some thin clouds. As usual the mosquitoes followed us for the first couple miles. Once they had left us, we could remove our headnets, as long as we stayed at least 100 yards away from any land to avoid attracting more bugs.

Headed across the bay with the calm water reflecting the clouds and sky.

We cut directly across the widest part of Francois Bay four miles to a couple of small islands. Then we followed the coast which was much more regular and no longer festooned with islands. Three miles across Hearne Channel is Blanchet Island which is so huge it looks like the mainland. Our side of the channel was very beautiful and interesting: bedrock with black and orange lichens, the thinning forest, more gravel beaches, starting out small - about 5 feet wide - and getting bigger the farther east we went. We had seen none of these previously.

At times the sun was intense and we paddled in shirt sleeves. Other times the clouds covered the sun and a whisper of a tailwind or head wind would cool us quickly. It was hard to maintain, such benign conditions made us drowsy, we were tired from yesterday's paddling. We were reluctant to stop ashore for a break because of the bugs. Occasionally one of us would lay back on the spray deck to rest and catch a couple winks. As usual we saw 6 or 8 fishing boats during the day. Almost all were far out, away from shore. We thought of the contrast between riding in one of the motor boats, and not seeing any shoreline, and the canoe, closer to shore and seeing every bend and outcrop.

Enjoying a quick shore break.

The last couple hours of the day a strong tailwind sprung up and took away our lethargy. With very tired arms we paddled hard and enjoyed the ride for the most part. The wind allowed us to take a quick shore break. As the evening wore on we stopped twice, looking for a campsite but without finding anything suitable. On a large gravel bar we saw a tiny baby bird, maybe a plover, but not camo-colored. It was white, like a baby seagull, but didn't look like one. He wasn't frightened by us. We didn't see any parents nearby.

The last half hour of paddling was an adrenalin run. The seas were running and whitecaps were everywhere. We went around one headland that had heavy clapitus bouncing off of it. Once around that, at 6 pm we found a good pullout, a rather marginal campsite that actually turned out nice once we got in the tent.

While pitching the tent the mosquitoes and black flies swarmed, until a couple of large dragonflies showed up. Soon they were joined by more, working hard catching and devouring the bugs around us. For 10 minutes I stood enrapt, watching these wonderful creatures actually making a visible dent in the number of bugs around me. Jenny was doing the same with her own retinue of dragonflies. It was a joy to watch. In half an hour there was a definite reduction in the number of bugs. They devoured literally thousands. The fun part of it was how the dragonflies came to our bodies: in front of our face, over our shoulder, in front of our chest. And we could actually see them catch the insects in their mouths. I have always liked dragonflies and now liked them even more.


Camp #5, watching the Dragonflies.

We enjoyed relaxing in the tent, listening to the water lapping at the shoreline, and occasional dragonfly flitting by. One end of the tent we had to place over a krummholtz spruce, the entire tree. It didn't seem to mind (tongue in cheek), and it smelled wonderfully fragrant.

32 miles, 10 hours. Camp #5: UTM 12W 0433027 6892409 Map 85I, 85H

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