It's been almost a month since we made our last paddle strokes. Almost a month since I've checked in with everyone. Well, back in civilization, life is odd and easy. If anyone is wondering what it's like for us to be off the trail and back in civilization, I think the photo gallery below pretty much sums it up. The clean up of Pete Marshall:
Otherwise I'm busy with a lot of post-trip matters. Writing, film, photos, putting together presentations. More will be available on this website soon. Until then...
Winchell and Steve, Great Slave Lake
In early May, when we set off to canoe from the Pacific Ocean to the Hudson Bay, and were met with snow-filled mountains and then forced to slowly push and pull our canoes through ice that, though thawing, was still several feet thick, we somewhat wished we had started the trip a little later, when we wouldn't have to walk over twenty-feet deep snow and lakes could actually be paddled.
Three months later, we were all thinking the opposite. Maybe we should have began a little earlier. After all, even a late spring will eventually turn into summer, that magical season for the canoeist. But summer, despite your perfect tan and comfortable shorts, turns into fall and in the north, no matter how you spin it, fall turns into winter. North of the sixtieth parallel, and near the Hudson Bay, this change to the chilly seasons begins around the middle of August, and from what several locals at our final resupply point told me, you barely notice that fall has arrived before the sleet and snow hit. It would only get worse as we neared the Bay, as the days got shorter and colder. We shouldn't be surprised if a storm suddenly whipped up and pined us in our tents for days at a time.
With these warnings, or I should say promises, of bad weather to come, we left the hospitality of our hosts in Lutsel K'e. Preparing for the worse, we traveled with over forty-five days of food that just barely fit into four packs which weighed in at around one-hundred pounds a piece. Patience, plenty of food, and a bit of stubbornness would be the guarantees we would need to wait out whatever weather hit us en route to Hudson Bay.
The weather didn't hit, but those food packs hit us hard.
Up to this point, from Skagway, Alaska, to the eastern end of Great Slave Lake, we only had to make ten portages. A relaxing weekend in the Boundary Waters would involve at least ten portages, but to only have to portage ten times over the course of a 1700-mile canoe route, is somewhat extraordinary, somewhat lucky. Of course, this means that while we had beaten our upper bodies into perpetually sore but powerful paddling machines, our legs were about as useful as ice skates in the Caribbean.
Through a series of well-worn snowmobile trails that wove south through a chain of lakes and back to the eastern arm of the Great Slave Lake, we hauled the heavy packs and canoes. At the end of each trail, most of which were muddy and flooded with standing water from melting permafrost and nearby marshes, we would have to turn back for another round of gear, and then a third time, do the same thing. Triple portaging turned a half a kilometer portage into a one and a half kilometer haul.
The packs chaffed our backs and the tight mass of sore muscles below our waist was a reminder us that we had legs and that they could do more than simply curl up under a canoe seat for thirteen hours a day. After a few days of this we reached Pike's Portage, a twenty-mile series of lakes and trails that people have been traveling for thousands of years. This was the route that would bring us from forests surrounding Great Slave Lake into the barren plains of the tundra, a raw and magnificent land that was one of the most anticipated portions of the trip.
After two days of sweating through flies and portages as long as three-miles, we arrived at Artillery Lake. Then something wonderful happened, the weather, the force that was reckoned to be our adversary, turned out to be our friend. The fifty-mile lake stood like a mirror, broken only by the wake of our boats and splash of our paddles. Soon we were on the northern end of the lake where we pulled up a couple sets of rapids on The Lockhart River, a task we did with joy because we knew that this was the last time we would have to exert any kind of effort against the current. It was from the Lockhart that we portaged over the third and final height of land on our route; a small hill that brought us onto the Hanbury River. From this point, it was downhill all the way until the ocean.
The landscape was rapidly melting into an array of autumn colors. Willows and shrubs fanned out splotches of red, of orange and yellow over the once green landscape, marking the final breath of color before snow and ice came to dominate the area. Great Sandy eskers lined the banks, and as the Hanbury rushed to meet the Thelon River, it dropped over a series of waterfalls and tore violently through a canyon, features which made for several days of long, though magnificent, portaging.
Sunset on Schultz Lake, Thelon River
The temperature fluctuated, wind came, then would calm, and in this unstable weather we paddled the Thelon, a river that is normally associated with caribou numbering in the thousands, herds of muskoxen, wolves, birds, and every other form of life found in the tundra. In September, weeks after the last canoe party had flown off the river, the area was eerily quiet. Except for the large flocks of snow geese we would see migrating to the south, the land was empty and still. Night and darkness came earlier and during the day, it grew colder. This was all expected and we had plenty of warm cloths to counter the shocking chill that would wait outside of our tent in the mornings.
For the most part, the wind was calm, and this is what we needed, what we hoped for. We were able to paddle long days and clock over forty miles on lakes and many more on the river. Despite our need for a rest, for a day spent sleeping in tents and letting muscles and joints somewhat recuperate while the wind raged outside, we were more than happy to be moving faster than any of us expected. Our wildest hope was to get to Baker Lake on September eighth. We got there on the seventh.
The community of Baker Lake marks the end of the journey for most people who paddle the Thelon or Kazan River. We still had over two hundred miles before we would be done. Pushing our selves and taking advantage of the conditions we were so fortunate to have, had put us in a good position to finish the trip, to ensure our success. And so we set off across the north shore of Baker Lake, a dramatic and inhospitable area of gnarled rock and cold water. Utterly beautiful. We paddled hard, and paddled until the sun set. When it was calm, we paddled later, setting up tents and eating in the dark, only to wake up five, maybe six hours later as the sun rose.
Fresh water turned to salt water. Chesterfield Inlet swelled with ten to twelve foot tides. Here nature was reduced to its most elemental forms of rocks and water. Plant life was scarce, heroic in its ability to survive and live among such harsh beauty. Everyday my hands would continually cramp, and before we would even have lunch my fingers would feel like arthritic knobs of pain. Then there was my butt, just sore after the cumulative months of sitting. But this was all worth it. We were making unbelievable progress.
When we talked about our plans, about our route, many people admired us for our gumption, for our ambition, while at the same time thinking such an expedition as ours was, on a realist level, impossible. As the trip progressed, I realized that these people were absolutely right in thinking we might not be able to make it. And the closer the four of us came to reaching our goal, the more anxious I became. It was more than the threat of snow, or of a blizzard, or just strong winds coming off of the Bay; it was the fact that we were in polar bear territory. Half ton land carnivores roamed the area, and since the pack ice has been melting quicker and forming later in recent years, the bears have not been able to eat enough seals during the winter to sustain them through the summer months, and so hungry bears have been paying more attention to humans and encounters with bears in the area have become more and more frequent.
But again, luck was on our side. By the time we paddled onto the Hudson Bay, we had seen no bears, and to my disappointment, no seals and no beluga whales. On the morning of September 14th, it was only the four of us in our two canoes, bobbing over the undulating swell of the ocean, alone with the land and the water that circles and touches the far corners of the earth.
Cabins and rundown buildings began to appear along with the power lines and gas tanks outside of the community of Chesterfield Inlet. We paddled into the small harbor as the tide began to turn and come in. For the last time I stepped out of the boat and felt the blood rush to my wobbly legs. Steve, Winchell, Matt and I hugged and said little. 130 days after setting out with smoother faces and wider guts, we had made it.
To be honest, this next portion of the journey, up the Mackenzie River and across the Great Slave Lake, was the part of the trip I was least excited about. After being surrounded by mountains for over seventy days, we were about to descend into the lowlands of the north, into the vast boreal forest where the land was as flat as the water. Low lying forests crowded the muddy banks and there is virtually no differentiation in the physical layout of the land. Monotomy was what I expected.
When we paddled onto the big muddy waters of the Mackenzie, there was a dread we all felt, for once again we had returned to the battle field of upstream travel. But the Mackenzie proved to be a gentle river with a slow current and almost lake like conditions that made this upstream experience completely different than the challenges we faced battling our way up the Ross and Pelly Rivers. And though the landscape was not as spectacular as what we had seen, it was as though the earth we experienced in the Yukon and on the Nahanni lent its spectacle of snowy peaks and valleys to heaven. Almost every afternoon we would see clouds amass and form mountain ranges of enormous thunderheads that dwarfed us and our surroundings. Thunder, and then bursts of lightning, were a late afternoon norm. Somewhere on the muddy banks, with our boats tucks in the reeds, we would huddle in the brush as rain and lightning ripped across the river.
Then we reached the Great Slave Lake. The tenth largest body of freshwater in the world. One of the major challenges of the expedition, paddling this lake would expose us to hundreds of miles of wind and water that went unchecked by any land barrier. Somedays we were lucky and had calm conditions and made over forty miles; on other days ocean-sized swells forced us to shore and into the patience game.
Our daily schedule changed from a fixed wake up time to paddling whenever it was calm. Several times we paddled over fourteen hours. If conditions are right, the paddling is just too good to sleep through, miles must be made. After all, we knew that the inevitable wind would pick up, force us to shore00 and allow us ample opportunity to catch up on sleep.
Just east of where the Slave River enters the Great Slave Lake, something magical happens. The quiet and humble shore, (let’s be honest, it’s a boring shoreline) transitions to the spectacular rock formations of the Canadian Shield. This is the East Arm of Great Slave Lake, and in many ways it is a completely different lake than the western portions. Seven years ago I paddled this area with my brother. At the time I was struck by the raw beauty of the endless maze of rocky islands and deep cold water. I told many people that it was my favorite place I had ever canoed. And indeed, returning to the area only confirmed these feelings.
The trip changed when we entered the East Arm. The three weeks of summer, of warm weather we were finally able to enjoy on the Mackenzie and western part of Great Slave Lake turned cold. Wind from the northeast became a constant, pausing every now and then for a few hours when we would hurry to our boats and make a precious few miles. We now see sunsets and sunrises. It gets dark, which after months of twenty-plus hours of sunlight, seems to be a novelty.
As I write this blog we are staying in a small Dene community, Lutsel K’e. Again, northern hospitality proves to be unsurpassed and we can only hope that the weather will be as hospitable to us as the people are here. This is our final resupply point for the trip, and it’s an odd feeling to think that the trip is almost over and we have at least thirty-five days left on trail. We are paddling into winter, into bone-cold wind, and into the sleet and snow that everyone all but guarantees we will encounter as we paddle towards Hudson Bay. Our trip began at the end of winter, hiking through mountain passes buried in snow, and it will most likely end at the very beginning of winter. Whatever reservations and anxieties we have about the weather, our biggest consolation is that, as a crew, we are moving as one mind. Our eyes are fixed on our goal and we are moving quickly and with every opportunity negotiating our way around the weather. After one-hundred-and-one days together, it is amazing to be feeling more solidarity than ever before.
Whatever happens with the weather, we are surrounded immense beauty and wonder. The Canadian Shield, whether in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, central Manitoba, or where we currently are and will be, is my favorite place to paddle and to simply be. More and more we have been paddling into camp with an intense feeling of gratitude for the day, and indeed every day renews this sense of wonder and joy.
Day 100 Beard Montage
When we left our last resupply point, fuelled by a huge (and by this point novel) breakfast of bacon, toast, eggs, and coffee, the sun was blazing, we were well rested, and hope was high. Then we saw that river we had managed to forget during our thirty-six hour binge of food and rest. The familiar current still raged between the flooded banks, and with it returned the familiar dread of having to paddle up this beast of a river.
But it was not long before we eased into the rhythm of paddling, and as we adjusted to the routine, we began noticing what we had so long been waiting for: the water level appeared to be dropping. The grey trunks of willows and other vegetation, caked with silt carried by the river, emerged from the flood. At last, I thought, perhaps this daily routine of exhaustion and frustration might ease. And indeed, as we paddled off the Pelly and onto the Ross River, a smaller tributary that would bring us north to the continental divide, we fully thought that things would finally become easier.
The Ross had much less water flowing through it. The rapids at its mouth were manageable. Without much effort we could line or walk up the shores. The current slowed, and for almost a week we had brilliant weather. Clouds were a rarity. At this point the Ross proved to be a rather lazy river, and we made more miles more easily than we had ever made on the Pelly. However, this week or so of good weather and relaxed current would later have to repaid with exorbitant interest.
Soon the once manageable current grew strong, and the river grew steep. And as the gradient which we paddled, waded, and lined against increased, the weather deteriorated. We were not only battling against the steady current, but formidable rapids. This was slow, cold work. While we juggled tow lines and walked against current up to our chest to maneuver around pillows of whitewater and rocks, the clouds seemed to have permanently closed in around us. Rain would pound against the tent when the morning alarm went off, and at the end of the day pound against our tarp as the four of us huddled around a stove and waited for a hot supper. After supper we would head into the tents and be lulled asleep by that dreadful patter. We were living between a cold, mountain-sourced river and the damp air that at times just hovered above freezing. Water seeped in through our most watertight seals. Our world became a damp and bitterly cold world.
On such a day we had a break. Flat water. Amidst the rain and the cold, the three lakes located a little more than halfway up the Ross were met with big, though sober, smiles. These were the first lakes we had paddled on that were not encrusted with ice, and after hundreds of miles of slogging upstream, paddling on the remarkably calm water felt like we were in motorboats. And that day the rain stopped, and the clouds, as if following a cue, broke up and let in a little sun. We were surrounded by mountains, and the mountains had all received a fresh coating of snow. It was a wonderful day.
But we were behind schedule, and as we continued up the Ross we only fell further behind. The river became narrow, strewn with boulders and violent whitewater that ran almost without pause for over ten miles. It was arduous to work up a river like this. Ascending these rapids gave us a twisted taste of what was to come and made us eager for what lay on the other side of the continental divide: downstream travel. More specifically, running whitewater that actually went with the current.
That long-hoped for day, when we set out on the portage from the Ross River across the continental divide to Moose Ponds, the headwaters of the South Nahanni River, was of course, wet, cold and miserable. At times sun would burst through the clouds, only to be followed by hail. Hail. We hadn’t had that yet.
But the bad weather was brief, and nothing that came from the skies could dent our spirits. We were elated. After all, we had crossed the continental divide in a canoe, and for myself, and I suspect for the other three guys, this was the most challenging and perhaps proudest accomplishments of my life. As we sat on the shore of Moose Pond, with the sun cresting behind Mount Wilson and warm light pouring over four faces that were laughing and chewing on bites of macaroni and powdered cheese, it seemed that all the frustrations, hardships, cold and doubt we had gone through, were somehow necessary to experience this rare moment where dreams had indeed became reality.
Now comes the challenge. What can I say about the South Nahanni River? Steve said it best: “A lot of really great things have been written about the Nahanni. They’re all true, and really understatements at that.” Words will of course fall short. Photographs are two-dimensional. Added on top of everything, we were going down river at this point. How can one describe such an experience? I mean we were headed down river. With the current. Not against gravity.
Water levels were above average, and so we were able to get the full experience of the infamous Rock Gardens, the bouldery and rapids-strewn portion of the upper Nahanni . For all of us, these were the biggest rapids we had run in a loaded, wilderness canoe. On top of this, there were ten or fifteen of these technical and big water rapids in a row. It was great fun. At the end of each of the three days we experienced a different kind of tired, more like, too much adrenaline over an eight hour period, tired.
And we were going downstream, which made us giddy like kids on the night before Christmas.
Because we were almost ten days behind schedule, we moved quickly on the Nahanni. There were no side hikes to the numerous splendours along the way, but nonetheless, because of the swift and easy pace of the river, we allowed ourselves to relax, float, and enjoy the incredible scenery of this treasure of treasures. Nine days after setting out from Moose Ponds, we had canoed the length of the river and were camped in Nahanni Butte. After a two day paddle down the Liard we arrived in Fort Simpson and were treated to the extraordinary warmth and generosity of Orville and Jeannine, proprietors of Janor’s Guest House, who held our resupply packages and treated us to showers, beds and laundry.
A big part of our journey has passed. It was an extraordinary seventy-five day voyage through the mountains. Ahead of us is the Great Slave Lake, and past that the barren lands, the Thelon River, and Hudson Bay. I can barely contain my excitement to go out and experience the adventure that awaits.
Before I get into the rough and tumble adventures of the past forty days, I need to sing the praises of Yukon Hospitality. It begins with Steve’s mom, Jan Keaveny, sending an email to Kara Went, via he blog Went To Faro, to tell her that her son and his three companions are paddling through Faro in a few days.
Well, Kara saw Matt and Winchell walking out of the library and asked if one of them was Steve. No, Winchell said, but he knew a Steven.
If you’re looking for random canoeist, look for the guys who look like bums but have $400 rain jackets.
Kara came and picked Steve and I up at a boat ramp where we were camped at and told us she had cold beers and a hot meal for us. We didn’t say no. Matt and Kara Went took us in for a wonderful evening where we somehow managed to fill the empty pits of our stomachs.
The next day we made battle with another ten miles of flooded river to our resupply at Lynx-Track Farm. Again, we were treated to amazing generosity by Doug and Yasmine who held onto our resupply packages. Great people, great food, amazing coffee. The Faro area is indeed the Yukon’s best kept secret.
We cannot begin to express our gratitude.
…But here are some pictures and a recap of what has so far been one humdinger of an adventure. Enjoy!
Of Snow and Floods.
Group shot on Lake Laberge. From the left: Steve Keaveny, Winchell Delano, Pete Marshall, Matt Harren.
“It’s a little early to start, don’t you think?”
In some form or another, this was the most common response when we told people we would be hiking through the Chilkoot Pass then paddling through the headwaters of the Yukon River in early May. This would mark the beginning of our 2600-mile canoe expedition through Canada’s Territories, and for such long trip that ventures almost entirely above the Sixtieth Parallel, there is a brief window of flowing water, sunlight, and mosquitoes that opens between the eight months of ice that encrusts the region for the rest of the year. That was the usual explanation I gave to why we had decided upon such an early start.
And indeed, it was a little early to start our trip.
Our canoe expedition began as a hike from the Pacific Ocean, right outside of Skagway Alaska. By our second day on trail, we had passed through the costal rainforest, made our way above the treeline, and were snowshowing over an ever-deepening wilderness of snow. This was the famed Chilkoot Trail, but any evidence of a trail was buried beneath many feet of snow. Below the Golden Stairs, the sight where those famous photographs of thousands desperate gold seekers lining up to move over the steep mountain pass were taken, we encountered white out conditions. That night, as we huddled in our tent, the wind picked up and in the morning, with limited visibility (not too limited to see the rubble left by the many avalanches that had scarred the slopes around us) we trekked up the pass.
At the top the wind was screaming at forty to fifty miles-per-hour and almost every bit of rock and earth, save for a few black outcropping, were swallowed in snow. Only a patch shingles from the Canadian Customs and Parks Canada Ranger station poked above the snowdrifts.
Snowshoeing over lakes buried in snow, over a trail that was somewhere between the walls of the ravine, we descended into Canada. We passed camp shelters that were covered in snow. I knew this was a popular hiking trail and became somewhat crowded in the summer, but at this time we had it all to ourselves. It was certainly one of the most magical and challenging beginnings to a canoe trip any of us had experienced.
By the time we reached Carcross, and picked up our canoes and paddling equipment from the outfitter who had shuttled and held onto our gear while we hiked the trail, strange dreams of actually paddling on a canoe trip were running through our heads.
But this was not to be.
While the winter this year was mild, spring was being very relaxed about arriving on schedule. What did this mean for us? It meant that nearly one hundred miles of headwaters to the Yukon River (including Lake Laberge) were covered in rotting ice. Too brittle to walk and drag the canoes over, too thick to paddle through.
Maybe we should have left even earlier. At least then the ice would have been thick enough for us to walk over. As it was, we would have to drag on the shore, chase leads, wade through freezing water, and constantly fall through the ice.
Far northern lakes are always cold, in these conditions they are so cold they burn, and any progress would have been impossible, even deadly, without our Kokatat Expedition Drysuits. Every morning each of us would put on our drysuits and begin the slow and arduous days work of plowing and dragging through the rotting ice. We had various strategies for dealing with this great obstacle of ice and water. The shoreline often provided us with ice that was solid enough to drag over, other times we would try to follow a line of stable ice off shore. Often times we would fall up to our waste, or up to our arms. Without our Kokatat Drysuits, this would have, at best, resulted in a severe case of hypothermia, but with the suits on we mostly laughed, picked our selves up and continued forward. At this point, and for almost everyday in the following weeks, we lived in these Drysuits.
One morning it snowed ten inches.
After we had made our way through Lake Laberge, we came to the open current of the mighty Yukon River. For over two hundred miles and three-and-a-half days we were treated to downstream current and no ice. It was a pleasant break, and simply delightful to actually paddle all day on a canoe trip. What a novel idea! What a pleasant experience!
The flooded forests around the Pelly River.
But all good things have their time and place and, alas, must come to an end. It’s an unfortunate fact that you can’t canoe across the Continental Divide by going down stream the whole way. And so we had to leave the quick and easy miles of the Yukon River and point our bows upstream.
The Pelly River is a major tributary that feeds the Yukon River with the drainage of a vast network of rivers, streams, mountains and wilderness of the eastern Yukon Territory. And boy was it draining. From the first morning we canoed onto the river and slowly began the seemingly endless task of paddling against its current, the river rose. Every evening I would place a stick on the water’s edge and wake to see that same stick covered in an additional four to six inches of water. The brown current of the river, silty from the acres of dirt and earth it daily tore up, carried huge trees and piles of debris down with it. Soon the sand bars and pebbly beaches we had dragged up the first couple of days had been submerged. Then we noticed the tall cut-banks we had often paddled under were filled with water, and soon the shore almost disappeared all together. At one side there was a mighty, relentless river, on the other side a flooded forest that often reached beyond the eye and far beyond the glutted river channels.
We developed a strategy of hugging the shore. Jolting our muscles, tendons and bones against the ever increasing, ever flowing current. Over and over we had to make long and exhausting ferries as we chased after the little bit of slack water that hung in the inside bends of the river. None of us had ever paddled so hard only to average about one-mile per hour. In the morning I would wake up, look at the river (the speed of the river must have calmed in my dreams) and think, “How the hell are we paddling up this thing?”
After three weeks and over two-hundred miles traveling up the Pelly, we are now resting outside of Faro, a small community in the Yukon Territory. Most people here tell us they have never seen the river this high. Across the territories communities have been evacuated, roads washed out. Quite the year for such an expedition. Yet, all four of us feel incredibly privileged to be able to travel in this area. Mountains line the river valley, and the few people we meet are all incredibly generous and hospitable.
In short, after crossing over twenty feet of snow, frozen lakes, and going up a flooded river, all with three of the best traveling companions a guy could ask for, I have had one of the most adventurous and beautiful summers of my life.
And there are still three more months before the adventure is completed.
The snow and wind were fierce coming over the Chilkoot Pass. Over twenty feet of
snow, huge drifts and avalanche paths a plenty. Then we were met with open
waters that turned to ice that turned to toil and great joy. After a very cold
and difficult week and a half start to the trip we were rewarded with
unsurpassed hospitality at Six Mile River Resort, where we
are taking a brief breather and hoping for some more ice to melt and get off
these lakes. Here are some photos to whet your appetite. More details will come
in a few weeks. Until then...
The four of us have gathered in Seattle. In less than a week we will begin the hike through the costal range on Alaska's southeastern armand move into the interior of that mythic place called the Yukon. Be sure to follow us under the Follow tab, and check in over the next four months with Canoe & Kayak magazine, who we will be blogging with. In the mean time: Adventure awaits!
Well, some big news has happened since the last blog update. First, the man, the guy, the El Jefe, the world-class wonder himself, Mr. Steven Arthur Keaveny, turned the big 3-0 on February 26, and on that same day took one more great and fantastic step forward as he became engaged to his wonderful girlfriend, Ms. Amanda Kays. Needless to say, I’m entirely jealous that Amanda gets to spend the rest of her life with one of the best buds I’ve had for the last 17 years. However, once we paddle onto the Hudson Bay, after five months with the guy, my jealousy may have calmed a bit.
We also reached our fundraising goals on the Kickstarter page. Which is wonderful. Thanks to all that contributed for both your financial help and for believing in our expedition this summer. I cannot begin to express how much it means to have everyone out there supporting us.
Otherwise, everything is set to go. Next week Winchell and Matt will drive to Canada to ship our food to the three resupply points along the way. The tents from Hilleberg are set up and look fantastic. I’m very excited to wait out the first windstorm in one of them. The drysuits from Kokatat and packs Granite Gear has arrived, and it’s all just itching to get used in higher latitudes.
And so am I.
Here’s a short clip Matt put together. Final weeks of preparations with a little recreational powder riding spliced in between.
It's been a while since I've left a post, and a few of you have mentioned this to me, so I'm going to make good and jot down a bit of an update on the fruit of our logistical labor.
It's a warm and grey winter here in Minnesota, which means the biking is great but the skiing is, well, not optimal. The lack of winter recreation has given me plenty of time to begin to place all of our ducks in their proverbial rows. We have secured three resupply points along our route, at Faro, Yukon, then Fort Simpson in the Northwest Territories and the final resupply point, right before we venture into the great expanse of wilderness east of Great Slave Lake is in the small village of Lutsel K'e.
Of course, to get these resupply points stocked and filled with food and provisions we need, Steve, Winchell and Matt have been busy packing food out in Salt Lake City. Here's a short video showing some of the food preparation.
I'm also happy to announce that our expedition has been sponsored by Hilleberg, the Tent Maker, and Kokatat. Hilleberg makes, quite frankly, the best tents available, the type that can stand up to mountain gales, day in and day out use, and cold autumn storms tearing off the Hudson Bay. Kokatat will be supplying us with PFDs and Expedition Drysuits. The Drysuits are a cornerstone of the expedition's success. They will provide complete protection from the cold we will encounter on the cold mountain rivers we have to paddle, pull, and wade up to reach the Nahanni River. Without these Drysuits we would be hypothermic in a matter of minutes. I am very proud and happy to have joined with two such stellar companies that are committed to manufacturing the quality gear that our expedition demands.
One last note. Our ferry tickets have also been booked. We leave from Bellingham, Washington on May 4th. We arrive in Skagway, Alaska on May 7th. Stay tuned...
With only about nine months before we take off there is a good deal of logistical work and planning that has been keeping all of us busy. Last week I was lucky enough to take a break from all the preparation and spend a few days backpacking on the North Shore of Lake Superior. Late one day, after I had spent most of the afternoon hiking up and down switchbacks, at an hour when the pines were particularly fragrant (or that might have been the sweat had soaked through most of my clothes) I sat down on a hump of granite to take a drink and a short rest. I was swatting away some mosquitoes when a gust of wind came off the Lake. It made the birches chime with a soft rustle, and drove all the biting insects away.
There’s not much more to say: I sat for a few more minutes, took some gulps of water then continued down the trail. But, in the moment’s simplicity, I felt something of the magic of the Northland. Needless to say, I am more than ecstatic to return to the northern realms of Canada in nine months.
2012 TRANS-TERRITORIAL CANOE EXPEDITION