Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Chef at work

Fantastic camp spot, small fishing community totalling four houses.  There was no-one at home unfortunately but we were advised it was ok to camp there. Enjoyed the morning views with breakfast. 

Beaver in the water in front of us just before midnight, the beaver came very close to the canoe and stayed with us for a while.


'Misplaced' the fuel  for the stove so cooked of the fire for a few nights.
Arrived in Wrigley, small settlement with a population of around 200 people.  We have stocked up on some supplies from the local store, minimilastic to say the least but it had some pasta and dried fruit which will do the job.  We have covered good mileage since Fort Simpson, averaging around 35 miles per day, part of the reason for this is the difficulty in finding good camp spots, we have travelled further than planned looking for a good pitch.  The river has been flowing at a steady rate and the weather has been good, we were without cloud for 3 straight days.
The non stop sunshine has brought its challenges though, the sun doesnt set till after midnight and rises around 3am, our tents are like sauna's, there is no hiding from it, difficult for two pasty Scotsmen.  Its not often i would say this but hoping for lots of clouds and wind in the next few days although forecast is much the same, 28 degrees and sunny (dry your eyes i hear you say).
We spotted our first bear today, it was just a cub at the side of the river, we were quite a distance away but still great to see one.  We had a beaver swimming close to our canoe 2 nights ago, it was with us for quite while, slapping its tail of the water and diving before resurfacing close by - amazing.  6-8 days till the next civilisation, will update more then.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Dad and I about to set off at Dory Point, fresh faced (open to opinion) and excited!
Beautiful eagle spotted before we set out on the river.
Canoe packed, ready for the off, everything fits!

Sitting it out, waiting for the wind to die down before going underneath the Deh Cho bridge
Midnight sunset - this was towards the tail end of a mammoth 15 hour paddling day, not planned but this view was worth it
Mid day power nap (maxed out at about 3 minutes), we took turns whilst the other steered, not easy to sleep on the canoe but there was few Mosquitoes and a small breeze so we took our chance!
Jean Marie River, population of around 70, fascinating settlement , the locals couldn't have been friendlier.  First shower in a week - the reason i look so happy

Toilet break

Aboriginal Day celebrations (excuse the post), they are doing the 'reel of 4' dance, this derived from the 8 some reel, the dances were brought over by Scots fur traders who charmed the locals with their moves.

Doing a little bit flying.

Little Doctor Lake taken in as part of the Air Tour, done a little fishing and chilled out in the beautiful surroundings.

Virginia Falls - Looking pretty cool this guy

Friday, 22 June 2012

22nd June
We arrived in Fort Simpson day before yesterday and are staying in the local campsite. Coincidentally, yesterday was Aboriginal Day, a day of celebration, with singing and dancing going on into the night. The "D.J." commented on the link between Canada and Scotland, pointing out that the fiddle music being played had been introduced by Scottish trader/pioneers a few hundred years ago. Michael and i didnt stay too long as we are catching up on much needed rest. Between the bugs and the heat, sleep is at a premium.
The river changed after Jean Marie, speeded up considerably in places (18K/hr) so we made good progress. There had been concern that the water at  Fort Simpson would be blocked by logs as the River Liard coming into the Mackenzie had been slow in thawing and the water levels were high. Fortunately we paddled into the town (1200 pop) with ease. A lady from a nearby house loaded our gear into the back of her truck and taxied us up to the campsite.
Ok, the trip so far! Difficult. I am so out my comfort zone and although I intellectually knew it would not be a picnic, I was not prepared for this, and I don't mean equipment/food wise but experience wise. This is true wilderness country, huge, beautiful but wilderness and I/we are learning that it must be taken seriously, that small things must be heeded to, if we are to reach our destinations, our goals, whatever they may be. We are working well as a team, not easy at times as family dynamics and character defects (I am talking about my own here) come into play.
Michael has gone on a air trip to Virginia falls today which I'm sure he will report on.
Tomorrow we are back on the river and our next stage is lengthy so maybe no blog for a couple of weeks? Missing you all.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

We were dropped off by Canoe outfitters at around mid day on Friday 15th June, all the planning and preparation had come down to this point.  Our first days target was to reach Fort Providence, a modest target for the first day which would help us find our rhythm, learn which way the canoe faces etc.  The first hour was eventful, a large herd of Buffalo greeted us from the shore as we made our maiden crossing of the MacKenzie, we then paddled under the Deh Cho bridge (A kilometer long bridge under construction for the last 4 years) and also spotted a couple of Bald Eagle - a good start to the trip.
We camped in Fort Providence on our first night, it was here where we were formally introduced to some of the NWT mosquitoes, i also learned a valuable lesson that Merino wool doesn't provide a barrier against the little fu..lyers, i would  pay for this naivety for the next few days as I itched myself to sleep.  We went into 'town' to investigate after having dinner by the tent, we ended up in the Snow Shoe Inn after being beckoned in by a couple of the locals, the 'snow shoe idol' was taking place - a karaoke competition based on pop idol. Dad couldn't be persuaded to sing and i would have felt bad taking the prize from one of the locals, we therefore didn't stay long and made a swift exit.  A surreal experience.
Day two and three the going were relatively slow going, the sheer size of the Mackenzie was now appreciated, no loch or lake in the UK would compare, the river was several kilometers wide and the current was therefore minimal, we earned every meter gained. We also had to negotiate the south side of Mills Lake, a 20km expanse of water which threw up some tasty waves, a reminder that the river could present some serious challenges if not respected.  We made good progress however and the views at times were great, we were on the whole blessed with decent weather. 
On the second night we circled a few islands looking for a windy camp spot, wind will be a close ally on this trip as it keeps the mosquitoes down to a minimum.  Thankfully we were pretty successful in achieving this on the second and third nights, so much so we could even have a very brief wash in the Mackenzie, i say very brief as the water is freezing, the river was frozen this time a month ago and at times lumps of ice can be seen on the shores.  The amount of drift wood makes making fires very easy which is great, it goes without saying therefore we have had big bonfires each night.
No sign of any bears yet, although there have been a couple of noises in the night which have put us on edge, not helped by one of the local woman in Fort Providence commenting in passing that 'the bears are coming', a helpful statement I'm sure however it doesn't assist with sleeping!  I have the bear spray and bangers, Dad has the gun, cant say its fair but i do get bigger helpings at dinner, compromise. 
Below is a link to the progress we have made days 1 - 6, i will post some photographs shortly, Dad will update blog shortly.,-117.6709&ll=61.3604,-117.6709&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1,-118.04967&ll=61.45474,-118.04967&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1,-118.60597&ll=61.30629,-118.60597&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1,-119.83801&ll=61.31064,-119.83801&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1,-120.63184&ll=61.5317,-120.63184&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1 

Friday, 15 June 2012

14th June and our last day in Hay river. All being well we will be on the river tomorrow. Our equipment was held up in Edmonton awaiting custom clearance. But the extra day here was needed. Michael had a tummy bug, requiring recovery time and there is blockage on the river near Fort Simpson (about 200K) due to unusually high floods so getting there too soon would not be a good idea. The weather is cooler than usual for this time of June but temps likely to increase very soon. There is still ice on the Great Slave Lake and winds coming off there are fresh.
We spent most of today sorting out our gear, which finally arrived yesterday afternoon. Thankfully Canoe North are looking after us and gave us the use of their warehouse to pack the barrels etc. We have already met so many people and have been made so welcome. I asked the local supermarket manager if i could borrow a trolley to transport some stuff - "sure, no problem, just bring it back".
We will be glad to get going tomorrow. It seems a long time ago since the planning began and finally the journey is about to begin!   

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Leaving on a jet plane.....

Saturday 9th June – Packing finished, carbohydrate loading completed satisfactorily and lift to the airport agreed.

We have less than 5 days now until we start on the river.  The first challenge will be successfully getting through the airport with a 12 gauge shot gun complete with a summers worth of ammunition.  Dad insists he has spoken to the police and the airline and that there will be no issues, however to be sure I will be keeping my distance from the gun toting highlander until the gun is safely checked in.  The concern is Edinburgh’s answer to John Smeaton will not like the look of him and take it upon himself to tackle Dad to the floor.  Hopefully there will be some decent films on the flight, I am concerned if there isn’t, conversations between Dad and I may be exhausted before we arrive in Canada.

We spend two nights in Edmonton, the reason being, there is a requirement for us to personally collect and sign for our air freight and then organise the onward transportation to Hay River.  The freight is carried by truck from Edmonton to Hay River.  We leave Edmonton on Tuesday morning arriving in Hay River via a 6 hour stopover in Yellowknife on Tuesday evening. 

Hay River will be a busy day and a half, the to do list includes – collect our freight which is being delivered to the canoe outfitters, collect our canoe (quite important), buy food, buy fishing gear and enjoy the last night in a bed before ten weeks of camping.

My emotions are currently excitement coupled with apprehension, I’m sure the apprehension will subside however once I am satisfied all our equipment has safely arrived.

Next update will be from the North West Territories where the weather forecast is currently good!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Let The Adventure Begin
The planning of this trip started 1 year ago, and I know that Michael and I have shared and individual reasons why we decided to embark on this journey. We both had felt an urge to do something "different", test ourselves on a journey of exploration. The idea of paddling the length of the Mackenzie river in North West Territories in Canada met this need for adventure.
The Mackenzie river, the Deh Cho, (big river), flows north from the Great Slave Lake to the Arctic Ocean. It stretches 1120 miles. The starting point of our trip is Hay River on the Great Slave Lake and our destination is Tuktoyaktuk, a small community on the Beaufort Sea. There are 9 settlements along the way and depending on weather conditions and the condition of father, the time in between settlements may be one to two weeks. Therefore blog entries may be irregular - but stay with us.
The physical challenge of the journey lies not so much in the technical difficulty of the river (mostly grade 1 rapids, 2 x grade 2) but in the size of the water and it's remoteness. The average width of the river is 1.5 to 2 miles and strong winds must be treated with respect.
We are excited and nervous about the journey ahead, meeting the challenge of existing in a harsh and unforgiving environment where bears and mosquitos belong and man is a visitor. We also welcome the opportunity to observe the culture of the Dene people and perhaps experience some of their unique traditional aboriginal activity.
I want to say that planning and preparing for this trip and getting to this point has only been possible with the support and help of many. Thanks to you all.