Anderson River, Beaufort Sea

CanadaNorthwest TerritoriesArctic
Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Allan Jacobs
Trip Date : 
Additional Route Information
Distance: 
1034 km
Duration: 
28 days
Loop Trip: 
No
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
0
Total Portage Distance: 
0 m
Longest Portage: 
0 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Advanced
Lake Travel: 
Advanced
Portaging: 
Not applicable
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Technical Guide: 

Flight to Colville Lake, Anderson River, Beaufort Sea, Liverpool Bay, Eskimo Lakes, Sitidgi Lake, Norris Creek, flight to Inuvik.

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

Editor’s notes:
Canoe travel on the Beaufort Sea cannot be recommended.

Editor’s Comments:
This trip was undertaken by Ted & Freda Mellenthin & the report, originally a personal account, was written & typed (by typewriter) by Freda Mellenthin & was not prepared specifically for posting at CCR; it was then scanned, digitized & submitted by Allan Jacobs in January 2008; as a result, some information is not easily available & some errors were introduced by the scanning process.

Many thanks to the Mellenthins & Allan Jacobs for their efforts!

Title: Winds from the Beaufort Sea

Route: Colville Lake, Anderson River, Beaufort Sea, Eskimo Lakes, Sitidgi Lake, Inuvik

Year travelled: 2005

Distance, duration: 1034 km, 28 days

Author: Freda Mellenthin

Sunday, July 10

Tonight at 7 pm we finally flew into Colville Lake after waiting for two and a half days in Inuvik because we could not get a flight any earlier. On the way to the airport we went to the Northern Store to buy a case for Ted's gun and to have our last "civilized" meal, a pizza.
Two attendants of Borek Airways loaded our two canoes and the gear for four people, including food for four to six weeks, into the Twin Otter. Geoff and Jeremy, Ted and I squeezed in the back of the plane on the floor, and off we flew into this year's adventure. An hour later we landed in Colville Lake, a small settlement of Hareskin Indians. Although the airstrip is some distance away from the village, some urchins were immediately there to bug us. We walked into the community and found Bern Will Brown's mission house close to the picturesque' log church. Margret Brown found a local for us who was willing to truck our gear from the landing strip to the lake shore in front of the mission. Bern Will Brown is a retired priest and missionary who founded this community in 1962. He is also a gifted carpenter, builder and painter. Now eighty-five and retired, he maintains a private museum and an art gallery of his paintings which depict northern scenes from the more than fifty years he has spent in the north. He was very helpful in advising us which rapids must be portaged etc. However, from the four portages he mentioned we ran three, Ted's style.
We did not follow Bern's invitation to camp in the village behind the church for fear of roaming kids who don't go to bed during the northern "white" nights. Instead we paddled a while along the shore of Colville Lake and set our camp in the tundra herbs at some distance from the village. The fragrance of Labrador tea in the air brought back memories of other tundra trips. It is good to be back again!

Monday, July 11

The lake was very choppy this morning. So Ted and I decided to walk back to the village and have a better look at the community. Everybody was still asleep after having been up most likely until the wee hours in the morning. The log cabins are very small and partly neglected with windows boarded up and the varnish on the logs is gone. Two men were preparing a site for new gasoline tanks, however part of their working hours were spent waiting for a plane to come in with new material. One of them, a white man, laughed about our trip intentions: "Such a trip should not be done by people in their fifties", he said. A good thing he did not know our real age.
At 10:30 we were back in camp and ready to leave. The water was still very choppy with whitecaps on the more shallow parts of the 1ake. Launching into the surf with our sail up was very tricky. With wind from behind, we had an advantage over Geoff and Jeremy who paddled with bare manpower only. It was a day most people would have called "wind-bound" and spent in their tent. But who wants to pass the first day of a canoe trip in a sleeping bag when still full of energy and unused enthusiasm? Many times a wave splashed over the cockpits. A rain shower drenched us thoroughly. The wind and waves were with us all day. Since it was our first paddling day, we decided to set camp early, at 5:45 pm and have a relaxing evening. 24 km

Tuesday, July 12

We left at 9:00 am, paddling into a cloudy, windless morning along the west bank of Colville Lake. The shore gradually changed from dense forest to sparsely treed ground covered with grey lichen. A slight south-west wind came up, just right for us to sail. The air was mild and the newly hatched blackflies accompanied us, riding on the lee side of our sail.
At 11:30 we landed in front of a trail leading to a cabin higher up on the shore. Ted had caught his first fish which we fried and ate inside the rather simple cabin. After lunch we reached the outlet of Colville Lake and passed through a stretch of rather shallow, fast water. On top of a hill Bern Brown's outpost cabin greeted us, built in his typical style of light brown logs with white painted ends. A beaver emerged close to Geoff's canoe and quickly changed its course. Then we entered the second lake, nameless on the map, which we dubbed Jeremy Lake. Ted and I sailed through it in a jiffy. For a while we tried to pull the other canoe because we felt guilty having an advantage over them. The sun came out, bathing the small islands in the lake in a warm golden light. It was after five and time to look for a camping spot. Ted dreamed of camping high on an esker which, according to his map would soon come into sight. With hopeful enthusiasm we continued until we reached the outlet of the lake and found ourselves in a rocky river descending in a long, easy rapid. However, both canoes got stranded in shallow water on rocky bottom, and we all had to get out to push and pull through it. Paddling around a bend we disturbed a huge swan who quickly rose from the water and flew off panic-stricken. The land lies very low here, and the shores are nothing but swamp.
At 7:30 pm we spotted higher ground behind the low willow shrubs and lifted the canoes up into the wet moss. It was not an ideal spot, moist and mosquito-infested, but anything would do after this long day. When Ted and I sat in our mosquito porch, a grey, ugly groundhog-like animal wanted to crawl in with us. At 11:00 pm the sun was still bright and warm, and the insects were singing and dancing. With utmost bravery we took a bath in the black swamp water below us between big pieces of broken-off clumps of soil. 50 km

Wednesday, July 13

We slept till 8:30, that is Ted and I, and were on the water at 10:30. During breakfast some light showers came down and the weather looked as if it could turn ugly. We got going anyway, and as the day progressed, the weather improved. It was cloudy with light wind and intermittent sunshine. After paddling around a few islands we entered a channel and stayed on it almost all day. From time to time we had to paddle through some riffles or dodge boulders and rocks. The land was very scenic: A border of bright green reed grass on both shores, then a fringe of high willow bushes, and then the dry soft tundra, covered with grey lichen in which tall thin spruces stretched to the sky, some of them toppling over for lack of firm footing. We had lunch under a spruce tree, agitating myriads of insects that charged us mercilessly. The scenery remained the same all day until we came to a lake in the evening. There we saw three moose feeding in the water and cooling off. But they all fled when they saw our canoes. At 5:30 we spotted a high dry area above the curtain of willows. We camped under the trees with a view on the water. Ted and I walked uphill behind our tent and found a lot of old dry turd similar to cow dung. Was that from bears, or had a herd of muskoxen spent some time here? They have apparently come a lot farther south in the last few years. 38 km

Thursday, July 14

We left at 9:30 am. It was chilly and the sky was grey with pale-blue patches here and there. We paddled against a slight head-wind and I had to pull the sleeve of my cockpit up so that my legs did not get too cold. Again we passed through a narrow channel with spruce trees on both sides leaning in all directions struggling for survival. From time to time a love-sick loon called out, or a startled mother duck performed her tricks to distract us from her young ones. Twice we crossed a larger lake where we saw some swans, but they did not let us come close and flew off in a hurry. We had lunch under the trees after spraying ourselves heavily with insect repellent.
In the afternoon the sun came out and so did the mosquitoes. Towards evening Ted and Geoff both caught a fish. Geoff let his go, but we ate ours later at supper time. Then we paddled through Sokatue Lake where we could have found some decent camping spots, but Ted had his mind set on reaching Niwellin Lake and camp where a good site was marked on John Simon's map. So we were looking for a certain gravel tip. Those we passed were low and swampy and unsuitable for camping. When we reached the third tip we decided to stay there although it was also less than ideal, a stretch of gravel with some willows and thick swamp behind us. We were both tired, and Geoff and Jeremy who followed us in some distance were most likely equally tired and possibly a bit disgusted about the long day. On the campsite we were greeted by swarms of mosquitoes, blackflies and some horseflies. The spot was just large enough for two tents put fairly close together, which we avoided if possible. Who wants to hear the snoring of the other party? Jeremy has brought his guitar and often improvises some background music in the evening, which is nice. 45 km

Friday, July 15

I did not sleep too much last night, maybe due to overtiredness and also worrying about the next day's rapid out of Niwellin Lake. At 9:00 am we left our wet, insect-populated campsite and travelled down the lake. We were all in a subdued state of mind, thinking of the upcoming rapid not marked on the map, but described by some as a waterfall and with no portage trail to speak of through the dense bush. We crossed over to the left shore and passed several spots that would have been ideal for camping. It was an almost windless cloudy morning. We entered the outlet of Niwellin Lake with trepidation, then stopped to scout the notorious rapid. There were no falls, but a class 3+ rapid that appeared unrunnable at first. Then Ted and Geoff both made strategic plans where to enter the rapid, on which side of the huge square boulder to pass, through which chute to run and on what side to dodge the second boulder plus its resulting keeper. The only consolation was that we would not have to swim very far in case we tipped; the current would push us into the eddy to the right. A portage would lead through a tangle of trees, up and down over deadfalls and through low lying brush and swamp. I had butterflies in my stomach and my adrenalin reached a high level. Ted and I ran the rapid first while Geoff took pictures of us from the top of the cliff. Under Ted's expert guidance we did fine and landed safely in the left eddy below after some anxious moments. I had never run such a tight rapid, and Ted confessed later on that his knees had also been shaking. Geoff and Jeremy also did OK as we watched them coming down the nine-foot drop. What a relief! After this experience no rapid will be too difficult for me any more.
Soon we entered Gassend Lake, a typical northern lake with green low hills around it and stretches of reddish sand beaches formed by the sand of ancient eskers. We crossed over towards the outlet where the Ross River flows out, gliding through the mirror-like surface. A whole underworld of lake weeds and occasional fish opened before us. The long bushy underwater plants pointed us unmistakenly in the direction we must go to reach the Ross River which flows into the Anderson 30 km later. The Ross is a pristine river with green shores and sloping hills overgrown with spruce trees under which the tundra vegetation, lichen, heather, Labrador tea and blueberries grow in abundance. It was time to camp, but there was no suitable spot, (or no one except me who was serious about finding one). So we continued to the confluence with the Anderson River over many small fun rapids.
At 7:00 pm we camped on an island at the "crossroad" of both rivers. The air was peaceful and filled with the sweet fragrance of vetch and wild roses in bloom. The yellow of the potentilla flowers and the lush grass added to the serenity of the scene. After supper Ted and I walked around the island and through the bush behind our tents on the hill. 52 km

Saturday, July 16

This morning we took our time, since we paddled such long hours the last two days. Ted dismantled the sail and mast because we will not need them in the fast water of the Anderson.
Today was rapid-day. Soon after starting, we canoed the first rapid. The second one was unmarked on the map and quite tricky. Ted and I stopped on shore beside a ledge, donned our floater jackets - we did not bring lifejackets - and dragged the loaded canoe over a narrow ledge, whereas our partners shot through the waves with their ABS canoe. It was fun to watch them "fly" past us. Our canoe is less suitable for such a stunt. We paddled through a few more insignificant rapids. Not far from Falcon Canyon we spotted a green canoe and two people on shore, the first people in six days. They were Franz and Edelgard from South Tyrol in a Norwegian folding canoe, a Pakboat without a spray cover. After lunch we left together, but they soon had to stay behind to bail out their boat after going through some high waves. We were worried how they would make it through the upcoming Falcon Canyon. This canyon is wild and beautiful, dropping over ten meters in six kilometers. Made up of high cliffs it continually bends left and right with a rapid after every curve. There are six mostly class 3 rapids during a stretch of eight km. We shot through high waves and wound our way through many ledges. Some peregrine falcons flew above us, but we did not have much time to admire nature. In no time we had passed the northern "gate" of the canyon and stopped to bail out some water or dry our wet pants in the wind. Happy and still excited about the white water we had run with such success, we continued. The sun was shining and a cold north wind was blowing. Coming around a river bend we saw a moose cow with two calves cooling off in the middle of the water. The scenery was beautiful: grassy shores and spruce trees on the sloping hills covered with tundra herbs.
In the late afternoon we paddled through Airweave Canyon, a three-kilometer stretch with four wild rapids. Geoff and Jeremy paddled in front of us and suddenly disappeared from sight for a few seconds as they paddled through a hole, but they emerged unharmed and continued. I had fun in the rapids and it was a great day. We camped on a large, flat island. It was still sunny and windy, and there were no mosquitoes. Ted caught a pike for a second supper. I did some laundry and washed my hair, which seemed incomprehensible to the men. 40 km

Sunday, July 17

Today was very sunny. We have been spoiled for six days now with glorious weather. At departure Ted dropped his paddle in the water and we had to jump in the canoe quickly to retrieve it. I was glad it was not me because Ted would not like it! Although a tender and loving man, he gets quickly impatient, which was the case this lovely morning. He had not left enough room for my feet when loading the canoe. We had to land again and rearrange some gear under grunts and growls. After that the day turned out great. We paddled 44 km through a calm stretch of river, passing friendly green shores and sparsely treed hills. Lunch was beside a creek where we found bear and wolf tracks.
The three men each caught a fish, Ted a whitefish and the Wades two graylings. In the afternoon we had the thrill of spotting a muskox on shore. Usually they do not come down into the treed areas.
At 3:30 we arrived at the notorious Limestone Steps that must be portaged according to the government report. There are three high ledges in the form of huge steps across the whole river. When we first arrived on river-right, we only saw the first rapid and a very big eddy below it. Ted wanted to see if it could be run from river-left, where the high cliff runs out into a shelf close to the water and makes scouting easy. This rapid is very powerful with high churning waves on both sides tilting towards the middle where running it might be possible through a very fast and wavy tongue. Ted and I ferried over to the left to get a better look of the rapid. It did not look any better from this side. Ted asked me if I would run it with him, but I declined. It would not be reasonable to take such a risk and spoil our trip in case of a mishap. So we ferried back to river-right which was a risk in itself, because you have to set and keep the proper angle, otherwise you could slip into the next ledge sideways and tip. On river-right it was easy to line the fully loaded canoe past the first rapid and into the eddy. Now we ferried back to river-left from where the second "step" was visible further down. It looked from here as if it was runnable, but luckily we had the sense to walk down the shelf past the rapid to scout it from below. Wow! It was a huge "step" with a table-like platform in the middle over which the water cascaded down. Geoff wanted to run it on the extreme left away from the cascade, but Jeremy refused to go with him. Therefore we lined both canoes past this "step". The last rapid, however, we did run through a huge tongue and through high standing waves. That completed our Limestone Steps adventure: No portaging, no unpacking, three ferries and one run down the last rapid.
Paddling on we saw a canoe and approached the two paddlers. They were two German men in an inflatable Grabner canoe. Geoff found out later through e-mail with the Tyroleans that these two had abandoned their trip a few days later when the weather turned ugly and they called in a plane. We found a campsite across from them on an island. 47 km

Monday, July 18

Another sunny day! We were on the water at 9:30. Within the hour we ran through two rapids. The first one was easy, but the second one had several ledges across the river through which we had to find a path. We did not wear our floater jackets because these rapids were not marked on the map. Ted and I missed an opening between two ledges, shot directly through a ledge and into the hole behind it. Since we had a good speed, we emerged unharmed, but thoroughly soaked, as the high waves poured over us. To stay warm after this cold bath I put my floater jacket on, so that my body temperature could heat up my wet clothes. There would be time to change into something dry later on. Around the next bend we had the greatest thrill: A large herd of muskoxen stood on the slightly elevated shore. Immediately they formed a circle around the calves, snorting and swaying their heads back and forth in a threatening manner. After a while they disappeared into the woods behind them. Later we saw a grey wolf walking along the shore.
When we stopped for lunch I first changed into dry clothes. (Ted in the stern never gets that wet!) Besides our daily lunch ration of two slices of German pumpernickel with salami, we ate the whitefish from last night's catch. Then we went for a hike, climbing up the steep embankment over loose sand, frantically holding on to the few shrubs and causing a small landslide with every step. From the top the view was magnificent: The fast flowing Anderson in the valley and many small tundra lakes scattered among the green rolling hills. When we came down detouring over a less dangerous densely wooded hill, Geoff and Jeremy who had climbed another slope were already waiting for us. Then we paddled on over a swift current, passing through bluffs up to a height of thirty meters. Geoff spotted two motherless goslings and stopped to shoot them for an evening meal. That's when Jeremy discovered that the shore at the bottom of the bluff was full of petrified sea shells. Apparently the entire hill consists of sea fossils which were once at the bottom of a tropical sea and now held in place by permafrost. So, after securing a succulent gosling supper, the four of us started collecting some specimen of fossilized clams, corals and mollusks.
From there it was not far to the next and last set of rapids called Juniper rapid. After a fun run through the first set we camped on a sandy beach where we ate fried young goose accompanied by the gurgling music of the white water before us. 54 km

Tuesday, July 19

It was cold and windy all day, and the notorious dark-grey rings around the sky-dome indicated strong winds for hours to come. However, we had eight consecutive sunny days behind us which is unusual in this northern region. Nevertheless, we left at 9:15 (9:00 Ted's time) to take on the battle against the wind. At the start there was the last set of Juniper Rapid which could be totally by-passed on the right, but Ted insisted on running it through the shoot between two ledges, just for the fun of it. Needless to say, I got wet despite of the fun. At least I had my rain gear on!
Just a bit down the river Ted, with his eagle eyes, discovered a cabin on the high shore in the bush. We stopped and climbed up to investigate it. There was an old trapper's hut, long and narrow and half dug in the ground. Inside we could recognize a snowmobile through a small window. The rest of the interior was obscured from our view. A small elevated shack with an earth-covered roof and many antlers on top looked like a food cache, another low log shelter was probably the dog house for the sleigh dogs. Some tools such as a motor-saw, an axe and a hatchet hung outside, and a motor sleigh was parked behind a disintegrating log wall. There were fresh bear droppings on the ground, and a deep depression in the grass looked like the lair of a large animal. The rest of the day passed uneventfully. We ploughed through the water against a cold head wind. The men had to wear gloves because their hands were a lot colder than mine.
At lunch we made a fire to dry our boots and warm up our feet. For half the day a flock of white geese fled ahead of us squawking frantically. At 6 pm we pulled into shore to build our camp and eat. Everybody had enough after a day of hard paddling. 54 km

Wednesday, July 20

This morning the cold north wind was still blowing and it was very wet. I guess the proximity of the Arctic Ocean is beginning to affect us. When I stepped out of the tent I saw a moose running from the bushes and swim across the river. We stayed in bed until 9 am. When we finally left at 11 am, we had to battle a strong, cold head wind. If we did not paddle for a moment, the canoe would stand still despite of the strong current. At 12:30 we arrived at the mouth of the Carnwath Riiver, one of the Anderson's major tributaries. Ted would have liked to arrive here last night to camp. The area does not look particularly friendly, however. The Carnwath forms a big delta with large gravel bars, and it is apparent that the ice is ravaging the shores every spring, leaving the land quite devastated. On the high embankment of the left shore a hunting cabin has been built. It is a simple shack, but clean inside. A log book hung on the wall, the couch was lifted on a table to stay dry during the spring flood, and there were many books on the shelf. The cabin was radio-wired, and two aluminum boats from the water resource department are kept here. Two motor sleighs were sheltered behind a wall. The site was not friendly enough to stay for lunch and we continued a bit. The hills along this section of the Anderson reach up to two hundred meters in many places.
We were all very cold and had to warm our feet by a fire during our lunch break. In the afternoon the wind was still strong, but the twisting of the river gave us a break in places where it flows south for a while. Once we saw a herd of at least twenty muskoxen close to shore. When they saw us, they ran up the mountainside. Around five o'clock the wind finally relented and the sun peaked through the grey clouds here and there. We camped at 5:30 and had a cool, almost windless and mosquito-free evening by the fire. 35 km

Thursday, July 21

This was the third windy day, although there had been no wind at three o'clock in the morning. At 8 a.m. when we started out, it was still calm, but not for long. Soon a very cold, wet and windy day unfolded and we should have stayed in camp and called it a wind-bound day. The sky displayed its dark grey waves, a sure sign of bad weather, and the mist that shrouded the far hills came down as a cold drizzle. At times the wind was so strong that we paddled through whitecaps. Ted discovered another old-timer's cabin hidden in the trees on a high shore.
We like to interrupt our trip whenever we see traces of human endeavor in such inhospitable regions. Other people prefer to just follow the goal they have set without side-tracking. I welcomed the opportunity to stretch my legs out of the kneeling position and warm up a little by walking or climbing. This cabin was very old and not used any more. The disintegrating floor was still made of hand-hewn boards. Before motors were invented, a trapper's life must have been extremely harsh!
Twice we saw muskoxen, once a single male, and once a whole herd up on a steep, wooded mountainside. At lunch we made a fire to warm our feet. Geoff confessed that he was not feeling well because a bladder infection was causing him some discomfort. After following my advice of taking Ibuprofen and drinking lots of camomile tea, he got rid of the problem the following days. Today the wind and cold was getting on everybody's nerves, so that a little disagreement between the two men on finding the most protected campsite became a big deal. But later on it got all straightened out like in a good family. We ended up camping on an island in the gravel at four o'clock, the earliest so far. Geoff made a fire, and we all sat around it, talking and eating. Then Ted and I walked around the whole island and saw many moose and wolf tracks. One of our Permarest mattresses is leaking and I pulled out my repair kit to fix it in the tent. It was so cold that the special mattress glue hardened instantly. Hopefully it will hold anyway! 44 km

Friday, July 22

Ted woke everybody up at 6 a.m., since the early morning hours are often wind-free. Geoff was probably already awake. He confessed to us later that he and Jeremy often sat in the tent in the morning, playing cards and waiting politely until we stir. We were on the water at 7:30, but, alas, the wind came up soon after, not quite as forceful as yesterday though. Only the odd time when the river twists and turns in wide bows, flowing in a different direction for a while, we had wind from behind. Gradually we advanced into the real tundra where trees do not grow anymore. The low shrubs on the hills were starting to bud now, which means that sub-zero temperatures must have remained here well into July. The sky was grey and dismal as we paddled through fog and very fine rain. In late morning we spotted two motor boats on the shore; tools, a gun and saw blades were lying about. Somebody must be around here. We found a trail and followed it quite a while until we came to a cabin. We knocked and saw an old and a young man, the first native people on this trip, rolling out of bed. They opened the door, introduced themselves as Jordan and Chris and apologized for sleeping in, since they were still suffering from a hang-over. A few bottles were stored under the table, but otherwise the cabin was clean and tidy. There was electricity, a television and pin-up girls on the wall. They arrived yesterday from Tuktoyaktuk and want to stay until Christmas, hunting and trapping. Jordan also wants to erect a cabin at the mouth of the river before freeze-up. We did not stay for a tea because of the aftereffects they were suffering from, and said good-bye after fifteen minutes. Paddling on, we came across a small herd of caribou, just starting to swim across the river to join more animals on the other side. For the rest of the day we saw scattered caribou on both sides of the river. Many more swam across, and the shoreline was bordered with white caribou hair.
At lunch time Ted caught a huge "conny" (inconnu, because they originally are not native here), and I fried a quarter of it right away. For supper I made fish soup, and we still have fish left for tomorrow. At 4:30 we quit paddling and set up camp on a gravel bar with a great view of the green hills across the river. As the crow flies, we are now seventy km from the coast. I have the feeling that Geoff and Jeremy want to get out of here as fast as possible. Jeremy betrayed himself by asking how many minutes the visit today took us. I don't blame them! It is their first tundra trip. Geoff is missing his wife Sandy, and Jeremy his sweet-sixteen girlfriend and his new job. Most people don't want to rough it for more than two weeks anyway. 44 km

Saturday, July 23

Today we had a very cold, wet, miserable day, the fifth in a row, but more rain than before. All morning we saw caribou on both shores, and many swimming across the river in front of us. Geoff discovered an old small trapper's cabin on top of the right steep shore, but we did not bother stopping for it. During lunch we made a fire to warm ourselves a bit. Wood from frost-killed shrubs was always abundant. In the afternoon the rain was really heavy, and it would have been nice to stop, set up camp and call it a day. We paddled around Windy Bend which deserves its name. The hills around the lower Anderson range up to two hundred meters above the river. The slopes on the east side display various colours from reds to yellow to lavender, due to a number of various minerals in the rocks. Ted and I paddled around an island and saw many ducklings and two swans with babies. This is the major North American nesting area for white swans. At 5 p.m. we found a campsite with a view of the coloured hills on the opposite river side. Jordan, the trapper we visited yesterday, drove by in his motorboat, towing another boat behind. 50 km

Sunday, July 24

The last two hundred and twenty-seven km we have paddled through strong, cold winds and rain, days when less hardy people would have waited in their tent. Today the weather finally looked promising after a rainy, stormy night. We took our time this morning. I replenished our small one-week barrel out of the big storage barrel. We still have lots to eat.
We left at 9:30 a.m. It was cloudy, but windless, and a bright ring covered the sky in the north. Although it was not warm at all, it felt mild after the cold of the previous days.
We saw a moose and her yearling disappear into the low shrubs, and two stray caribou who must have missed the mainstream herd; all the caribou in this area belong to the Bluenose herd. Around noon we passed the yellow hills, made up of ochre, yellow and reddish shades. On the top hoodoos of strange shapes stood out. We stopped and climbed up on one of the hills. On an outcrop hanging over a ravine, we saw a nest of falcons from quite close. The mom was circling above us, shrieking frantically, while her babies stood absolutely motionless in their nest to fool us; I first thought that I had some sticks or pieces of wood in front of me. We had a magnificent view from the top, looking over the vast northern country and over many islands in the wide river. The two natives, Jordan and Chris, who had camped quite close to us last night, passed us again in their motorboat.
After rounding Husky Bend we paddled straight north, grateful for only a light breeze from the front. Then we left the last tundra hills behind and passed low lying shores covered with shrubs on one side, and steep broken-off walls of peat on the other side of the river. The scenery was quite inhospitable and forsaken. In the evening it was hard to find a suitable camp spot. There were wide wet mud flats in front of the solid shoreline. I suggested to Ted that they looked like tidal flats, however, if you are the only woman going with three guys your opinion does not count much! Short of finding a solid dry site, we stopped and pulled the canoes onto the mud to unload and carry the gear over the wet sand to slightly higher ground where the shrubs were growing. At the water's edge I was sucked into the mud knee-deep, which caused me to fall flat forward. Ted was close by and pulled me out. My pants and jacket sleeves were totally covered in mud. Later on I cautiously approached the river in bare feet to scoop out some water for cooking. It took my feet a very long time to get warm again. The sun came out at suppertime and was still high and bright at 10:00 p.m. After we were settled in our sleeping bags we heard Geoff calling Ted desperately all of a sudden. The water had risen and the canoes were no longer dry. Another hour and they would have floated away. So I was right, we were already in tidal waters! The men quickly pulled the canoes to safety. If Geoff hadn't stepped out of his tent - thanks to a nature call - we would have been stranded in the morning. 49 km

Monday, July 25

We left our muddy campsite at 8:15a.m. There was a dense fog, but no wind. By nine o'clock a tiny patch of blue was visible in the sky and a pale light was barely shimmering through the clouds. Was this the beginning of a sunny day I had secretly wished for Geoff and Jeremy, so that they kept the tundra in a good memory after the last dismal days? Yes! The fog began to lift, revealing a clear blue sky.
Geoff called North-Wright Air by satellite phone to arrange a pick-up time for them. They were told to be close to Krekovick Landing in the Beaufort Sea at 12:00 noon. That did not give them much time to paddle the twenty km. We briefly stopped on an island and shared a small bottle of champagne Geoff had brought, toasting the successful completion of our trip. Geoff handed us the satellite phone and we said good-bye. Then they began to hurry straight north while we turned northwest towards Nicholson Island. It was very good of Geoff to give us the phone now; that saved us a trip to Krekovick landing where we would have to do a long crossing to Nicholson Point. However, their situation was jeopardized now, for they would be stranded without contact, if the plane did not come or could not find them. When Ted and I saw a plane come down in the distance at noon and take off again thirty minutes later, we were relieved, knowing that it must be their ride taking them back to civilization. I can imagine how happy Jeremy must have been after his first grueling trip. But I am sure he will never forget his tundra experience for the rest of his life.

Ted and I paddled off into the sunshine. The trip with Geoff and Jeremy had been enjoyable and we had a good time together. Time passes faster when you paddle in a small group, and it is also safer. Nevertheless, Ted and I were looking forward to the second half of the trip where we would just have each other. That's how our relationship began six years ago when we paddled fourteen hundred km in the tundra all by ourselves, and that's how we still enjoy each other's company best.
Slowly we made our way through the islands to the west coast of Wood Bay. The endless tundra lay before us in the sun. There were flocks of white swans that looked like little sailboats in the distance. A small herd of caribou was grazing on an island beyond.
We had lunch beside a clear brook coming out of the tundra hills. A fresh breeze from the Beaufort Sea invigorated our energy, and we were so grateful to be alive and well. The north wind picked up in the afternoon, as we paddled through many islands into a wide bay. The water became quite choppy, and struggling against the cold wind was not easy. In the distance Nicholson Point was visible. That's where we'll have to turn west into Liverpool Bay, which is a large body of water, (l10x15 km), south of the Tuktoyaktuk peninsula, fed by the Arctic Ocean.
Finding a campsite was not easy because of the large mud flats surrounding the coast during ebb tide. At 7:30 p.m. we saw a gap in the shore where a small tundra river had formed some solid gravel bars on which a tent could be erected. Finally! We had been on the water for twelve hours. The evening was very cold. A purple strip of cold air hovered over the Tuktoyaktuk Peninsula in the distance, under an immense pale-blue sky. It is probably the cold air of the icebergs in the Arctic Ocean that are causing the menacing, dark coloration. 42 km

Tuesday, July 26

We paddled at 9 o'clock into a sunny day, much warmer than yesterday with a slight north-east breeze. An hour later we travelled around the spit at the narrows between the mainland and Nicholson Island. Suddenly three light brown animals, romping boisterously came into our view. Were they wolves? No, we were witnessing the frolicking of three young grizzlies. One of them came close to the water's edge to peek at us, and for a moment it looked as if he wanted to jump down into our canoe. Then another one came close, saw us and quickly "told" his sibling to flee by nipping him in the butt. At first, I thought they were polar bears because of their beige colour, for one of the main breeding grounds is thirty km northeast from here at Cape Bathurst. All three ran off into the hills and disappeared in the distance.
As soon as we had passed Nicholson Point, an unfriendly looking high shore of black soil constantly eroded by waves and wind, we put our sail up. The north-east wind assisted us as we sailed south-west along the gradually receding coast. We sailed all day. Five times we had to paddle far into the open sea to avoid getting grounded in the shallow water of the outgoing tide. Once we even had to get out of the canoe to pull it, wading beside it through the cold water. In the distance icebergs were floating, looking very white in the blue water. The sun and the wind were with us all day. We wanted to camp early, but we either could not find a suitable flat area on the beach, or if we saw one, we could not land in the low tide. It was 8:30 p.m. when we finally spotted a piece of higher ground below the tundra hills with access through deeper water. There were huge grizzly bear tracks where we landed, and we could only hope that the bears would not pass by here too soon again. It had been a long day and we needed to camp, regardless. 58 km

Wednesday, July 27

We slept till 9:30 a.m., undisturbed by the grizzlies, restoring our energy from yesterday's long hours of paddling. After breakfast we climbed up into the tundra hills. The northern landscape, pristine and of a subdued serenity unfolded before us. An infinity of rolling, green hills was stretched out as far as the eye could see. Small blue lakes lay embedded in the folds of the land. The vast space seemed uninhabited, but the many holes in the meadow gave evidence of ample animal activity. Ground squirrels, foxes and wolves live here side by side. Looking over the blue Arctic water of Liverpool Bay we suddenly saw a screen of light grey air rising in the north east, and moments later, moving westward like a huge, white sheet sweeping through the sky. Instantly a strong wind moved over the water, travelling quickly across and disappearing in the far west. Soon the sky was clear again as if nothing had happened. What a spectacle!
Back in camp we had lunch, packed up and left at 1:30 p.m. The sun was shining and the wind was quite strong as we sailed along the coast. No problems with mud flats today, or so we thought! At five o'clock we landed for a short break, stretching our legs a bit. The tide was on its way out, and in no time the canoe was left stranded in the mud. So much for our break! If we wanted to continue, we had to act fast. We pushed the boat over the mud and through the shallow water, jumped in and were lucky to be buoyant again. It was another three km south west to the end of Liverpool Bay where some island marks the entrance to Eskimo Lakes. Will we be able to approach it during low tide? Around the next bend we saw a huge mudflat spread before our eyes. We tried to paddle north into deeper water, but the tide soon caught up with us and we got grounded. If we did not act quickly, we would be stranded here for six hours. The canoe was too heavy to push it to shore. We had to unload and carry the entire gear, two barrels, the big portage bag and the smaller bags to a slightly elevated, narrow strip of gravel. A big flock of geese left in a hurry, marching single file when they saw us. At last we could pull the empty canoe to safety. Now we had a chance to get a better look of our surrounding. The strip of gravel on which we had found refuge acted like a dam behind which a large estuary with polders, channels and tidal pools expanded. We had landed on the only solid ground around us, and although quite exposed to the wind, we had no choice but to camp here. Tomorrow we would have to leave at high tide.
When we had finished building our camp, Ted spotted a white building in the distance. A cabin in the middle of nowhere? Of course Ted wanted to see it from close! I was tired, but I did not want him to walk there by himself. So I tagged along, jumping over ditches and slipping, walking through mosquito-infested swamp and stepping on hillocks that tipped under your foot. After an hour we arrived at the cabin, an abandoned hunter's shack with a torn canvass roof. Some Inuit must have come here by snowmobile - travelling is only possible during winter months. - He did not maintain it because of the great distance to Tuktoyaktuk. The sun was still up when we were back in our tent after two hours of staggering through difficult terrain. I decided to have a bath under the tarp Ted had attached to the tent roof, so I heated some salt water out of a ditch and used our ice cream pail as a tub. Ah, that felt good! When we were finally settled in our down-sleeping bags, zipped together as a double, and snuggled up against each other, the wind had picked up, rattling and tearing at our tent. Inside it was warm and cosy. 26 km

Thursday, July 28

We left at 10:30 when the tide had been rising for one and a half hours. In the few inches of water the canoe was barely afloat. The sky was grey and a moderate wind was blowing from the north. It was better to leave now before the conditions became worse. We knew that we had to make a twelve km crossing from the south-west corner of Liverpool Bay towards the north coast from where we could reach Eskimo Lakes. We sailed across with some apprehension, over big swells and through wide troughs. Sometimes a wave broke over the canoe and water seeped into the boat. With great relief we made it to the first island, then crossed over to the south tip of the next one, from where we had to paddle straight north. Someone must have been here before, because an old, bleached wooden arrow pointed in the direction we also needed to go. We gathered driftwood and made a fire to warm our hands and feet while eating lunch. When we continued, we were wind-protected by the steep, green shores. Among the yellow flowers of the embankment many animal holes gave witness that the Barrens are very much alive.
We were now in the waters of the Eskimo Lakes. These are saltwater inlets south of the Tuktoyaktuk peninsula. Several long, narrow islands and peninsulas that look like the fingers of a giant hand divide this large bay into smaller bodies of water that form the "lakes". At 5:30 p.m. we found a good camping spot on the tip of the first "finger" across from the south coast of the big Tuktoyaktuk land mass. When we were settled in the tent it started raining. 28 km

Friday, July 29

In the morning it was raining again, and I would have liked to stay and rest. But Ted argued that it seldom rains for hours here, not like in BC, and he was right. However, the sky remained dark all day with a flicker of light here and there, and a strong east wind blowing. We made six crossings today, two of them twelve km long, sailing from the tip of one island or peninsula to the tip of the next one crossing one "lake" after another in increasing wind. We were bracing and steering to make sure that we remained perpendicular to the wave crests and were not drawn in to the deep troughs. It was quite nerve-wracking! At one point we had to get out and push the canoe across a gravel bar that links two islands. We sailed till seven o'clock and set camp at the bottom of a tundra hill. A large lagoon, where white swans swam peacefully in the calm water, was directly behind us. It was raining again when we ate. Ted managed to light a fire with dry willow twigs and pieces of peat moss. 48 km

Saturday, July 30

This morning it was raining again, and as before I would have liked to stay in the tent all day and rest. We haven't had a single day off since we started on July 11. However, the wind was in our favor and we had to use it. At first we made a six-km crossing in moderate high waves at nine and a half km per hour. A freezing cold north wind was blowing and it was raining lightly off and on. Our boots were still wet from yesterday. When we landed to have lunch I was very cold, wet and miserable. Using a piece of firestarter, Ted was able to make a fire despite the very moist branches we collected on the beach. Our boots and clothes were steaming from the heat of the flame. In the afternoon we sailed along high shores of black soil where the ravaging sea had eroded all vegetation; it looked quite depressing. On the other side of the passage the shore was green and covered with low shrubs and some flowers.
Towards evening we sailed through a narrow outlet into a strait that leads to the next of the Eskimo Lakes. At the entrance, which Ted found thanks to the GPS and his navigation skills, a man-made landmark was erected. It gave us some consolation that we were entering an area that other human beings frequent. At 4: 30 p. m. - early for us - we set camp on a pebble beach. Not far from us a gravel dam extended in a semi-circle, forming a lagoon. We were in a protected area and the sky had 1it up, sending a very pale, flat light over the water. We made a fire and got warm and dry again. I took a full bath in the lagoon while Ted climbed up into the hills and came back with a fragment of bleached antlers he is going to take home. We enjoyed the quiet serenity of the evening and a romantic two-some at the fire. 38 km

Sunday, July 31

What a beautiful Sunday we had today! How great to see the sun after the last miserable days! Everything could dry out again, tent, towels, socks and boots. At 10:30 a.m. we started paddling under a blue sky with just the right strength of wind behind us to sail safely at a good speed. After a while we could see some buildings in the distance. As we approached we could decipher the sign SAUNAKTUK FISHING LODGE. We stopped to visit. The door was open, but nobody was there. We entered and looked around. It was very clean and cosy, and had room for twenty or more people. A modern windmill seemed to provide the energy for the operation. A fat arctic ground squirrel came out from under the porch and scooted towards the wheel of an ATV from where it watched us. A fleet of motorboats was docked behind a gravel bar.
Then we had an eight-km crossing to do, paddling towards the south shore of the second last Eskimo Lake. Around the lake we saw many small cabins made of simple plywood standing on high ground above the water, but nobody seemed to be there. Most likely the owners will come from Tuktoyaktuk after freeze-up to hunt caribou and to ice-fish. Up on the tundra, the first, timid spruce trees, short and scraggly, began to appear, looking like sticks from the distance. We stopped to climb up onto the hills above shore to get a closer look at two of the cabins. They were very simple and only moderately comfortable. Discarding waste in freezing weather must be a problem, for all kinds of civilization garbage was scattered about. For that reason we did not want to camp close to one of these sites and had a hard time finding a level spot near the water. Only around seven o'clock we spotted a large gravel bar in the south. It was a long sand spit forming a small lagoon behind the dam. It seemed to be also a favourite spot for the locals because we found all kinds of camping remnants lying around which made it less pristine than we would have liked. When we were settled down and Ted did his map work, he found out that we had sailed into a bay and were two km off track. I guess we had concentrated too much on finding a proper campsite. We are still in salt water and have carried drinking water with us since we left the Anderson River seven days ago. We have just enough for tomorrow morning and are hoping to reach the first fresh-water lake by the evening.
Ted and I have been paddling by ourselves for a week now and are very happy together. It's still best to paddle alone, just the two of us! 40 km

Monday, August 1

Ted felt so guilty about his little navigation mistake, that he was very restless in his sleep, and that's why I did not sleep well either. He got up at twenty past six, pulled his mattress out and started dismantling the tent fly. I barely managed to keep my mattress, because I like to sit on it in the tent while I eat my porridge. Ted cooks the breakfast, and I make lunch and supper.
We left before eight, paddling into a dense fog. It is a special experience to travel on the water in a remote area into a shrouded world gradually unfolding. As we were silently gliding through the absolutely still water into a very cold morning, the grey blobs in the distance slowly took on shape one by one. Navigation was hard because of a number of scattered islands in the lake blocking our route. We had to do two eight-km crossings over wide bays. An alternative would be to hug the shore all the time instead of taking shortcuts. By mid-morning we had wound our way through all the islands and entered the last of the Eskimo Lakes. It was still windless, but the fog had lifted as the sun came out and the sky changed to a deep blue. Despite of the sun the air was very cold and fresh.
We had lunch beside a small crystal-clear brook running out of a tiny lake close to shore. Here we were able to fill our water container again. Looking through the binoculars towards the north shore we discovered ice around some islands and on the distant coast of the mainland. No wonder it felt like early spring today! Luckily there was no north wind that could blow the ice in our direction and block our way. Paddling around a wide tip jutting out into the lake and known as Bonnieville Point, we left the Eskimo Lakes and entered a nameless body of water that still carries some salt from the Beaufort Sea in it. As we were working hard without our usual sail-assistance, I saw a motorboat approaching us. This was strange! We had not passed any cabins today and had not seen any native people since we had visited Norman's hut nine days ago. The driver of the boat was Don Binder who was very surprised to see two oldies like us in a canoe and could not figure out where we had come from. He invited us to his cabin where he was staying with his elderly parents. Inside we met Ellen and Otto Binder, a very interesting retired couple. Otto is half German and half Inuvialiut, and Ellen is a Sami and was born in Lapland, Norway. Her parents were one of the reindeer herders who came to Canada to help with the reindeer project in the Beaufort/Mackenzie region in the thirties. One of her sons is still maintaining a reindeer herd. Ellen, who spent twenty years of her life in a tent, is a very astute lady who has been actively involved in local politics some years ago. She offered us reindeer stew with buns and tea, a meal greatly appreciated after a diet of dehydrated food. We very much enjoyed their company and conversation in their cosy and speckless cabin. When we finally said good-bye, we only paddled for fifteen minutes to a gravel beach around the corner. While we put up our tent, a reindeer - (not a caribou) - was running about - he probably lives there. 48 km

Tuesday, August 2

While Ted loaded the canoe at 10:00 a.m., I climbed up the steep shore to take a picture of the wild flowers growing in profusion on the slope: Wild roses, fireweed and lupine. It was cloudy, but the pale yellow light on the southern sky seemed to promise us a good day. There was no wind, and the water was smooth as a mirror. When the sun broke through the clouds the sky was reflected in the water so clearly that I had the feeling I was gliding over the edge of a bottomless hollow space that could engulf me any moment; I could not look down fearing to become giddy. We were still travelling on the large nameless lake in a south-west direction towards Sitidgi Lake.
At lunch time I fried the lake trout Otto Binder had given us yesterday, already filleted. It was delicious! We were sitting close to a small brook that flowed out of the tundra behind us. It was a great spot to wash my hair. The sun was so warm that I changed into my summer clothes. Three days ago it was so cold that I had to wear my fleece pants with longjohns underneath and both sweaters. Today my hair would dry soon.
After twenty three km of paddling, and a little apprehensive about the prospect of paddling upstream soon, we arrived at the mouth of Sitidgi Creek which flows out of Sitidgi Lake. Now we had to paddle four km against the current to reach the lake which is six meters higher above sea level than the nameless lake. Paddling was a bit strenuous, but manageable. The scenery was beautiful. On both sides of the creek the shore was bordered with lush green marshland. The background consisted of dense shrubs of alder and spruce trees. We frightened a few ducks and a beaver. The creek is approximately ten meters wide winding its way with many twists and turns through the undisturbed wilderness. Many times we cut across the curves to shorten our paddling distance. After an hour we arrived at the exit of Sitidgi Lake. High on the north eastern shore we saw some cabins and climbed up to have a closer look. They were part of a small fishing lodge. Nobody was there and all buildings were locked. There were motorboats, but no dock, and it was a mystery to us how the boats could be launched from high above. The place was not very attractive, so we continued paddling along the high shore in search of a low spot on the water. Finally we found the only suitable campsite near and far on a solid wide gravel bar jutting out into the lake. Other people must have lit a campfire here judging from the scattered charcoal. In the evening the sky was red under the midnight sun. We sat in front of our tent close to a campfire and felt a great satisfaction. We had made it the three hundred and forty km from the mouth of the Anderson River across the big bodies of salt water to Sitidgi Lake and are only sixty km from Inuvik. 27 km

Wednesday, August 3

During the night it was windy and it rained. It's always a wonderful feeling to lie in the tent dry and warm, while the weather is raging outside. In the early morning it was still wet and foggy, so we slept till 8:30. The rain had stopped, but it was grey and dismal outside. However, when we left at 11:00 a.m., the sky showed a hopeful white border in the far north. To our surprise the weather improved rapidly, and at one o'clock we paddled in full sunshine. Ted put his fishing rod out and trolled. He caught two pike and one lake trout. The latter we ate at lunch, sitting on a very narrow and short gravel bar under overhanging willow bushes.
When we continued, the water was slightly choppy, and the wind from the east did not help us much. My right shoulder was sore and I was tired. At 6:30 p.m. we arrived at the south west end of Sididgi Lake where Norris Creek comes in. It is a low lying area with small lakes, puddles and swamp. We found a camping site on a slightly elevated spot in the tundra above Norris Creek. Via this channel and its tributaries and across several small lakes plus some portaging between them, it is possible to reach the Dempster Highway by canoe. Very few canoeists have done it, and there is no information about this route. The few people who venture into Liverpool Bay and Eskimo Lakes arrange to be flown out from Sididgi Lake. I knew that it was Ted's secret wish to try this route, although he never put pressure on me to do it. It is my decision, he said.
When all the chores were done, I sat down to think about the situation. It would be nice to step into a plane and say good-bye to the tundra right here. But the clear water of the wide-open creek flowing out of the verdant tundra hills, beckoned to me. The Arctic cotton flowers on the small gravel beach were waving their heads in the light breeze and the fragrance of Labrador tea was in the air. The whole world seemed to look so bright and cheerful, that my mind had to say: "yes, I'll go on". 28 km

Thursday, August 4

The day started great, but became quite grueling in the end. We ended up paddling until one o'clock a.m., going upstream for thirty km, of which only fifteen km were useful to us.
We started out on Norris Creek which flows into Sitidgi Lake. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and the current against which we paddled was not very strong. The creek flows through open Tundra, scattered with spruce trees under which lichen and Labrador tea is growing. It was still spring here and the water level was high. However, a border of wet, muddy shore was already exposed and will become broader with every sunny day. Our intention was to turn left into a smaller creek, which would give us a shorter portage later on. We were not sure if we were turning into the channel we picked from the map. The shores were wide apart and there was very little flow at first. It was almost a small lake. Old spruce trees, leaning in all directions were reflected in the deep dark water. The atmosphere was slightly eerie. After an hour's paddling the creek became very narrow with bushes growing in the water, making passing very difficult. How bad will it be further upstream? We decided to turn around and paddle back, this time downstream, to the confluence with Norris Creek.
After lunch we started to pursue our second option, turning south where Norris Creek turns north. For the last kilometer the water was quite shallow in places, and the shores brown and muddy after the retreating spring flood. As soon as we had turned south into a nameless creek, we paddled into a different realm. The water was very deep and dark; the shores were high and overgrown with dense shrubs. The overhanging branches formed a tunnel, as we glided into a sunless world where clusters of swarming insects hung over us, ready to attack. We worked hour after hour, always hoping that around the next bend our narrow channel would widen into the lake we had seen on our 250 0000 scale map. However, little details are not too clear on such a small ratio. Gradually the current against which we paddled increased and the first log-jam appeared. From there on it was one log-jam after another, two of them over fifty meters long. For hours we paddled from one blockage to another, pushing the canoe over or under the logs, balancing on wet, long stems, and always aware that the water was deep and treacherous between the wood. Oblivious to the time we continued working, still hoping to "see the light". Should we turn back, downstream, to Sididgi Lake to get picked up from there? For where we were right now nobody could help us. A while ago the GPS had told us that we had passed the waypoint leading to the lake. We definitely did not want to go over the log-jams again! The high shores offered no suitable campsites though.
At midnight, in front of another log-jam we finally had enough and turned around to go back to our last waypoint, three hundred meters downstream. Our immediate need, however, was to find a spot to camp and leave all other worries to the next day. We found a small, slanting mud shelf where we could tie the canoe and climb up to the top of the embankment. Ted found a tight spot high above the creek where he made room by cutting some low brush. It was one o'clock a.m., but still enough light to carry our gear up and set up camp. We were both very tired. Ted's muscles were hurting from the lifting and pushing over the logs, but still he wanted to do all the work. He was afraid that I could slip into the creek, if I helped him to lift the bags out of the canoe. When he was finally tucked into the sleeping bag, I treated him to hot soup and tea. It was two o'clock when we could rest at last. What a day! 16 km

Friday, August 5

After a good, but short sleep we got up for breakfast at nine. We decided to stay here another night and get a good rest, finally, the first on the entire trip! This was not a bad place. The sun was out, shimmering through the dense leaves above our tent and reflecting deep down in the creek directly below us. A border of high trees was towering over us, and behind it a swamp surrounded a small lake. We sat in our mosquito tent and worked on our maps. Where should we go from here? One idea was to continue upstream and portage into a lake further south west, but how many more log-jams would we have to endure on that route?
We had a small excerpt of a 50 000-scale map, but the part with the position we were at right now was missing, namely the short connection between our creek and the lake we hoped to reach yesterday. We must go back to the last waypoint.
In the afternoon Ted decided to take the compass and the GPS and return on foot to that waypoint. The sun was shining and it was very warm as we bushwacked through swamp grass and dense underbrush of willows and alders jumping over puddles and fighting mosquitoes and blackflies. Leaving the trees and shrubs behind us after an hour, we came upon a creek that must flow out of the lake we were looking for. It was a respectable little streamlet running through open marshy meadows. Was that the channel where we should have turned off last night? We decided to follow it and soon reentered the dense undergrowth again. Moose and bears had been here as well. Walking uphill and stumbling over roots and holes on the edge of the high embankment above the water, we were now looking down into an overgrown brown beaver creek, very narrow and crooked. Finally we came to the confluence where it joined the creek on which we had come up yesterday. What a relief, we had found our route! Now we could see that the confluence was obscured by a large beaver house. Needless to say, we were not looking forward to paddling this creek.
Our mission was complete and we bushwacked back to our "nest" above the water for a second night. Except for the two and a half hour scouting trip, we had a good rest. 0 km

Saturday, August 6

During the night it was very hot in the tent. Then, in the morning a heavy shower came down with a splattering noise on our overhanging tarp. But by ten o'clock it was clearing up again, and when we left the sun was shining. We paddled back to the confluence of the channel we had missed by three hundred and twenty meters the day before yesterday. Ted had made two long poles for us, for he knew that paddling would be almost impossible.
The creek was only three meters wide. The branches from the shores were tangled in the middle and Ted had to use his tiny camp saw to cut a pathway for us. We jumped in and out of the canoe, pushed, pulled, poled and waded through the water. It took us two-and a half hours to get through the first three-hundred-sixty meters. Then we had to lift over a big beaver lodge, the source of our hardship. After that the creek lay clear and promising before us, as we paddled unhampered to the entrance of the elusive lake. Here we enjoyed a much deserved break, relieved that our troubles were over now and our path free before us, or so we thought.
Well rested and happy we paddled across the lake towards its outlet which leads to the second lake via a small winding river. Part of it was overgrown with shrubs and we had to make a portage of one hundred and fifty meters to where it was navigable again. From some old cuts it was evident that somebody else had been here one or two years ago. Ted sawed off many willow branches and I picked them up to make the trail more passable. As for all portages, we had to make the trip three times. Now we were ready to paddle the rest of the connecting channel.
Arriving at the second lake, we had a bad surprise: there was no lake, but instead a large green meadow spread as far as the eye could see. Had we made a mistake and ended up in the wrong place? No, that can't be, this is the lake we were looking for! But it had dried out, leaving only a narrow channel sometimes partially visible. Nobody was able to pick us up here, so the only solution was to plough through it one way or another. At least it was not raining or windy! We started paddling, but soon we had to get out and push the canoe through the marshy meadow, always looking out for a better pathway. Between the reeds the water was often too deep to walk. Sometimes we propelled ourselves by keeping one foot in the canoe and use the other to push off against the bunched-up tall grass. Thus we proceeded very slowly meter by meter over a distance of three km. Our aim was to reach the row of trees growing on what must be the south-west shore of the former lake. When we arrived there at eight o'clock p.m., we set up our tent and had a good meal, soup, scrambled egg from egg powder and fresh mushrooms, pumpernickel bread and tea. It is always a good idea to eat well when you are disheartened! The view was very scenic: A large green meadow -once a lake - a grove of spruce trees on the far side, and the low mountain range in the west beyond the Dempster Highway, only seventeen km away. 7 km

Sunday, August 7

We had a good, long sleep and a relaxing morning, knowing that we must do a difficult portage into another lake. To establish the shortest portage route from our camp, we first went for a walk along the shore of our grassy lake. Ted climbed a tree and could see a surface of water from above. Good, some lakes were not yet dried out! Back in camp we slowly and carefully organized all our gear, filling empty barrels and tying long objects together. It was hazy and a light breeze was blowing.
Of course there was no portage trail; in fact, hardly anybody has ever walked here! On our first walk Ted took his small hand saw and notched the bark of trees every so often to mark a trail. It led through dense willow brush first, then a bit uphill into a spruce grove overgrown with lichen, moss, soft tundra hillocks and small puddles. We both carried a heavy load and had to be careful not to step into holes. I sometimes wobbled and sank to my knees because of the heavy burden. Strangely enough, we could not find Ted's tree marks on our return trips, so we once ended up one hundred meters too far to the right and then to the left. On one trip Ted carried the eighty-six pound canoe which is always dicey, because his back is not very good. He made it all right, but it was not easy to squeeze through the trees without being able to see ahead, since his head is stuck in the bow of the canoe. Every time we were close enough to see the water shimmering through the trees, our energy got a boost. After three hours the portage was completed, but we were quite exhausted. It would have been nice to camp right here and call it a day, but Ted wanted to paddle to the outlet of the lake. So we loaded and launched the canoe. Alas, here we faced new trouble, for the outlet was not any more where our GPS directed us according to the map. Did the cartographers make a mistake, or did the outlet get blocked by erosion? After all, the maps were made many years ago! We paddled around the whole lake and found a small outlet exactly opposite of where it is shown on the map. And, what was even more disappointing, it drained into the dried-out lake from which we had portaged today. This morning we had seen a small body of water not far from where Ted climbed the tree. Maybe here was a channel that would lead us back to the first lake we crossed and then to another lake. It would mean that our trudge through the dry lake and the second portage had been pointless. However, at this stage we were no longer prepared for a new experiment. A feeling of panic which we hid from each other was slowly creeping into our hearts. We were tired and discouraged. Who knows what other troubles would lie ahead, maybe another dry lake, an impassable creek, bad fall weather or another cartography mistake? Although the Dempster Highway is only six km away as the crow flies, it would take us around fourteen kilometers to get there by waterway.
Tomorrow we would call in a plane to be picked up. We have had four fantastic weeks of canoeing behind us, and especially the traverse across the inlets of the Beaufort Sea will always be unforgettable for us. Very few people have ever canoed through the tides of Liverpool Bay and the many peninsulas of the Eskimo Lakes or up into Sitidgi Lake and log-jammed creeks and nameless ponds. What a priceless adventure!
We had a hard time finding a campsite because the shore was mostly low and swampy. The higher banks were steep and uneven. If we returned to our launching point, we would have to unload and lift the canoe up into the tundra; moreover, a float plane could not land there, because some fallen trees in the water obstructed the access. We made do on a somewhat slanted, mossy tip. It rained when we were in bed, and we were grateful that it did not start earlier. I was restless. Would the satellite phone work tomorrow? Ted had accidentally sat on it in the tent. What if this lake was too shallow for a float plane? We would either have to walk out through the taiga or find other navigable waters. My back was hurting from the two portages today, after all, I'll be seventy next year. 2 km

Monday, August 8

Ted called North-Wright Air at nine a.m. There was some discussion about our geographic position. He uses the UTM system, but the pilots go by the old-fashioned longitude/latitude method with degrees, minutes and seconds. In the excitement, Ted had forgotten that the GPS could convert from one to the other. The dispatcher needed to locate us on our small and nameless tundra lake. We had to submit our visa number without getting a price quote, and at that moment we were not level-headed enough for negotiations. They asked us to phone back an hour later. Did they think that batteries last forever!
Twenty minutes after our last call we saw a plane flying over us. We took our orange floater jackets and waved them frantically to attract the pilot's attention. Did he not see us? It seemed that he was heading east. But then he came back and circled several times around the lake. Finally he landed and started taxiing towards our campsite. It took the pilot a long time to tie the canoe to the pontoon of the Cessna 206, complaining about the size of the boat (18'), and about our heavy equipment. Maybe he would have to come twice because the lake might be too shallow to start such a heavily loaded aircraft, he said.
Finally everything was tied and loaded. The plane needed the whole length of the lake to get air-borne. As it approached the edge of the lake, I lived through some anxious moments visualizing an SOS landing in the trees. At the last possible moment the Cessna lifted off the water carrying us over a chain of small lakes (with water!) and then over a narrow river called Campbell Creek. This was the route we had wanted to take. It looked so good from above that we already regretted we had not continued. It was not clear, however, how many more portages we would have to do. Maybe we should have rested a day or two to restore our energy and re-assess our situation.
We landed safely, unloaded, found our car and were back in civilization. But our heart was still going out to the green, rolling tundra hills, the clear lakes, the winds from the Beaufort Sea and the midnight sun. A part of us will remain out there forever.

Maps Required
Topo Maps (1:250,000): 
96M, 96N, 97B, 107A, 107B, 107C, 107D
Other
Special Comments: 

No portaging until past Sitidgi Lake, then some portages on an unsuccessful attempt to reach Inuvik by water.

Comments

Post date: Thu, 10/27/2011 - 17:23

Comments: 

Hi,

I came out this year and could fill in the gap where Ted and Freda got lost on the very last leg from Sitidgi Lake to the Dempster. I can offer 2 pictures with the route and a few comments.

kind regards
Carsten

Post date: Wed, 01/21/2009 - 11:31

Comments: 

We want also a canoe trip on the anderson river. please send me informations.
thanks very much
egger