Mackenzie Delta

CanadaNorthwest TerritoriesMackenzie
Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Allan Jacobs
Trip Date : 
Route Author: 
Freda Mellenthin
Additional Route Information
Distance: 
633 km
Duration: 
24 days
Loop Trip: 
Yes
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
0
Total Portage Distance: 
0 m
Longest Portage: 
0 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Intermediate
Lake Travel: 
Not applicable
Portaging: 
Not applicable
Remoteness: 
Intermediate
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Low
Route Description
Technical Guide: 

Inuvik, East Channel, Tuktoyatuk, Whitefish Beach, Peters Creek, Swimming Point, Burial Island, Neklek Channel, Reindeer Channel, Shallow Bay, Shoalwater Bay, Whitefish Station West, Pillage Point, Ministicook Channel, Moose Channel(?), Little Moose Channel, West Channel, Aklavik, Aklavik Channel, Schooner Channel, Napoiak Channel, Middle Channel, Gully Channel, East Channel, Inuvik.

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

Editor’s notes:
Some of the crossings on this route may be hazardous.
Few parties will be able to equal the pace of the Mellenthins.

Title: Criss-crossing the Mackenzie Delta

Route: Inuvik, Tuktotaktuk, Aklavik, Inuvik and points between

Year travelled: 2006

Distance, duration: 633 km, 24 days

Author: Freda Mellenthin

The trip from Mission to Inuvik is already an adventure in itself. We have done the stretch of almost four thousand km three times now, and the pristine beauty of the north has amazed us every time. First it is the Alaska Highway past Dawson Creek, then the Klondike, and last but not least the unsurpassed Dempster highway that winds through the Tundra and ends in Inuvik. Every evening when I looked on the map, Inuvik was still hopelessly far away.

We even saw some wildlife on the way. Before Dawson Creek an elk buck sat in the grass close to the road chewing his cud. A deer cautiously stepped out of the bush on the Alaska Highway. North of Whitehorse a lynx crossed the road in the evening. In Carmacks early in the morning a fox scampered up the embankment, and on the Klondike highway north of Stewart Crossing we saw a young bear. He came out of the trees where a fleet of highway machines was working on road improvements. He took one good look at the big mechanical giants and decided to return to the safety of the bush.

Eagle Plains on the Dempster Highway is a high plateau in the tundra, and there, a few kilometres south of the Arctic Circle, lies the only lodge and gas station within 735 km of total wilderness. Here the vista of endless meadows and the panorama of the distant mountains is breath-taking. Everybody stops here for a bite. Fifteen minutes out of Eagle Plains Lodge we had our first flat tire caused by the sharp rocks of the unpaved road. So we camped there for the night and Ted put on our spare tire. After another 375 km and the two ferry crossings over the Peel River and over the Mackenzie we arrived in Inuvik on July 13th after five days of driving.

We almost felt as if we were home again after a short year's absence. It was early afternoon and we still had time to do some chores. First we registered with the RCMP, then we visited the Canada Parks Board office to get information about shortcuts through the Mackenzie Delta. We got our tire fixed and visited the old Binders we had met last year in their cabin on one of the Husky lakes. Tomorrow we would have to find a place where we could leave our vehicle for four weeks.

Friday, July 14

After a good night's sleep on the friendly town campground we drove to the Northern Transport Company, our first choice to store our camper. Their big yard is fenced and lies north of the town on the East Channel. We made a deal with the foreman Del who agreed to keep our camper in a shed for fifty dollars. We loaded the canoe carefully, trying not to forget anything and launched our boat at 11:30 am. It was a hot arctic summer day with a pale blue sky and no wind, so paddling was easy. We passed many kilometres of swamp on both sides of the river. Towards the evening the right shore had changed into a steep embankment and hills in the background. We could not find a good camping spot though, because the shore consisted of several steps of soft mud. We placed our tent on the highest and driest mud step. The whole ground wobbled when you walked on it. Several
motorboats passed in the distance on their way to Tuktoyaktuk for the weekend. One of them veered towards us and came as close to our camp as the river mud allowed, and a man called out to us:
"Have you seen any wildlife?" "No".
"Be careful! There are grizzlies and black bears with cubs. They'll charge. I just wanted to warn you"!
And off he drove again leaving us a bit intimidated. You don't like to hear something like that on your first day of paddling! Was he malicious or really concerned?
At eight o'clock the sun was still high up and it was so hot in the tent that we had to sleep uncovered. We had paddled thirty km in five hours, not bad for a first day. 30 km

Saturday, July 15

We were surely not camped in the greatest spot. The ground wobbled and our canoe was stuck in the mud. Launching was very difficult. The loaded canoe did not move at all when we pushed it, since the mud acted like a suction cup. After we partially unloaded again we were able to move the canoe inch by inch until we were buoyant. It was not as sunny as yesterday and we even had a bit of rain. Around noon we reached the Reindeer Station where the government had established some herders and their families in the early forties to look after a reindeer herd imported from Lapland. Now it was abandoned and all buildings in a state of decay. It was easy to imagine a big corral with these animals on the green, sloping hill behind the houses.
In the afternoon we had hot summer weather again while we paddled along the gradually widening East Channel. The eastern mountains disappeared more and more in the distance making way to wide, swampy shores overgrown with low brush and lush green horsetail. Camping was less than ideal here, so we paddled further than anticipated, hoping to leave the swamp behind us before we got too tired. It was after six when we saw the first firm gravel bar beckoning to us from the distance. It was a great spot. After the tent was put up and we had filled our stomachs with soup and crackers, it was 8 o’clock and still very hot. A jump into the river cooled us down for the night. 40 km

Sunday, July 16

During the night we woke up from the wind blowing through the open tent door, followed by heavy rain pelting on our tent roof. I lay awake thinking about all the things we had left outside, towels, tent bags and boots. At least I had closed our new two-burner propane stove! I was grateful that we were camped on a gravel bar and not on a muddy river bank like yesterday.
In the morning it was still very windy and the river looked wild, high waves and whitecaps. So we took it easy, had a late breakfast and waited for the wind to ease up. During a brief walk on the south tip of the beach I saw bear tracks, fresh droppings and a fish head. Did we have a visitor during the night? At 11:30 we launched despite a strong northwest wind. For forty minutes we struggled through the high waves, but then decided to quit. It was not worth the risk! We pulled in on a nice, sandy beach and found some protection from the wind behind a big alder shrub. Above us a small white portable stood on a green slope. We climbed up to investigate it. The door was unlocked, and inside we found broken furniture and other human debris. Not far from it we sat down to eat our lunch, pumpernickel bread with salami, some nuts and a baby gouda cheese for each one. We had picked a good view-point. From here we could oversee part of the Mackenzie Delta in the west. Behind the curtain of shrubs on the west shore of the East Channel we could see a maze of small lakes that stretched out to the Middle Channel. Far beyond, about a hundred kilometres to the west we could see the hills in front of which the West Channel of the Mackenzie Delta must be flowing. The vegetation around us filled the air with that typical tundra fragrance of Labrador tea and other herbs. It was great to be out here! After lunch we climbed up to the highest hill, walking through low brush, patches of blueberry, heather, lupine, vetch and Indian paintbrush in bloom. Following the mountain ridge we descended a steep gravel slope back to the beach where we set up our tent. The wind had increased and the river looked wild. We settled down in our tent entrance, sipping tea laced with vodka and enjoying each other's company. It could be that this is our last canoe trip to the extreme north, and we want to enjoy every minute of it. We are under no pressure as to how far we want to paddle, whether to go to Hershel Island or just to circumnavigate the whole delta. Our next goal, Tuktoyaktuk is still 115 km away. We spent the rest of the day playing checkers and "Mill", a clever German board game. Needless to say, Ted won them all. During the night the wind and the water made a terrible noise that woke me up several times. Then towards dawn everything fell dead silent. Ed. note: distance?

Monday, July 17

When Ted opened the tent door at 6:30, a swarm of mosquitoes came in to wake me up. The morning looked grey, and a light west wind rippled the water. That was exactly what we needed! Ted set the sail which assisted our paddling most of the day. It was fairly cold and the sky was covered with layers of light grey clouds. Burial Island came into view as we paddled north east on the gradually widening river. The land had become flat and treeless as we left the boreal forest behind us. However, around lunch time we discovered two trees on top of the right embankment and decided to eat there. Ted found a white cross lying in the grass and leaned it against the trees. This must be somebody's grave, and the trees must have been planted here as a memory. Later on we found out the story behind it.
In the afternoon we saw something strange in the distance: light grey towers and other high buildings. This wasn't Tuk yet, so what was it? Consulting our map we learned that it was Swimming Point, an oil exploration camp. An hour later we climbed up the embankment to look at the buildings. There was a two-storey apartment block, a very big hangar, two large sheds, an electrical plant, several large tanks, a landing strip and two small portables. Everything was clean and in good shape, but no human being was in sight. Later on we learned that this camp is only operated during the winter months. When we continued, a dark grey curtain of rain clouds threatened us, but it luckily moved on to release its content somewhere beyond. We passed beaches covered with giant trees that must have drifted in from far away places. It is not hard to imagine how rough the weather conditions must be at times! After nine hours of paddling we set camp on a sandy beach. 57 km

Tuesday, July 18

Today we had beautiful weather, not too hot, but not cold either, a moderate sailing wind and a slightly shrouded sun. We reached the mouth of the river and paddled into the Beaufort Sea. The water was quite smooth, that's why I was surprised to see a whitecap about 100 m away from our boat. This was strange, but I did not give it much thought until Ted called out:
"Look, a white whale!"
A whole school of beluga whales was passing, heaving their curved backs out of the water and diving again. What a thrill to witness something like that! Later on we saw a dead whale stranded at the beach. He had probably been injured during a whale hunt, but escaped. In the afternoon we saw a summer camp on Whitefish Beach. We decided to visit it on our way back. Some Inuvialuit still move out on the land every summer and stay there until they have caught and processed a whale for winter supply.
The shoreline of the Beaufort Sea consists of many bays, and since we did not want to waste time by paddling into every bay we crossed from point to point. A north-west wind had come up that did not allow us to switch paddling sides if we did not want to be pushed into shore. Hour after hour we paddled, straining our arms until finally we could detect the airport of Tuktoyaktuk in the distance. We decided to camp away from the community on Peninsula Point and cover the last kilometres tomorrow. I was very tired today and retired early, but not before dipping into the Beaufort Sea - the water was quite warm. We paddled eight hours today. 52 km

Wednesday, July 19

I had a good deep sleep for ten hours, better than ever at home! When we left at 10:00 it was windy. It was tricky to launch over the surf waves into deeper water. We backed out carefully and then veered to the east aiming towards the airport tower of Tuk. It took us an hour to sail the last seven km into town. We recognized the three familiar pingos -earth-covered ice hills - that distinguish Tuktoyaktuk from any other northern community. At last we reached the shore and pulled the canoe on to a grassy beach not far from a house decorated artfully with driftwood pieces. While I was desperately looking for a comfort spot behind a rusty truck a tall white man and a small girl walked towards us greeting us friendlily.
"Where is the coffee shop here?" Ted asked.
"We don't have a coffee shop, but I can invite you for coffee into my friend's house."
The man's name was Jim. The four of us walked to a nearby house where his friends John and Millie and the little girl, Beth, lived. Their home was a portable attached to a two-level house. The mobile home seemed to be John's quarters, whereas Millie's realm was the house with a neat kitchen. Beth was hungry, and so we were invited to share a strawberry pie with her. John and Ted soon engaged in a lively conversation and as a result we were offered whisky and beer. Millie invited me to use her washing machine and shower. I was delighted at such hospitality. While I was busy with that, John went outside to barbecue T-bone steaks for each one of us while Millie pulled a bowl of scalloped potatoes out of the oven. We ate together in the speckless kitchen. We enquired where a man named Ed Gruben lived because the Catholic missionary Bern Will Brown had wanted us to visit him if we get to Tuk. It turned out that Millie was one of Ed's seven daughters, and Ed, now eighty-four years old, was probably the richest man up north. His father was German and the Gruben family now owns shares in most of the northern companies, in transportation, oil exploration and hotels. The exploration camp at Swimming Point also belonged to him. Unfortunately his youngest son, who ran the family business, was killed in a car accident on the winter road five years ago. Now a man by the name of Newmark has taken over. The cross that Ted had re-erected under the trees two days ago was put up as a memorial for Ed's son.
After lunch we visited Ed Gruben in his clean and modest house where he lives alone since his wife passed away. Ed, in the company of two young women and his youngest daughter Maureen, was very friendly to us. However, he had already consumed too many whiskies and told us how much he still liked women. He even tried to get fresh with me. Maureen turned out to be the owner of the property where we had left the canoe. She invited us to put up our tent there and to come into her house any time to visit and to use the washroom. Another example of the great northern hospitality!
Later we went to the Northern Store and bought a hatchet, some propane bottles and a trowel to dig our biffies. We took many pictures of the community. Tuktoyaktuk is built on a long narrow peninsula. On its eastern and the western side, protected from the ocean by gravel bars, lagoons have formed where the people keep their motorboats. At the tip of the peninsula a monument indicates that the Trans-Canada- Trail ends here. There are two stores, some government offices, a large section of RCMP houses and four churches, but two of them not in use. The small hotel in town is not recommended for tourists and seems to have some shady business, and an old lodge with faded letters is not in use and boarded up. The time stands still here and the day seems very long, since it does not get dark in the summer and the children run around at all hours. Eventually we put up our tent and ate a sandwich inside. It was great that we did not have to spend all evening in the tent, but could go back to John and Millie and sit with them in Millie's comfortable living room. 7 km

Thursday, July 20

We ate our porridge in the tent and then followed the invitation to have coffee at John and Millie's house. While the men got too involved in solving the problems of this world, I went to visit Maureen in her rustic driftwood -decorated house with a view over the Beaufort Sea. She lives with her young son Hunter while her two teenage sons only spend the summer here, but go to school in Edmonton where their father lives. In the meantime Millie had baked so-called Eskimo doughnuts to welcome her grand-daughter who was due to arrive from Winnipeg, I think. She also had made lunch and offered us salad and fish. We learned that her late aunt's husband Fritz lived in town. Since he had a stroke he speaks a lot of German which nobody can understand. We decided to visit him. He lived close to the Northern store. As a Czech-German recruited into the Wehrmacht during the Second World War he must have gone through a lot of hardship in his young years. His memory failed him at times during our conversation, and it remained a puzzle to us which fate had brought him here, away from all his compatriots.
In the middle of the community, on a large pingo hill, the most beautiful log house is overlooking the seascape. Its owner is the young widow of the late Gruben son, Sharon. We walked up to her house and were welcome by her and her party friends. She offered us chicken, vodka and canned mandarins and we found out that the Saunaktuk Lodge we visited last year on the Eskimo Lakes belongs to her; in fact she had phoned us in Mission when she had seen our phone number in the guest book. She is a pretty woman, very nice too, but is trying to get over the loss of her husband by constant partying in the company of young men. She liked Ted and offered to reset his strained neck. When we were ready to leave Sharon asked for Ted's green T-shirt in exchange for one of her late husband's. Of course Ted felt really tickled!
Tuktoyaktuk is a whaling community, although not all its people cultivate this ancient tradition. On our evening stroll we watched a man cut the skin of a whale into cubes with an enormous dexterity. In front of Ed Gruben's house Maureen was doing the same thing, cutting up and boiling whale skin and blubber in four large pots on an open fire. We stayed with her and helped her with the cutting and lifting of the pots from the grid. It was a fine evening. The water was calm and the midnight sun had tinted the sky pink.
At 2:00 am we were finally settled in our tent reminiscing about the last two days. We had met so many new people, most of them from the Gruben clan, and had had a glimpse into their life stories thanks to Jim, John and Millie who had first invited us into their home. While we were writing our journals some children who had nothing else to do started pelting our tent with rocks. Ted had to go outside and speak to them firmly.

Friday, July 21

At ten o'clock in the morning we went to say farewell to Millie and John and then launched our canoe. The wind was in our favour and we sailed westward, leaving Tuk behind us. We passed the pingos again and crossed the wide bays through which we had paddled two days ago. In the north a foreboding grey wall was slowly taking shape. How long would it take for the storm to reach us? We were still crossing one bay after another while the wind was increasing. The beach on our left side did not look good for camping, too much driftwood.
"Let's paddle around the next point before the storm reaches us", Ted said.
The race was on. Soon the storm had caught up with us and the surf waves splashed into the canoe. Paddling hard against the wind we finally made it to the next point and landed on a gravel beach around the bend. The place had been used by the locals. Two mattresses, a blanket, some ropes, two buckets and many empty gun shells lay about. There was even a toilet seat and a plywood sheet to provide a shelter where we could eat our lunch. Since the wind increased steadily we decided to put up the tent. We were tired and had a good nap. After all we had paddled twenty-seven km in four hours. Maybe we could continue in the evening. But the weather got worse. It rained and the wind was howling and tugging at our tent. At 10 o'clock in the evening we got up and prepared a hearty soup, followed by pancakes. With our stomachs filled we enjoyed the warmth of each other's bodies in our big down sleeping bag. 27 km

Saturday, July 22

The bad weather had continued all night, but we were safe and sound in our tent. I slept off and on, aware of the penetrating sounds of the elements. As usual, Ted made our tea and porridge. We were low on drinking water we had brought from Tuk, so we boiled some sea water. Yes, we are still at a beach of the Beaufort Sea, but the water is not salty since the mighty Mackenzie River is influencing the sea water as far east as Tuktoyaktuk. Looking westward we could already see the north shore of the East Arm of the river in the distance.
The bad weather continued throughout the whole day. It was very cold. Only in the late afternoon the sun broke through the clouds briefly. We played cards for a while and then checkers and mill. Later on Ted made a fire while I organized our food for next week, i.e. I transferred a week's supply from our big storage barrel to a small barrel. In the distance we saw one small motorboat bouncing over the high waves which indicated that the rough weather must be almost over. The weather changes often up here. Being so exposed to the elements has taught us to take one day at a time and live totally in the presence. 0 km

Sunday, July 23

Early in the morning we heard another rainstorm passing through, but later when we were eating the day looked promising enough to pack up and continue. The sky in the north displayed the typical turquoise colour that indicates very cold air. In front of the distant islands in the northwest a low white fog was hovering on the water. From experience we knew what that meant: The storm had pushed the polar ice as far as the north shore of the river, thus creating the very cold air. A vigorous morning paddle through the big bays warmed our muscles and let us forget the cold. We passed Whitefish Pingo and were heading towards Whitefish Beach where we had seen a camp on our way to Tuk. This time we wanted to say hello to the campers. We met Dolly and Gordon, Dolly's old father, her brother, her young son and one of her grandsons of the same age. This is one of the families who still spend the summer out on the land catching and preparing a whale for the winter. Instead of a tent they have put up small plywood shacks with a wood stove inside. We learned that Dolly was the sister of Sharon, the Gruben widow.
Whitefish Beach is the point from which one could paddle north to circumnavigate the huge land mass of Richards Island to get to the west side of the Beaufort Sea instead of going through the delta. It would be a long and interesting detour, but preferable in a kayak and with more time available. We would encounter more wind-bound days, and there were only about three summer weeks left where paddling was feasible.
At 1:00 pm we had lunch on a flat green and swampy island. On a warmer day it would have been impossible to stop here because of the mosquitoes, but today they were hiding in the low shrubs.
We had reached the mouth of the river and had to paddle upstream now, which was hard work except for the last hour when the wind helped us a bit. It remained fairly cold all day with a cool breeze. Despite the sailing wind we were very tired at 6:00 o'clock and ready to camp. Our knees were stiff from kneeling and our shoulders were aching. We found a good campsite below the steep embankment between some alder bushes. After supper we climbed up the hill behind us to enjoy the view of the rolling tundra hills. 35km

Monday, July 24

I woke up in the middle of the night from the noise of rain pelting on the tent roof. My first thought was: "I hope we don't have to paddle in the rain tomorrow." But when we got up in the morning everything was dry again and the day looked promising. There was no wind, and paddling against the current was hard. The river was still very wide here so that you could not recognize any details on the opposite shore. All we could see were dark green hills. After an hour of paddling some cabins tucked between two hills were visible. We reached them by paddling a short distance into the mouth of Peters Creek. We tied our boat to the half disintegrated dock and walked to the main cabin. Inside all necessities of a shelter were there: beds, a stove, dishes, blankets, chairs, even guns, binoculars and a radio. It seemed as if the cabin had not been used the last two years. The calendar was from 2004. Several people had written comments on the wall thanking the owners for the hospitality during bad weather. There were other buildings, but all in a state of decay, patched together with plywood, plastic sheets, boards and whatever else was handy to repair the roofs or walls. We climbed up the hill from where we had a great view over the tundra in the south, the wide river and the many lakes and channels on Richards Island in the north.
After lunch a wind came up and helped us make better time. It was sunny with intermittent clouds as we proceeded westward on the East Arm of the Mackenzie. Here there were several large low lying islands in the river and we took a different channel than on our way up. Again we passed the exploration camp of Swimming Point. When we got out on a gravel bar to stretch our legs two arctic terns with little ones attacked me and nipped me on my sun hat.
At 5:30 pm we set up camp on a wide sand bar. The sun was shining bright and warm. It was a good opportunity to take a bath in the river. Ted had no spare underwear left. I know that he had secretly buried one pair at an earlier campsite, and he must have lost another pair. Being a good wife I washed his only remaining set upon which he commented tongue-in-cheek: "That's what women are for". 30 km

Tuesday, July 25

During the night we both woke up at three a.m. because the sun shone directly into the tent and we were very hot. Eventually we fell asleep again. When we got up at eight the sky was blue and it was sunny. A strong south west wind had whipped the water into high waves with whitecaps. Despite the head wind and rough water we wanted to give it a try. On the way we were looking for drinking water and followed a trickle running down the embankment. Climbing to the top we found a small clean lake in the tundra. There was also fresh bear turd - probably a good fishing spot. But when Ted tried to fish he did not catch anything. We continued labouring towards Lucas Point where an Inuvialiut exploration company had flattened a large area above the river and also maintained a portable shelter with mattresses, a wood-burning stove and some emergency food. There was also a fenced cemetery, however not very well maintained.
The wind usually blows off and on in intervals, almost like labour pains, but today it did not relent at all. Paddling against the current and the wind was very strenuous and not worth wasting our energy. While Ted and I stood on shore discussing what to do, two canoes approached from the south west, the wind and the current in their favour. When they saw us they landed, thinking we were in distress. The four paddlers, two men and two women were on their way to Tuktoyaktuk working to promote the Trans Canada Trail which ends there. One of them was Wendy, the guide from the Black Feather Outfitters, and one of the men was Jamie Bastedo, the author of the NWT Trans Canada Trail Guide Book. We exchanged cards, took photos of each other and then parted again in opposite directions.
Then we sat down to eat lunch on the beach and have a short snooze. Maybe the wind will have ceased when we wake up? But nothing had changed.
"We might as well stay here," Ted said.
"Where"? There is no flat spot on the beach as far as I can see".
"Let's look on top of the embankment!"
We climbed up over driftwood and rocks to where the alder shrubs were growing. To our surprise there was a level spot between the bushes. It looked as if a cabin had been there a long time ago. Some old logs and other debris indicated that somebody had stayed here once. We put our tent up although it was only early afternoon. This was an excellent spot with a great vista of the river, the land on the opposite shore, and in the north-west the high mount of Burial Island. The Coast Guard ship passed by, swamping the shore with big waves. The wind continued blowing all day and all night. But we were snug and safe in our tent, eating and playing a few games. 17 km

Wednesday, July 26

During the night Ted got up to see if the wind had eased up. He is always terribly worried that we get stuck too long in one place, and later, at home he regrets that we did not stay longer to enjoy the scenery. Early in the morning he woke me up, all anxious to go. We managed to pack in one hour and were on the water at 7:15. It was sunny and windy like yesterday. We had to cross over to the other shore and find the channel leading west across the delta. Paddling against the wind and waves was hard. Our progress was not fast enough for Ted and he started bickering:
"We are not moving. Keep your paddle straight. I am working my a .... off."
"I am working as hard as I can", I called back
"That's not good enough!"
He was airing his frustration by grunting and growling - he gets like that sometimes when he feels time-pressed, and I don't like it at all. Our first goal was to reach Burial Island, sitting in the middle of the river, shaped like a giant grave. It took us three hours - 2 1/2 km per hour - to get to the island under an increasing wind. At last we were there! Luckily there was a flat mud and gravel bar in front of the steep walls of the island. It was full of moose tracks. We pitched the tent, thinking that the rest of the day will be wind-bound. After an early lunch we climbed up to the top. The view was excellent in all directions. The entrance to two channels was visible, one of them the Neklec Channel which we needed to take. Hoping that we would be more protected in a small watercourse, we packed up again and crossed over to the Neklec Channel.
This waterway was at least 500 m wide with low-lying shores on both sides. It seemed like a bleak and cheerless place, and a feeling of loneliness crept into my heart. We had entered the vast and lonely maze of the Mackenzie Delta where many people, even natives, have been lost and stranded. Around four o'clock we reached the Middle Arm of the Mackenzie River where we had to do a four-kilometre crossing to reach the entrance of the Reindeer Channel on the other side. The trouble was that we had to abandon our course in order to avoid a huge mud flat halfway. When we arrived on the other side there was no entrance to a new channel in sight, just a huge mud flat with very low lying land behind it. We paddled up and down the mud flat, always afraid to get stuck. A very large grizzly bear had come out of the shrubs walking gingerly over the mud. He was too far away to make a photo worthwhile. Checking the map and consulting the GPS for our position we found that we had arrived too far south in front of a big island instead of passing north of it. From where we were the entrance to the Reindeer Channel was hidden behind the island.
The first thing after finally entering the channel was to look for drinking water, since the channel water was too muddy. Both shores consisted of low lying swampy brush bordered by a rim of dark brown sludge. As soon as you land and step on shore, you sink in. If you manage to penetrate through the brush you find a fresh water pond or lake behind it. Here one can study the many animal tracks, moose, bear, wolf and birds. Some parts of the shore are covered with bright green plants, usually horsetail, and look inviting as a camping spot. But landing in the mud is very difficult. Besides sinking in you are also greeted by swarms of mosquitoes and blackflies.
We paddled until 8 o'clock pm always hoping to find a more favourable landing and camping spot, but finally settled down on one of these green mud spots. In order to land and unpack we put some thick branches at the water's edge to create a solid underground. The trouble was that large pieces of wood were hard to find here. The mosquitoes were extremely aggressive and we were thankful for our large mosquito-net vestibule attached to the tent entrance. As long as it did not rain we could survive one night here! 30 km

Thursday, July 27

While we packed there was no wind on the river, but as soon as we launched at 8: 15 the head wind was back again. We struggled most of the day with the wind while paddling west on the Reindeer Channel. After a good night's sleep I did not feel as forsaken as yesterday, but was able to appreciate the pristine land around me. The sun was shimmering through the forest of low shrubs and cast a glimmering light on the water. A beaver dove in front of the canoe, whisking his tail angrily at the intruders. Three sandhill cranes, the size of turkeys, stepped out of the swampy meadow strutting towards the water's edge.
All day we passed low-lying swamp and mud banks on one side, and a high embankment built up over decades by river mud on the other side. The high shore, ravaged by ice and water during many spring melt-downs looked uninviting and depressing. If you manage to climb to the top over big chunks of broken-off mud, you step on a narrow rim of black mud floor, bordered by dense shrubs and the occasional high tree that survived the erosion. This is a haven for many animals. On one of our breaks on the high shore we found the remains of a duck surrounded by big grizzly bear tracks that led out of the bush.
As we paddled under a strong wind through the sparkling water, the Reindeer Channel gradually broadened to become a kilometre-wide waterway. Often the water was very shallow, and extensive mudflats prevented us from getting to shore. The local people seldom venture out here by motorboat, preferring other courses either to the north or to the west. After lunch on the low shore we had a snooze, recovering from our battle against the wind. It felt so good! Here we also found some reassuring traces of human activity, a broken plastic sleigh and an orange helmet from the Northern Transport Company. In the winter when everything is solid and frozen here some snowmobiles might be passing through.
At 5:30 pm we started looking for a campsite. In the distance the high shore also seemed to taper off into low lying swamp. Our only choice was to find a spot where it was easy enough to climb up with all our gear to settle down for one night. There is always something if you have a creative mind! We did find a passable access to the top, but Ted had to saw and cut off a number of bushes while I clambered up many times to fetch all the necessary things for sleeping and cooking. Finally we were perched high above the water while some sandhill cranes communicated in their ridiculous, cackling voice. 27 km

Friday, July 28

Today was a very long day. For the most part, except at the end, it was even a great day. Ted woke me up at 4:30 a.m. because the water was very calm and we had to do a big crossing. Breakfast was served by Ted high above the water, and then all the gear needed to be carried down again. At 5:50 am we were ready to paddle. The first seventeen kilometres took us to a point in Shallow Bay from where the ten-km crossing was to start. It was a beautiful morning as we paddled under a pink sky on the ever widening channel along the low lying shores. A familiar sight, one of the orange buoys, so common on other parts of the Mackenzie waterways greeted and encouraged us. At 9:30 am we were ready to do the crossing. It was a joy to glide through the calm water, the only sound being the rhythmic splash of the paddles. Travelling at 6 km/h we arrived on the other side just before 11:00 am. The west shore of Shallow Bay was not very attractive, just a wall of broken peat chunks bordered with driftwood. After a quick break we continued westward along a receding shore line. Soon a slight south-east wind - perfect for sailing - assisted us. Maybe we could add some easy kilometres towards our goal, Shingle Point, although never expecting to arrive there today (at least I didn't). Apparently a native get-together was taking place there on the long weekend. The wind was so perfect that we got carried away, sailing from point to point across one bay after another. At one o'clock we had lunch, but did not linger too long. Sailing in the wind and sun was so much fun! Once we had left the devastated, driftwood-laden peat shore behind us, the scenery was superb. In the west the distant Richardson Mountains were towering high above the green land and the Beaufort Sea, and farther north we could recognize Hershel Island in the mist. By now we had abandoned the thought to paddle to the island, there was simply not enough time.
Some of the bays we crossed were five kilometres wide, but at our speed that did not worry us too much. The next one, however, Shoalwater Bay, was more of a problem: In the middle of the bay, Tent Island, very long and narrow, lay before us with its northern tip far out in the ocean and the southern tip far down into the bay. We did not want to paddle out-of-the-way into the sea, but opted for the south tip. However, there we got stuck and had to walk, pulling the canoe. Looking around us to the east and to the south we recognized mud flats. The only escape was towards the northwest. We did not realize that beside a regular shallowness we had also hit the low tide. Grateful to be finally buoyant again, we paddled hard, aiming towards the distant mountain range, not recognizing that we also drifted too far northwest, pushed by the wind. Despite our effort the mountains did not come closer and I became frustrated and anxious. There was still so much water ahead of us! What if the wind became too strong all of a sudden? What if it changed and became a strong headwind and we were out here so far from solid land? The sun was glittering on the water, restricting our vision.
"How are you?" I heard Ted saying. He probably needed some reassurance.
"I am miserable. I want to go home".
I shouldn't have let myself go like this. Now Ted felt miserable too.
It was six o'clock when we saw a giant tepee way out in the water, maybe a landmark in the sea? We were not aware that we were slowly approaching a very low lying island in front of the higher mainland. The tepee stood in the middle of a beautiful green meadow. After landing we realized that we had come to a special hunting place. Many bleached antlers were lying in neat piles, and a blind for hunters was erected. People must come here regularly, for the place was clean with a closed trash can preventing any littering. Later we were told that this was Whitefish Station West, an ancient bowhead whaling place.
"Let's stay and camp here, " I said. "It has been a long day"!
"I want to try the other side of the island for camping", he said.
However, I suspected that secretly Ted was hoping to continue because the wind was still in our favour and it was only seventeen km to Shingle Point. Soon we launched again, paddling out of the protected side channel around the corner of the island. However, the water became increasingly shallow and we had to go out into the sea more and more to avoid getting stuck. 1 was over-tired, and just having lived through the nightmare of our last crossing I was not prepared for another risk. In my imagination I was envisioning us drifting off into the night on the Beaufort Sea and not having enough strength to fight any hazards.
"Ted, I do not want to go on."
"But the wind is just right!
"I don't care. We are too tired, too hungry and too exhausted".
Finally he heard me and we turned back, but now we had to battle a strong head wind and advanced very slowly, trying to out-paddle the receding water of the low tide. It was difficult to land in the shallow water. At last we did make it to the island where we had already stopped at 6:00 pm, but we were at the west side now which was not as attractive as the east side.
It was 8:00 pm when we put up the tent after paddling over thirteen hours. From the tent door we could see that the shallow water reached very far out into the sea, way too far for two tired paddlers! We also realized that we were in tidal waters which we had not considered until now. While I was preparing a meal Ted scanned the land with his binoculars. All of a sudden he got excited:
"I can see something moving at the far end of the meadow. It looks like men with rubber rafts, maybe military. I am going to walk over there."
He was not very sure of what it was he saw. In the tundra you sometimes see mirages. The flatness of the landscape affects the appearance of distant objects. Small things can look big, and seen through the binocular they might waver and even move. The end of the meadow was several kilometres away. Luckily I was able to persuade him to eat and rest first. Sometimes Ted gets so wound up and excited that he does not feel his exhaustion. We never did find out what it was he had seen. 72 km

Saturday, July 29

We woke up at 6:00 am after a good sleep. The tide was high and the canoe we had to drag through the mud yesterday was buoyant again. The wind was the same as last night and we could make it to Shingle Point today, but we were not too keen anymore. Was it lack of courage or energy? Anyway, we decided that Whitefish Station West on the Beaufort Sea was just as good as Shingle Point, although it would have been nice to meet the natives there. The idea of repeating the three-hour-long crossing around Tent Island worried us.
Now, going in the opposite direction we had a headwind. As a result we paddled only 3.3 km/h, which was fifteen km in four and a half hours, working very hard. Around noon we reached the western tip of Shoalwater Bay which had given us so much trouble yesterday. This time we travelled deep into the bay, hugging the land and realizing how much we had missed before. The shoreline was not a solid, but divided into many little bays. On one peninsula, called Pillage Point a big stranded barge could be seen from far away. We saw green meadows where the natives had marked their hunting spots by erecting high tepees. Paddling around one of the tips we surprised a fat and furry long-tailed animal before it escaped into the water, probably one of the rare Alaskan sea otters.
At one o'clock we had reached the last tip before the five-kilometre crossing to the south end of Tent Island was due. It was still quite windy, and I persuaded Ted to eat first and then wait for the wind to die down. Since this did not happen we put up the tent and settled down to a relaxing afternoon. I did many chores: washing some clothes - among them Ted's only remaining undies - burning garbage, filling the small barrel again, and washing my hair in a little pond. Ted worked on the GPS, looking for routes through the delta to Aklavik and Inuvik, and putting in waypoints so we don't get lost. The wind was steady for many hours and did not die down until ten o'clock. Around suppertime it was thundering in the north-west and a dense shower curtain was suspended in front of the Richardson Mountains in the south-west for a while.
Ted had figured out a very comforting fact: we did not need to cross Shoalwater Bay and paddle around Tent Island. What a relief! Instead we could paddle down the coast of the peninsula on which we were camped and enter the Ministicook Channel at the south end of Shoalwater Bay. From there we could turn into the Moose Channel which would eventually lead us to the West Arm of the Mackenzie River.
It was lovely to sit in front of our tent door, sheltered from the wind, on a green meadow and watch the spectacles of nature, blue water of the Beaufort Sea, the thunderstorm in front of the mountains, and then a deep-red sunset around midnight. 15 km

Sunday, July 30

We left at 5:30 am at high tide to make sure that we would not get stuck in shallow water. The wind started as soon as we hit the water, and for the first hour, still in the bay, we had to fight a head wind. In the swampy meadows of the low lying land the first birds were waking up. The wailing cry of the seagulls, the silly gobbling of the sandhill cranes and the honking of the swans filled the early morning air. Paddling silently into the crisp morning, absorbing the scenery, the mountains in the distance, the bright green shores and the sounds of nature was an unforgettable experience. The wind allowed us to sail a little. Once in the Ministicook channel, we saw many moose tracks on the narrow mud flats along the water. During a short break on the shore a black and red fox came our way on his morning route, sniffing and marking his territory.
Ted had to be very alert to stay on track, since several waterways crossed our channel.
He had to make sure we turned into the Moose Channel. The sun was hot as we paddled along shores overgrown with dense alder shrubs bordered by a bright green ribbon of horsetail. At 5:00 pm we started looking for a suitable campsite. It was very difficult to land in the soft mud and to step out of the canoe. We sank in ankle-deep, the moisture oozing under our feet at every step.
In the evening it was still so hot that we had to create some shade by putting towels over our mosquito tent. The day had been long, but great! 40 km

Monday, July 31

During the night it was very windy, and at 6:30 am we were looking into a grey, dismal morning. At 8:30 we continued to paddle on the Moose Channel- or so we thought - until a big river bend did not match with our map anymore. There had been two cross-channels yesterday, but they had seemed quite small. After three kilometres we turned back to find the last channel we had crossed. According to the map we were now on the Little Moose Channel which also connected with the West Arm. On the map it is only a thin black line, but in reality it is around six meters wide and quite deep. However, at first we were not totally sure if this channel was navigable all the way, or if it really ended up in the West Arm. The maps are not always accurate. Once we turned into an incoming channel that was not marked on the map, but we wanted to scout it out in case it was part of our route. It did not go very far, but ended in a lake. There we also saw the first human trace, a boat hidden in the shrubs. Good! That meant the natives come here sometimes too, so we must be on the right track! The water was pretty murky, not great for fishing. While we were paddling down the Little Moose Channel and wondering about the many moose tracks on the muddy shore, we were startled by a sudden movement under the canoe. It was a huge pike who, scared by the boat darted into safer water.
Around noon it started clearing up, the sun came out and it was very hot. The Little Moose Channel became increasingly wider, finally reaching the West Channel which has the size of the Fraser River. On the one side the rolling green tundra hills greeted us, while the other side consisted of low lying swamp. Finding a campsite was difficult. The retreating spring floods had shaped the higher embankment into several steps similar to bleachers, and it was hard to make it to the top with our camping gear.
We camped at five o'clock, very tired from the hot afternoon sun and the upstream paddle. 31 km

Tuesday, August 1

"Freda, let's eat and pack up quickly, a storm is coming in!"
Ted had just finished cooking the porridge. We ate and packed up in a hurry while watching the grey wall approaching from the north. As soon as we were launched the storm hit us with full force and whipped up high waves in no time. The wind caught the sail and we started "flying" up the West Channel. This weather was a great gift for us, for we had been worrying how we are going to manage to paddle the forty-five kilometres upstream, against a swift current. It would have taken us three days of hard work.
Sometimes the waves were too high for our liking. Our only steering device was our paddle. Whenever the boat was on top of the wave it wanted to descend sideways into the trough and Ted had to catch it at the right moment to direct it up the next wave by prying or sweeping. Such a roller-coaster ride was not meant for weak souls! Once we passed a half sunken barge that had probably been here for several years. A motorboat from Aklavik passed us going in the opposite direction, probably on the way to a moose hunt. They shook their heads when they saw us bouncing up and down the waves.
At lunchtime we turned into a small tributary and made a fire to warm us. Later on we stopped to get drinking water out of a small creek. Landing was very difficult, since the boots got sucked into the black river mud and you had to be careful not to lose them. When returning to the canoe we had to lunge ourselves over the gunwales and let our feet drag through the water to rinse them off, otherwise the canoe would become a total muddy mess. The strong back wind pushed us forward all day, making us forget that we were paddling upstream. The tundra gradually gave way to the taiga or boreal forest. Here tall, spindly spruces were struggling to survive the wind and weather. Closer to Aklavik the odd cabin peeked through the trees, and once we spotted an overturned canoe on the high shore, probably moved by the spring floods from somewhere else.
Around six o'clock we saw the first signs of civilization, some big white diesel tanks close to the airport. Half an hour later we arrived at the dock in Aklavik. Immediately two young boys greeted us:
"Hi, where are you from"?
"We came from Tuktoyaktuk. - Can you show us where the store is?"
"We'll show you. - Can you buy us a pop"?
However, if you do that you don't get rid of them anymore. They followed us anyway and asked more questions:
"Are you married?"
"Of course"!
"How many times?" - A question that told us a lot about their social environment!
We found the brand-new little convenience store, bought some ice cream and were also allowed to use the washroom. (It is a problem where to find a comfort stop in a populated area). A little store is always a good beginning to orientate yourself in an unfamiliar community. The storekeeper recommended that we camp under the four big trees - the only ones in town - close to the old, boarded-up mission church. We also learned that a German canoe paddler was in town who wanted to paddle to Alaska.
To get to the campsite we had to paddle a hundred meters to the south and carry all our gear up the steep embankment. I was worried about Ted's back since it had bothered him for the last two days. The good thing was that the canoe was far down below and not too accessible for the kids who were following and spying on us. We put our tent up and had "happy hour", tea with a shot of vodka and nuts to celebrate our happy landing, followed by a Lipton soup, our regular evening meal.
Later on we did an evening stroll through the town. Our first impression was somewhat depressing. Many good little houses were boarded up. The government wanted the people to abandon Aklavik when Inuvik was built some fifty years ago. There is too much danger of flooding here which happens about every ten years when the ice in the river breaks up and melts. This spring the streets were flooded up to people's doorsteps. There are also no jobs here, so people rely on the government, approximately six hundred. At one time the village must have been a lot more vibrant, especially when the Mission Church and residential school were operating. The government is catering to the remaining population by providing a modem school, a recreation center with a swimming pool, a brand-new curling ring, a RCMP station and a big Northern Store, a postal station and some other administrative offices.
We were back in the tent at midnight, looking forward to a day of rest to give our tired muscles a break. Ed. note: distance?

Wednesday, August 2

"Good morning, how are you today?" a young male voice called out at 6:30 am. Who was disturbing us so early on this grey, dismal morning? Two teenagers! These kids had probably been out all night. When they saw Ted come out of the tent they backed off:
"We were only checking your canoe", they said and left in a hurry.
Outside it was cold, and a fine drizzle was filling the air. So we turned around and slept some more. At eleven o'clock when we were ready to go to town, a fireman approached us, looking for some bikes that had disappeared last night. He suggested we go to the nearby old-folks home if we need a bathroom. We had a quick lunch and went to town, first to the Northern Store where we bought spare undies for Ted and a battery for my camera. On the letter box at the post office a sign said: due to vandalism use this box only early in the morning, a somewhat depressing notice! Our next stop was the RCMP station where we reported in. According to their record they were not yet expecting us, but the officer Jimmy was very accommodating. He walked with us to a house where an elderly couple, Annie and Danny sold some handmade crafts. Ted bought an ulu, which is an Eskimo knife for women. Danny filled us in about the make-up of the community: Four different cultures live here together, the Gwichan, the Dene, the Inuvialiut and the white people. The combination of these distinct cultures makes it difficult to nurse each heritage individually, and the coherence of the society is not very strong. .
We also visited three cemeteries; one of them is the old Catholic graveyard from the time when the Catholic mission was vibrant and active. The cemetery on the main street houses the remains of the legendary Mad Trapper, alias Albert Johnston. He killed an RCMP officer in the early nineteen-hundreds and eluded his pursuers for many months, surviving a severe winter in the northern bush.
In the afternoon we decided to visit the old folks home since we did not have the same luck as in Tuk where we had been welcomed into Millie's and John's house. The old-age home was a very bright and friendly place that could accommodate up to ten seniors, but only had four right now. We met Clara, the manager who greeted us; she let us take a shower and invited us to use the washing machine. Here I had a hilarious experience: I was walking down the hall when a young boy passed me, then stopped and confronted me:
"In which room are you? I have never seen you here before!"
I guess he thought that I was a new inmate, not very flattering if you just survived paddling a few hundred kilometres! However, this place was so nice and cosy that I wouldn't even mind spending the end of my time here. When Ted and I were squeaky clean Clara invited us for supper, ham and macaroni with cheese. What a great gift for people who have been dieting on dried food for three weeks!
With our bellies filled we continued walking towards the southern end of town, when we met the RCMP officer Jimmy again, riding an ATV through town. He promised us a ride to a view tower away from the community as soon as he had fetched his police truck, so half an hour later we were picked up by a "Black Maria" for the first time in our lives. The scenery from the top of the tower was breath-taking: low boreal forest around us, and in the distance the silhouette of the Richardson Mountains. Then Jimmy took us sightseeing through the streets of Aklavik. The town is larger than we realized, since the remaining population is spread out in all directions and you often pass many empty houses before you see another lived-in home. Jimmy predicted that the town will not last more than thirty years.
"Would you like to visit one of our nurses?" he asked us.
Of course we did! So he took us to nurse Rachel's townhouse for tea. One of his colleagues and a young girl from Winnipeg working here as a summer lifeguard also showed up. We had a lively conversation with tea and cake in Rachel's second-floor living room overlooking the airport. Thanks to these people, the day in Aklavik was great and we were able to experience the typical northern hospitality once again.
Around midnight when we were already in bed writing our journals we received a visitor, Jurgen the canoeist from Germany who had found us by word of mouth. We invited him into our small tent since it was cold outside. He is a retiree and has already canoed many arctic Canadian rivers. We talked until the wee hours.

Thursday, August 3

Loading the canoe was difficult, since we had to carry all the gear down the steep embankment. It was very foggy when we left the still sleeping community at 9:30 am. Until one o'clock we had to paddle upstream, first the West Arm and then the Aklavik Channel. Around noon, as we turned into the Schooner Channel the fog had lifted and the sun shone bright and hot. These watercourses are quite protected from severe weather, and therefore the shores are not so ragged, but rather friendly looking. Instead of a dense alder brush, groves of slim high spruce stood behind a lush bright green border of horsetail. Nobody lives on these channels, but here and there was the odd cabin used for hunting in the fall and winter. The shores were muddy and spongy, and landing was difficult. Once we have managed to settle on higher ground, there are always more problems, for example to go to the water's edge to wash the dishes. Cleaning your face or other body parts becomes impossible, because you risk having a mud bath. But who says that you have to wash your face every day anyway?! Luckily we carry baby wipes with us! Water for cooking or drinking has to be picked up from a creek or lake during the day.
At nine o'clock pm the sun was still high and hot, but after midnight we had two hours of dusk already. Autumn is approaching fast now! 30 km

Friday, August 4

In the morning the grass, the shrubs and the tent were dripping wet, although it had not rained during the night.
It was very foggy until 11:30 am, and then very hot and sunny until nine o'clock in the evening. Today I was tired and not in the best shape. Ted's back was not good either, and from time to time I heard him moan or scream when he made the wrong movement.
I guess at a combined age of one-hundred-thirty-nine years we have to expect some physical discomfort after several weeks of canoeing! But regardless we had to continue, since we never know when the wind or the rain could start. Rain would be a disaster in these muddy channels!
Until noon we paddled downstream for a change which made it easier. Then we came to a T-intersection of watercourses. The channel to the right had widened into a lake, so we turned left. Ted checked the GPS and realized that we had to go in the opposite direction. On a narrow side channel a cabin was peeking through the shrubs on the high shore.
"Let's have lunch in the cabin," Ted said.
It was very hot now and we were both hungry and quite edgy. On the shore below the cabin two stakes were rammed deep into the river mud and I tied the painter around one of them. Now I had to open the buttons of the spray skirt behind me to take out the food which was very difficult to do. I could not do it fast - it was hard to position myself without tipping the canoe. Ted did not want to wait any longer.
"Put one hand around the stake. Use your left hand to undo the cover." I had more advice than I needed, so I became irritated and shouted:
"Don't tell me what to do, I am not dumb!" - and regretted it right away.
We had lunch in the cabin. It was cosy inside with nice furniture and decorations on the wall. The calendar showed August 2005 - it looked as if the owner had not been here since.
After lunch we left the Schooner Channel and turned into the Napoiak Channel, now upstream. It was extremely hot and sweat ran down our faces as we worked hard. We paddled very quietly, still sulking about our run-in. At 3:30 we finally allowed ourselves a break. Sitting on a piece of driftwood and shaded by a scraggly alder bush we sipped tea from the thermos, ate a little baby gouda cheese and made up again - and the world was beautiful once more! Some motorboats passed us as the Napoiak widened. Around the next bend we could see the Middle Channel, and far beyond the mountains of the East Channel. The Middle Channel is the main waterway for the big barges. We had already crossed it once about seventy km further north going in the opposite direction. After reaching it we paddled downstream at nine km per hour, passing high swampy shores from which big chunks of black soil had broken off taking some trees along. From time to time we heard a noise like a small explosion caused by more big pieces of mud plunging into the water. The heat had melted the permafrost in the soil and caused their release.
We found a campsite on a big mud bar full of driftwood. 38 km

Saturday, August 5

Ted told me this morning that we had a big storm during the night. I did not hear anything. We took it easy without rushing, happy with the course of the trip, and with each other. It was cold and windy when we left at eleven am. The water was choppy and it took us an hour of struggling through the waves to reach the Gully Channel which was supposed to bring us back to the East Channel.
The Gully Channel was like a different world, deep, narrow and secluded. We startled two owls that left their perch, quickly flying ahead of us. There were many animal tracks on both shores in the mud: beaver, moose and bear. The upstream paddling in this channel was not too strenuous. Although we were hungry around noon it seemed impossible to land for a lunch break. Only at 1:30 pm we spotted a trail up the embankment where we it might be possible to land. Of course our legs sank deep into the mud at the water's edge, but higher up it was fine. At the top of the bank, looking through a row of tall spruces we saw a lake and a cabin on the opposite side. The owner would probably come out here in the fall and spring moose hunting when the ground is still frozen.
After continuing on the Gully Channel for two more hours we entered the East Channel of the Mackenzie River at four o'clock in the afternoon. Thus our circuit around the delta that we had started on July 14 was almost complete. It was sunny and very hot as we started paddling upstream on the East Arm against a light north wind. We still had to go seven kilometres to the yard of the Northern Transport Company, but decided to camp out here one last time and continue tomorrow. We set up camp on the grass-green river bank in front of a curtain of brush. Behind these shrubs we discovered a well-travelled animal path with grizzly and moose tracks.
It was time to celebrate. I had reserved a small bottle of brandy for the occasion and made a cocktail of tea and orange juice powder mixed with the alcohol. The sun was hot and we sat in front of the tent in shorts and topless - (Ted did) - , reminiscing about our trip. The mosquitoes were kept in check by the wind, and the world was wonderful! We were so grateful that we had been able to live through one more arctic summer. This trip had been shorter than the previous ones - only 633 km - but perhaps tougher because we had paddled mostly flat water or against the current. Ed. note: distance?

Sunday, August 6

It had cooled off during the night and was cloudy this morning. We took it easy and packed slowly, since it was only four kilometres to the yard where our truck was stored. It was a leisurely paddle. With each stroke we said farewell to the Mackenzie River and its channels, to the green ribbons of horsetail, the brown treacherous mud banks and the earth-black steep and ravaged shores, to the fragrance of the herbs and the screeching of the sea birds, to the wind, and to the light blue arctic sky.
They are seemed to say: “See you again next year!” 4 km

Maps Required
Topo Maps (1:50,000): 
 
Topo Maps (1:250,000): 
107B, 107C
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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!