Baker to Baker—Circling the Geographical Centre of Canada

CanadaNunavutHudson
Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Brian Johnston
Trip Date : 
2015, 8 July - 12 Aug
Route Author: 
Brian Johnston
Additional Route Information
Distance: 
500 km
Duration: 
21 days
Loop Trip: 
Yes
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
0
Total Portage Distance: 
0 m
Longest Portage: 
0 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Advanced
Lake Travel: 
Advanced
Portaging: 
Moderate
Remoteness: 
Advanced
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Unknown
Route Description
Access to Put-In Information: 

Commercial flights into and out of Baker Lake. Truck drop off at the Prince River bridge.

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

Baker to Baker—Circling the Geographical Centre of Canada

In 2015 the route plan was a loop starting and ending in the hamlet of Baker Lake.  

Over 3 weeks we would canoe a 500 km route upstream and circle back around to Baker Lake utilizing the Prince River to Whitehills Lake, then over the height of land to Tehek Lake where we would head downstream, following the Tehert River into the Quoich River, which flows into Chesterfield Inlet. Up or down current will depend on the tides until we reach the massive body of water, Baker Lake. 

Overview Map 2015 Circling the Geographical Centre of Canada image

The Quoich River had been used as a short cut to the mouth of the Back River by Dr. John Rae in 1853 whilst he was looking for the fate of Franklin but Rae retraced his steps because the river was full of rapids. 

Sometime later at the turn of the century (1901-2) David T. Hanbury headed in to the rough country of our canoe route on an overland hunting expedition in November. 

Our 2015 route is the white dashed line on a map of David Hanbury journey 1901-2 image

The concept was simple. Plan a circle or loop canoe trip. No air charter. No boat shuttle. Commercial flights into and out of Baker Lake, a folding canoe (Pakboats pakcanoe), paddles (break-a-part Aquabound) and our camping equipment. 

We would leave the hamlet of Baker Lake and canoe back into town. From past experience I knew the Prince River was a nice little river to canoe downstream including a long whitewater section that emptied into Baker Lake. Travelling upstream the river would seem to be a whole new river. Both Tehek Lake and Tehert River were unknowns. On the map, the lake looked just like a lake and the river appeared to be a good connection to the Quoich River. Again from a past canoe trip, I know that the Quoich River offered incredible Inuit stone structures as well as swift flowing current all the way to Chesterfield Inlet. What would the Inlet be like? We were to find out. All we knew was brackish water. Baker Lake is always a going concern as is any big lake—ice, wind and waves. 

During the early planning stages we had decided instead of paddling out of town and portaging past the steep whitewater section of the Prince River that we would try to get a ride out of town to the Prince River bridge, which is at the upstream start of the steepest descent into Baker Lake. 

Wednesday 8 July

In the morning after an oatmeal pancake breakfast with blueberries, we organized all of our gear. First were 4 x 50 lbs. packs to be checked as baggage. Next was all the other gear to be shipped as cargo. Then we drove into Winnipeg to Calm Air cargo as with the recent code sharing between First Air and Calm Air, Calm Air is handling all the cargo. We shipped the Pakcanoe, paddles, and two food packs, with total weight was 198 pounds. Back home. Later that evening two friends arrived, they are en route to the Seal River. It’s canoe tripping season!

Thursday 9 July - flight day

At check-in we paid $26.25 each for overweight (70 lbs. free but we chose to pack 2 x 50 each totalling 100 max allowable weight knowing we would each pay because it's cheaper than shipping the 30 pounds of extra baggage). 

We were late leaving Winnipeg for Rankin and then late leaving Rankin for Baker. Cool and wet in Baker. The lake ice is moving in and out. It's almost 10 p.m. We are tired. 

New gear, we took a Delorme inReach Explorer—a borrowed unit. 

Friday 10 July

Baker Lake Lodge, the little cube heater cycled on and off all night. I anxiously await being on the land. Breakfast in the lodge. David is cooking, since August of 2011. We were off to the airport to check on our cargo items that we had shipped beforehand. The two packs were in but our Pakcanoe and box of paddles and canoe seats were still in Rankin. Poor visibility conditions prevented flying until noon in Baker, later in Rankin. 

We walked down the Main Street, stopping at the Northern Store for a bag of onions and a small tub of margarine. Then a very short walk almost next door to the Coop for stove fuel, which was less than $8 a gallon, compared to over $27 at the Northern Store—it pays to shop around. 

We want to arrange for a drop off at the Prince River bridge so on the way back we stopped in at BLCS at ask about a truck drop off to the Prince River Bridge—not much interest. 

Back at the lodge, Miki, their long-time cleaner suggest we call the community radio station, as had Helen. We made the call to the radio station. After the radio announcement no one was interested enough to show up at our cabin door. 

I walked about a tiny bit, visiting the Visitor Centre but the women there had no interest in conversing. I had hoped to ask about hiring someone to drop us off. 

Next I photographed several playful sik siks before peaking under the Northern Store. No canoes were to be seen. Times are changing in Baker Lake. In the past, there was a collection of canoes from past river trips. I returned to once again inquire at BLCS. Talking to the two guys did flush out that Max would be willing. Cost was $100 to the company for wear and tear on the vehicle. Saturday a.m. would work for Max as he has commitments in the afternoon as well as on Sunday. 

8 p.m., fine conditions here, hopefully at Rankin as well. Our small box that was missed earlier today when we picked up the other two packs is in and it must have been on our flight because the evening flight did not arrive today. That's it for today. 

Saturday 11 July

David the cook is friendly and extremely eager to serve and please. 

The morning flight did not arrive so again we wait. We called Calm Air cargo on Rankin and after some effort they found our Pakcanoe. It was not in the correct location. 

We wait. A short walk to the Northern Store to exchange out collection of small currency coins for a larger toonie ($2) and to look under the new and old stores to find no stashed canoes. 

Our next stop was the Jessie O gallery, where David Ford and his partner Cheryl work. No luck, it was closed. We returned walking near the lake.

A quick trip to the airport yield no canoe bag even though the afternoon flight arrived. 

A light rain fell over supper. The mosquitoes were out today. A couple of locals dropped by to sell goods

Sunday 12 July

We ventured out to the airport. Disappointed, our Pakboat is still in Rankin. So much for our forethought of paying extra for priority shipping. 

priority service image

More waiting...

We hung out all morning, resting, reading, and relaxing until we opened our lunch bag, a 20 L yellow dry bag. Then I read with an eye on the airport, watching for the plane. It's arrival time came and past. Then I looked up to see the airplane's tail section above the small airport terminal building—the plane is here. Our Pakboat is dropped. We noticed that it had no Calm Air cargo sticker on it. Perhaps that is why it was not shipped earlier. Anyway, we are now happy to have all of our gear and ready to head to the river. 

We called our two possible drop-off contacts, Max at BLCS and Perry the Northern Store manager. Neither was available. Yesterday they were availably but not now, maybe later after supper...

We were out the door and off towards the end of town. We stopped at Vivian and Joedee's place on the corner. The young adults said Vivian and Joedee were at the cabin and would be back in a couple of hours. They had no other ideas about who had a truck for hire. 

Down the main drag we walked, heading for the Northern Store parking lot to ask around and perhaps even post a sign. En route we spied some guys near a building so we veered off. The three carpenters worked for Arctic Fuels and the head guy texted Cam and told us Cam would gladly help us out. As Cam did not reply the guy told one of the other guys to drive us to the shop. There we met Cam and all was set. He'd swing by Baker Lake Lodge after work at about 6 or 6:30 p.m. His boss said no company charge, telling us to just settle up with Cam. 

It was a long walk back but we needed the diversion. Once back we got to readying all our gear. Cam arrived and we loaded up his 3/4 ton diesel truck. 

The road out was uneventful. There were several others on the road, mostly locals returning from the bridge with fresh water. It's about a 45 minutes trip. The mine operation had even graded the road at the request of the community. The bridge to nowhere is still really that. The road terminates at the bridge. 

After unloading and paying Cam $50 we moved our gear a bit upstream to a tent site during a light rain. Once the tent was up I hiked up to the Geographical Centre of Canada, which Parks Canada may designate a park or similar site. Once home I figured out that in fact the Geographical Centre of Canada may be nearby but not at the location Cam indicated. Met Mary and three boys, who shimmy under the bridge over the river—Brian, Brandon, and Crayston. It was a cool return trip to the tent. Every once in a while we hear others arriving to fetch water. 

At 9:30 p.m. we are excited to be on the water or more correctly camping and at the river's edge ready to start canoeing tomorrow. There is ice upstream on the lake visible from the road and bridge. I'm surprised because it is already 12 July and the ice is going off the big Baker Lake as well. 

Monday 13 July

Days of the week no longer matter but perhaps because last night was Sunday night we heard people arrive to fetch water for a bit after we turned in. It was a cool night and our first night in a new The North Face VE25 tent. I noticed two small cuts in the tent. The shipping box had been looked over but it was overly large and there were cuts in the plastic bag the tent was in for shipping. Hmm, not good. 

North Face Tent, new but with two small cuts in it image

It was cool so we had hot oatmeal, in the open air. The two of us, both chilled, put the Pakcanoe together. It went well enough as we have sufficient experience with it. Onward and upstream, we are paddling. After siting in Baker for days waiting for our bags to arriver we are well resting but our bodies are also slow to get going and are not trail hardened…yet. 

We managed pretty good and canoed up to the lake. The wind slowed us a bit. It was more of a steering concern as the wind was off the Northeast shore. Nearing noon we stopped for lunch. It was rather good, at least the break was. The cool temperatures kept us wanting to get moving again. 

Once back on the water we passed a point and then figured out that where we stopped for lunch was not the point we thought! Nevertheless, it was a good time to have had lunch. There was a bit of ice slowing being pushed out of the bay, around the point, and into the lake proper. 

In the distance, across the lake, the odd truck kicked up dust on the mine road that somewhat parallels the river. 

Dust kicked up by the mining trucks image

At the rapid we worked our way up the RL side for a bit before pulling our outfit ashore. With six packs and the canoe, as well as daypacks, camera box, lunch bag, pumps, fuel cans, paddles, etc. we made three trips each. In the wind it was all I could do to solo portage the canoe. And it's a light canoe—maybe that was the problem. We loaded up and tracked up the upper portion of the rapid. 

Portaging upriver image

From there we pushed off and paddled the river widening to the next narrowing where we found a good place to camp. It's day one so we quit before progressing to the base of the next rapid. 

Salty nuts before a pasta and bannock supper. I walked up to see the rapid after supper and was surprised at how hot the evening sun was. The wind was down to almost nothing and the cloud cover cleared. 

Tuesday 14 July

It was a nice sleeping night; mind you we were both tired. At one point I zipped up my sleeping bag. 

It was still and warm. The water was glass. At the near rapid we portaged RR making three trips each. The Pakcanoe gets completely drained once it is tossed up on my head. Whereas we are leaving it partly loaded each night so it slowly accumulates bilge water off our boots as we step in to it from the water. The portage went well but it was a long section of rapids and there was still much work to come. We tracked up with the odd short paddle between sections, all against the current and in the sun and heat with head nets on. 

It was a short paddle across a river widening section. Part way across there was a shallow current section to paddle briskly to attain. 

Prince River image

Track up the river exit rapids, somewhat away from shore to find a deep and clear passage. 

Next was lunch on a nice small rock outcrop. The mosquitoes bite away at some of the peacefulness of the event. It was also an opportunity for us to hike and climb some elevation to scout ahead, as Whitehills Lake was also white with ice. 

The ice leads, in general, are excellent. They are wide and deep enough for our heavily ladened canoe. There were a couple of times when the ice chocked off our clear passage. At one point we walked on the ice pulling the canoe. We also paddled out to the islands and used the leads around them to move westward to shore instead of following the shoreline due to ice conditions. Walking on ice worked well so at a small headland where the ice was pushed ashore we tired the same thing again but unfortunately we ended up some distance from shore with ice that barely held us. I gingerly walked to shore with the painters tied together and tied to the throw bag. Then I pulled the canoe as my partner one footed it or used his paddle. We made it back closer to shore and made headway to the next open shoreline lead. 

The slightest air movement over the frozen lake was a welcome effect that cooled us. When paddling into the late afternoon sun my legs burnt in side my pants from the heat. 

There are a couple of Inuit cabins. Most likely used in winter or early spring, accessed via snow machine. 

Sandhill cranes, four of them, were calling to each other. 

We pushed on a bit to round the interior of a bay and found an ideal campsite—a slight rise above a little beach yielded excellent flat tundra for tenting and our kitchen set-up (Mantis Tarp). 

Camped. Canoe, Mantis, Tent, Ice image

On the little beach at camp there are fox tracks. Also heard and saw loons on the water today. The smell of Labrador tea is a familiar sent. I have returned to the tundra. 

9:40 p.m. and I'm journaling in the Mantis with a view of mosquitoes, calm open water, iced over lake, and the sound of a little creek draining into the lake. It was a great day. Happy to be where we are. Surprised by the frozen lake. 

Wednesday 15 July

Why did I wake you ask? It was mostly the warm morning sun on the tent. During the night I was in fact cold but the tent has become uncomfortably warm. Once out of the tent I was immediately back to appreciating the fine tundra area we had camped on. 

Load up and push off. The open water shore lead was calm. On the ice edge there were seagulls. A jaeger flew by. We pasted an Inuit cabin that was pretty tall, not as short as most cabins. 

It was almost too warm on the water for paddling. The ice edge helped keep the temperature below boiling. We paddled with head nets. 

Ice. Standing tall to scout our route options image

At the first rapid we scouted and explored our options, deciding on portaging two heavy food packs and tracking up the rest. The carry was OK, pretty good footing and a reasonable short portage. And the tracking went very well. Leap fogging forward pulling the canoe. 

It was about noon and there was even so slight a breeze that we stopped for lunch, hiking up high to make the most of the wind. Facing the air current made lunch enjoyable. 

Back on the water we paddled upstream to the next rapids, a small exit rapid from the lake like section. Unfortunately we did poorly on the tracking and our canoe filled with water, pinning itself and requiring us to empty it of all its belonging. With a little effort we got the canoe off the rock, loaded it full of wet gear, and got it all to shore. There we reorganized and dried out a bit before portaging the small rapid. 

Onward, it continued to be hot. The wind had increased enough to make things comfortable unless it was a tail wind. The next river section included current and a cabin but no rapids. Surprisingly the lake like section above the rapid had ice. 

We followed the shore and camped before the shoreline contours became steep. It was 4ish. I washed and solar charged before supper. Sandhill cranes are off in the distance making noise. We could see dust from the mine road mid afternoon. On and on it was a good day to be approaching the 80-metre contour line. At 8:30 p.m. it is still warm. The mosquitoes are plentiful. I should add that I'm reading Douglas Coupland Hey Nostradamus!

Thursday 16 July

The morning sun is warming our tent as we pack up our sleeping gear. 

I cooked up oatmeal with raisons and almonds and we packed up our little camp. A nice fresh breeze kept the mosquitoes away as we loaded up and pushed off into it. As the riversides narrowed we encountered a bit of current and paused at the slate rock cairn that I visited on a previous Prince River downward journey. I wonder how many people have canoed the Prince? I also wonder how many people have canoed upstream on the Prince? 

It was slow but steady work tracking up the rapid as we approached the 80-metre contour line. At the corner we had lunch. Then we crossed the current to the West side and started upstream, first with a portage past the steepest section before continuing with tracking. 

All and all I was surprised that we made it all the way up the 80 m rapid with only one short portage (and a lot of pulling!). 

After a short pond like paddle we tracked and waded up the next rapid. Likewise at the last rapid before for left the Prince and headed eastward towards the height of land. Here we choose to portage past the shallow rapids for fear of not enough water to float our canoe for tracking upstream. 

Working our way upriver image

It was warm all day and the mosquitoes were active. We humped two loads and made camp on what I'm fondly calling the Prince Highlands. We have a wonderful camp overlooking the small river. And a short walk up the knolls gives an outstanding panorama view. 

It's after 9 p.m. and we are both tired from our day’s work and our colds (head aches, sore throat, etc.). Off in the distance we heard sandhill cranes. Saw mine road dust earlier today. Many tundra flowers are in bloom. I bathed, in part to cool down. We have the equivalent of 7 litres of rum (or something like that because we are carrying overproof rum).

Friday 17 July

It was another restless night for the two guys with colds. We packed up placing our gear at the waterline. Then we needed to portage the two full food packs that we left yesterday at the take-out. Once done portaging we switched into our wet boots and started paddling upstream.

The day started too warm. We were both sweating in the tent packing up our sleeping gear. A light breeze out of the East continued similar to yesterday. On the water we tracked up and portaged several rapids, one not marked on the map—five in total. Fortunately the sky clouded over and portaging and paddled kept the coolness of the sunless day at bay. Physical exertion proved enough heat that I did not have to put on more clothes. 

We found a small metal bottle, similar to an oil bottle. Not sure what it was from. We also found a couple of pieces of wooden shiplap, again, not sure what it was from. It always surprises me that even when off the beaten path there are signs of human use—what I call garage. 

Lunch was at the long rapid sections, at the top, after we tracked RL and portaged RR. It was a bug free meal with a scenic view. Later in the afternoon it started to spit ever so lightly. We crossed the last lake before portaging a chain of lakes and camped. The drizzle decided for us that we should camp here and not start portaging onward. 

First was hot tea and coffee, then hot rum, followed by pesto pasta with fresh onion, olives and pine nuts. Chocolate and tea ended the evening. The temperature has dropped a little but not much. You only need a light fleece. And the rain has continued but at an ever so light degree—no rain gear. 

After all the work, tracking, wading, portaging, and paddling into headwinds we are both tired. Our colds do not help as we find ourselves drained of energy. 

Saturday 18 July 

I sleep well considering I have a cold. The light rain had continued all night and was still persistent in the morning. We decided on hot oatmeal for a quick but warm breakfast, as a 500-metre portage was at our footstep. A slow cooked breakfast of potatoes, eggs, (and bacon for my paddling partner) sounded oh so good but the rain intensity was not sufficient to keep us in camp. 

Today we are leaving Whitehills Lake and starting a chain of portages that links small lakes all the way to Tehek Lake. It’s something like over a dozen carries over the height of land that we figured out. There are a few possible route options to take and we have settled on the one that we think is best. This is unmarked territory. 

We were portaging to the next lake. Once loaded and paddling the cool wind kept me chilled. The rain was so light that it evaporated off whatever you were wearing. We hugged the shoreline lee and made good progress towards the next portage. The small still had floating ice along the lee shoreline. 

Crossing over the height of land means all you have to look forward to is more portaging and pond hopping. 

Portaging between various small lakes en route to Tehek Lake image

At the appropriate spot we landed and started portaging. This 400 metre was much huffing and puffing as we climbed up contour lines passing through a saddle. The pond on the other side was that indeed, a small dollar coin shaped tundra pond. It was there that we stopped for a much need rest and lunch. At 1 p.m. it was our latest lunch but stopping before the portage seemed wrong to eat before so much work. Plus, across the pond hop was another portage. We have another 500-metre carry in wait. By now the rain has stopped but the wind was cool if you were not working and generating heat. 

After lunch we paddling across the pond and portaged to the next lake. Now it felt that we were going downstream. I sent a message using the inReach Explorer satellite communicator that we were crossing the height of land and still moving. We were thinking, still moving, albeit ever so slowly. 

We had a couple of kilometres to canoe on lake for reaching the next portage. At two of the choke points we slowly manoeuvred the canoe past submerged rocks and made it past the rock fences into the next portion of the lake. We are now at a 900-metre portage. After scouting the portage route it was 6 p.m. and our gear was wet so we set up camp to dry things out. Cup-a-soup, hot rum, and a gumbo soup made up our main course dinner. After supper I portaged the canoe to the other end. Instead of following the most direct route up and over I traced the contour line, which added some distance. The 900 metres carry turned into a 1000 plus metre portage. 

So far we have lots of mosquitoes but no black flies. 

I got a bit chilled today, first before lunch during the paddle and then over supper. It must be cooler than I think or my cold and hard physical work has my body beat down. My new Nomad boots seem to be leaking as well, which means damp feet and that doesn't help fend off a chill.

Sunday 19 July

Overnight there was rain but now it is still. Once the tent contents were packed up and we exited we found ourselves in fog and mist. Breakfast was granola—I had mine for the first time with warm water instead of milk, and it was pretty good. Once all packed up we began our kilometre portage, again with a heavy wet tent fly and Mantis tarp. Surprisingly we portaged three loads all the way, without staging our gear. Our canoeing route today is a bit of a U shape, first SE, then E, then NE, then NW. We stopped for lunch shortly past noon, as the sun broke through the clouds and warmed us. The head wind kept the mosquitoes away while paddling, except when we were travelling SE with a tail wind. At the 130-metre contour after lunch we portaged RR. Interestingly this lake drains both ways, as it was flowing SW last night at our campsite and now it is also flowing NE. We did another short portage into Tehek Lake on RiR just before camping for the night. To our surprise and concern, Tehek Lake is still well iced over. We didn’t investigate satellite lake ice images before leaving home. This is something we could have done pre trip but our thinking was we are much farther south than the last couple of years so we should be good to go. Oh well. 

Saw several sik sik and ptarmigans including a bunch of young chicks a couple of times. Mostly overcast until 8 p.m. when the sun came out and I started to solar charge the inReach unit. 

Tehek Lake—solid white ice image

The wind is down to zero and the sun is bright. This is the best light and calmest conditions we have had. In the background is the hum of mosquitoes. With our colds, our sense of smell is down but I can feel the cool air crawl under the Mantis shelter. After a pleasant evening of journaling and reading in the Mantis shelter I pulled out Carol Shield's The Stone Diaries as my next book. Once in the tent I read several pages. Not sure about the book, but she is a good writer—might not be my style, we'll see.

Monday 20 July

There was heat on the tent from the sun, something we have not felt in days. We were up and at it in good time. Breakfast was simple, granola, with hot morning drinks. Our departure was pretty quick, me keen to push on because of the unknowns of dealing with ice. We headed south and east, as I steered our canoe along the ice edge. The shoreline lead was pretty good. We did have to pass choke points, were the ice was shore bound. There we stayed close to shore and broke and moved ice with our paddles, the bow of the canoe, and our feet, at times one-footing it (one foot in the canoe, and the another foot one ice or rock). As we continued the shoreline lead seemed to be more continuous. While paddling in the morning you could see our breath! And in the shore lead there was newly formed ice from last night. 

I'd have to look at a map to refresh my memory as to our route and progress but in general we sped along at an impressive rate, following the shoreline lead, at times, in and out of every little nook and cranny. Sure our distance paddled was much greater than our distance made good, but the shoreline lead continued to be plenty wide and deep. Also importantly, the near windless day made for little loss of our energy to overcome wind and waves. 

We did portage a short land connection to bypass ice. 

Finding passages past ice image

Lunch was a welcome break from canoeing as up until today, we have done more paddle and portage than long lake paddles. Shortly thereafter the sun stayed behind the cloud cover robbing us of the warmth of the day. The wind circled around from almost every direction. Often I toughed it out without my head net. 

By later afternoon the sun was through thin clouds to the West, whereas it was dark to the East. As the day wore on we continued to paddle making incredible progress, not stopped by the ice as we had feared last night by the looks of the iced over lake. 

At a location where we could have stopped for the night to pondered or consider altering our course inland by portaging and following finger lakes east and then northward to bypass the larger ice bound Tehek Lake we decided to press onward. Northward we canoed following impressive open shoreline leads without ice issues. 

The campsite options in general all day were poor. At 6:30 p.m., about 2 kilometres shy of our extended destination we camped on a sloping shield rock outcrop. Camp was up within the hour, drinks in hand, supper cooking. 

Today we saw the first signs of black flies. 

When the wind crossed the ice it felt like someone left the fridge or freezer door open. 

We saw excellent shoreline reflections. And the sky was reflected in the water, seeing the clouds “below” the ice is frightening while paddling. We also saw the distance shoreline reflected upwards, similar to the last couple of years canoeing on Victoria Island. 

In the distance, I think I can hear the low rumble of the Meadowbank Mine. 

We are not off the big lake ice but today was outstanding—more progress than we could have dreamed of. 

Tuesday 21 July

Where to start? It was another incredible day although at one point it was almost disastrous. 

We woke as per usual and crawled out of the tent to a fine looking day—no long underwear. The cloud bank to the East that we were under most of yesterday was a tiny bit to further east and we enjoyed the clearer western sky. A bald eagle flies by as we exited the tent. Breakfast, braking camp, and packing up went as always, efficient and orderly. Then the moment we prepared to leave it started to rain. We were now under the eastern cloud. It wasn't dark and gloomy. It was more dull and drizzling. 

There was a quick question about should be deck up and put the sprayskirt on but we are in the pushing off mode and the mosquitoes were suddenly at their peak. We left sans spray deck or spray cover. 

On the water, we found our shoreline lead of yesterday almost as good. The exception was the headlands had a bit of ice that we had to deal with at each point. In general, it slowed us down but it never stopped us and we seldom had to get out of the canoe. Mostly we pushed and chopped a bit of ice from the canoe for the canoe to pass through. 

That was all good, as was the wind—light and mostly a head wind that kept the bugs out of our face and left them catching a free ride on our backs. 

The main concern was the ongoing rain and the cool temperature, especially the light freezer breeze off the massive frozen lake. We kept paddling and were fine. 

The fog and mist conditions as well as downward falling rain made it more difficult to see our way and keep track of our progress. At one point we pulled ashore for a leg stretch and pee break. Next we stopped again for the same and had an extremely quick snack and drink—Cliff Bar with peanut butter, dried mangos, and Thermos (coffee and tea). 

Poor canoeing conditions—fog mist cold image

Back on the water we felt our bodies. Our core temperatures plummeted without our body-generated heat. We were about ready to pack it in but we pushed on and slow warmed up.

The good news is the rain slowed and then ended. The wind dried our clothes and the sun even came out. By 2 p.m. we were crossing Tehek Lake to the North side and to ice-free conditions. Incredible, in two days we paddled the iced-over complicated big lake. At the South end we were discussing bailout options including returning hence where we came from, down the Prince. Another idea was altering our route to explore the Keytek River to Jigging Point. Yet another idea was seeing if we could connect via the Keytek headwaters to the Quoich River. Calling for a plane ride out from St Clair Falls if we were running late was our last option. 

We stopped for a second lunch. Snacked a bit more and finished drinking the hot fluids left in our Thermoses. 

Camped on the river image

As we neared the river exit, our goal for the day, I noticed how much the landscape has changed from the contours of the Prince Highlands to more usual low-lying lowlands. We poked along looking for a suitable campsite and settled for river left at the base of the first rapids, which are not marked on the topographical map (1:50 000). It was 3 p.m. or so. 

After camp was erected I cleared out the canoe, solar charged, and sponge bathed. Supper was navy bean soup with sweet potato bannock. We had olives with our rum and lemonade. 

Our colds both persist. I'm tied. It's been two great days as for getting here. Also for the experience. The calm waters yesterday are still vivid in my mind—that's the way I see Far North book images—flat calm big lake crossing. Ice adds to the adventure. We plan a slow cook breakfast tomorrow...

All morning and into the afternoon my feet were cold and now, at 8:30 p.m. it's almost too hot in the tent! It’s a land of extremes.

Wednesday 22 July

I curled up and slept well right against the tent wall or side. There was a good-sized hump on the tent floor that forced me over. The warm tent meant clear skies and a hot early morning sun. 

A slow cook breakfast of hash-brown potatoes and eggs (and bacon for my trip partner), our first yet on this trip. Thus we were packed up and ready to go later than the past days or later than our usual time. 

The Tehert River, from the little we know, that is from the first or one rapid we ran yesterday into camp, is larger than many headwaters rivers. And that fact held true today. In general, the rapids were easy but not shallow and technical. One long rapid, where we had expected a boulder fan at the end, we ran all the way down the river left side. The rest of that rapid did indeed flow through boulders. We boat scouted most rapids, maybe twice we went to shore to scout. The low-lying land is difficult to gauge distances and height of objects including the whitewater. The first rapid of the day seemed so big but as we continued to close in it continued to shrink. 

The all day head wind kept the bugs away while paddling and running rapids. The blue bird day gave us excellent visibility as well as hot temperatures. On the water with the wind was nice but working on the land such as making camp was hot work. There appears to be an Inuit stone hunting blind near our campsite. 

We again did well today but have yet to put mileage in the bank for a weather bound day(s). At this point we have caught up and our daily average is 15 km/day. That's impressive because we have just begun the downstream portion of our trip. 

Lots of mosquitoes continue to get at us.  

Thursday 23 July

With the brisk wind there were no mosquitoes this morning. Hot oatmeal with tea and coffee got us going. The air temperature was pleasant. Far off to the East at the horizon the sky was clearing. Overhead was cloud cover. 

We pushed off into a wind, head wind style, bound for the junction with the Quoich River. To our surprise it was windier than expected and the wind velocity also increased. With much work pulling on our paddles we did make slow progress into the head wind and down the river. Several rapids and swifts either slowed us for scouting or helped move us forward. 

River Rapids with minimal vegetation shoreline image

At the 100-metre contour the rapid narrowed and we lined the bottom RR that included a short lift-over the final boulders RR.

Once at the confluence we stopped between the two rivers on the point to enjoy a fine lunch. This was the first time we took shelter behind rocks and rested our tired backs on the rocks (as back rests). There we also debated our options. Rest for several hours and see what the wind does. Options: Camp and leave if the wind dies. Carry on. 

Onward we pushed hoping to make another half a dozen kilometres. At times I thought, what are we doing out here, as the wind moved us at will. Then, when the wind gusts were down we did fine. Some current helped for approximately three kilometres. Saw a mush ox. 

Where the river widen a bit today it felt like a lake. We crushed over waves and took on water. In fact, I got my face washed in the bow! To shore and a quick exit to avoid the breaking waves and wash. We walked down river for 10 minutes and found a suitable camping site. Back to the canoe and back into the sea and swell for a short paddle into the strong head wind before backing into the shore for another quick landing. 

Tent, Mantis, canoe secured. Nap time for both of us. By noon the eastern clear sky was overhead and now in early afternoon, the heat warmed the tent to ideal napping conditions. 

The paddle was exhausting. Kind of like isometric exercised. Applying pressure to the paddle blade but it does nowhere. The Tehert River was big enough. Now combined with the Quoich River our river is powerful. 

Over supper the overcast skies reappeared and again to the eastern horizon is clear warm light. We are not sure what it means or what it will bring. For tomorrow we wait. 

Friday 24 July

Wind bound. The temperature is fine but the wind is strong. White caps. A little light rain fell in the morning.

We were of course up for breakfast of blueberry pancakes, our only batch. Rest and napped in the morning. Back into the Mantis for lunch including soup, then out for a walkabout, far enough to see the river and rapids ahead. On the return, there were two muskoxen on our riverside and one across. 

More tent time to read again and nap as well. It's 6 p.m. and I sent our daily check in message, today for the first time from inside our tent, using the iPad connected via Bluetooth to the inReach device. For whatever reason today's camp waypoint is taking a long time to send. 

Saturday 25 July

We woke to much the same—overcast, misting, windy. But after a day in a muggy tent it was time to venture onward especially because the wind was less forceful than yesterday. So we packed up our tent gear, had breakfast of hot oatmeal with blueberries and nuts, and paddled on. 

Today is our first day with the canoe deck or spray cover on. It will be better for the wetter weather of today as well as for the powerful river that we are experiencing. 

The first section was full-on head wind but the wave size was okay and there were no whitecaps like yesterday. Once we veered our course to the right the wind was less of an issue and the river narrowed and picked up speed. 

We sped along, running rapids and fast current, moving from one side of the river to the other, staying on the inside of the bends, and watching out for ledge like corners or points, where the river edge is not the safest route. In general, we tried to run rapids down the edges, staying out of the bigger water. Once we got turned around on an eddy line. A couple of times we got out and scouted ahead. 

At noon, we lined some of the 90-metre contour line rapids, mostly to be safe, as we could have run it. Lunch was close by and without the mist falling. 

The afternoon turned out to be less stressful in terms of whitewater and current. We stayed our course of action of running the river edge, inside of bends, and moving from one side to the other as required. We have past the 100 m, 90 m, and 80-metre contour lines. 

By 3 p.m. we were tired having made up mileage from yesterday's wind bound day, thus we drifted and looked for a campsite near a hiking hill. Once ashore we quickly realized that the wind was down and the bug count up. There were mostly mosquitoes but also some black flies. 

I left for a hike to the ridge, a little more than a kilometre away. The bugs were worst on the return journey, as well as the temperature was warmer as the sun shone through the clouds. On my hike I was surprised twice by sik siks. 

The river was nice today, narrow enough that we could see both sides. It featured enough elevation to make it interesting. Saw one musk ox RR. 

Sunday 26 July

We rose to still airs. It was cool, partly overcast. You could hear the hum of the bugs. We had a nice campsite, excellent tenting and pegging, so it was sad to bid goodbye. 

Current and Overcast. Decked Canoe image. 

On the river the current slowly pulled us along. Much of the morning was filled with slow moving current, and the odd downstream current V. We continued on our southern course until we turned more easterly. There the river valley is very scenic, with higher riverside hills. A light rain, more than a drizzle fell on us a couple of times. We even don on rain gear. I toughed it out without my head net preferring the clearer visibility sans bug net. 

Lunch was buggy, on rocky point, but without enough wind. We stood, facing whatever slight air movement there was, and walked to create our own breeze. No rain fell during lunch and that was good, as we dried out our rain gear and our under layers. 

After lunch the river narrowed but the current and rapids were manageable. Three km upstream of the 50-metre contour line, we portaged a short section of the island rapid. While scouting from the marked rapid further upstream we stumbled on an excellent Inuit stone structure site with several short stoned walled tent rings complete with hearths. It was during this short portage, almost a lift over, that the mid afternoon temperature rose. It was around 3 p.m. but we had travelled about 30 km, twice our daily rate, so we pushed on into current and camped shortly there-afterwards. Our site is excellent. Flat, sheltered, uniquely nestled among large rocks. It's a little bit of a climb up from the river's edge but not much, especially given the higher volume nature of this river. 

We both bathed. I could stand ankle deep without freezing my feet. The mosquitoes were bothersome but the benefit of rinsing off was very welcome. 

Our Mantis shelter was a little warm, even with the rear window open. 

We are tired again today. Lots of miles traversed the last two days. 

In the tent, and it's warm. We just spent some time killing mosquitoes. That's the deal today, lots of bugs, from wake up until now. So there you go. Back to killing bugs in the tent, the most we'd done yet on this trip. 

Monday 27 July

It's noisy out there—the hum of bountiful mosquitoes as well as a good showing of black flies. In general, so far we'd had mostly mosquitoes but today, like some other recent day, there has also been black flies mixed in among the mosquitoes. 

Today started like it's ending, with bugs. It was warm and still when we got up and it's still warm and still as we turn in for the evening. 

We did have a great day. Lots of current had the paddling distance easy to cover. The whitewater and rapids continued to be run down the edge and avoid the big all-powerful current and large waves. As we canoed we lost much elevation, such as passing the 50, 40, and 30-metre contour lines. So our descent was fast. 

Down the Edge style rapids image

At an inukshuk on RR we found a grave pile of rocks with a skull and other Inuit stone structures including a little up river a very well constructed stone walled fox trap. 

Near the 30-metre contour line, just upstream of the junction with the East Quoich River, we ran, lined, and portaged (a short carry) to bypass a major rapid and vertical drop. There was an inukshuk on RR so that is the side we followed. 

Shortly thereafter we stopped for lunch on an exposed large rock outcrop, pointing out into the river. Even there, there was little wind so similar to yesterday, we had a buggy lunch break. Back on the river, with our forward speed and a slight upriver air movement, the bugs were not too bothersome. 

High up on the ridge we could see inuksuit standing tall so we stopped to hike. These are the same Inuit stone structures that we saw years ago when I canoed the Quoich River. Even in the heat of the day it was a fine hike up. 

This is also when we determined that we were pumping out the canoe more often since lunch than ever before on this trip so we investigated and located a hole in the canoe's side wall. 

Shortly after getting back in the slower river current we camped on RL. The site is a little goose shit like but pretty good. It was easy to land and get the canoe out of the water. I patched it up. Much of the riverbank has a large bouldery foreshore, either upwards as in vertical height or in terms of length to tundra. Anyhow, this site is a very low sloping shore without boulders. Perfect. 

It's after 8:30 p.m. Camp is all closed up for the night. Both of us even very quickly rinsed our upper bodies in spite of the all the bugs. And we are both tired, from the heat as well as from being on, full-on, as we are running a quick powerful river with lots of pushy current and huge wave trains. Also tired because we have been canoeing more than our daily average to take advantage of the river to get a couple days of mileage in the bank in case we get wind bound on the big inlet and lake that makes up our next stage of the trip, once we are done with the Quoich River. 

We both noticed that at 10 p.m. the sun is actually pretty low on the horizon. 

Tuesday 28 July

The end of the day. We are there, at St Clair Falls. Too many it marks The End of the Quoich River. To us, it's the end of another section of a multifaceted journey. We'd gone upstream and overland. And we'd canoe a river, the Tehert, that in all likelihood has never before been canoed. Finally down the mighty Quoich River we have sped, as has a few other canoe parties over the last couple of decades. Here at the Falls there is no signs of any other canoe travellers. 

Nor were there any names on the wall of the Water Survey cabin we stopped at earlier today—we were the first to sign and state our route. 

Water Survey gauging station cabin image

Let me backtrack to earlier today. Today started similar to the last several days—warm but not hot in the tent. Once out into the day, mostly overcast skies. Light wind. Bad bugs. 

After breakfast and loading up, which was a full load of the canoe because I had patched a hole in the canoe sidewall last night so the canoe was actually empty, we paddled on, in perfect calm conditions. Our goal was to close St Clair Falls. The river was wide and we got wet when a light but persistent drizzle fell. All the current or whitewater sections, there were only a few, were similar to previous days, paddling down the edge. A noticeable difference was the longer and stronger powerful current flush-outs downriver. We also witnessed whirlpools and forceful upstream eddy currents. 

A couple of Arctic Terns chased us down although we just paddled on. 

Navigating included a wider river and some islands and gravel bars, which did not always show up, as the water level is still high. Along the sandier shoreline today you could see the gradual decline of the river level as recorded in the sand bank or beach. 

The Water Survey "cabin" as marked on the map is really a freezer box. It was empty. I assume the gauge is no longer active. There we signed the interior wall, stating our route. Above the site were Inuit stone structures including graves. 

Lunch was buggy, at the next rapid, as we tried to find the most wind (generated by the moving water). The next cabin on the map was an Inuit shack, used for hunting wolves. Most likely visited by snow-machine. 

From there we pushed on, and pushed on I do mean. It was already after 2 p.m. and the distance to go was 10 km of wide river, bigger than some lakes we have canoed. 

I was dead tired when we paddled into shore. We scouted our camping options as well as the portage and placed a rock marker at the downstream put-in to check the tide. I readied drinks and supper. 

After supper we walked to check our tide marker (there was no change) and spied a muskox and ptarmigan. We have seen a lot of mushrooms the last couple of days. 

I have not worn some of the warmer clothing such as my over pants or hooded Salmon jacket shell. Tomorrow brings the next stage of our adventure—the tidal section of the Quoich River. 

Wednesday 29 July

I was dragging my sore and tired body all day. It may be because I paddled stern for three days, including static paddle strokes through strong current and boils. It is also because we'd been taking advantage of the river flow to put some mileage behind us—and some mileage into the bank. With big water ahead we will most likely get weather bound. 

After breakfast we walked and viewed the cascading St Clair Falls. Then it was portage time. But the carry was easy to figure out and follow our route. The distance was fine as well. And it was mostly level walking until you crested. Then it was a splendid view down to the river. It reminded me of the first view of seeing Bathurst Inlet on the portage. It’s a view worthy of the history books. To greet us, a seal poked its head up several times. 

A seal eyeing us image

We loaded up. The rapids were easy to run down the edges. At the last current runout on RR, on the downstream end of the tall sandy plateau we stopped for lunch, figuring that that was as exposed as we could get—hoping for less bugs. At the put-in both the mosquitoes and black flies were bothersome. It turned out to be a long lunch because I washed including my clothes, using the lunch 20 L dry bag as a washing tub. I saw it as the last opportunity for plentiful fresh water. 

The Quoich River here is most like a fiord—great views of the contoured sides and the big sky. No caribou or mush oxen. A couple of summer rain clouds appeared and grew from behind. Twice it dumped rain on us. We crossed to the RL side in hope camping near a little lake that is close to the river shore—fresh water being our goal. We waited out some rain and found our site workable. Once all set up and in the tent for a quick nap the sun quickly warmed the tent to over the top hot—in the 90 degrees F. It was about 6 p.m. when we got up. As we moved to the Mantis there was some thunder—a first for this trip. 

The tide has been rising since our arrival. We unloaded and carried the canoe and gear high. I placed a rock on top of a large boulder, some 3 feet high. By supper it was under water. As we turn in for the evening we notice wet rocks so the tide has reversed and is now falling. 

There is an old Inuit stone structure site close with tent ring and meat cache. 

Thursday 30 July

It was a calm and warmish night. Although not thrilled with our site it did serve us very well and in the morning light san the drizzle of last night, it was fine. In the pond, which provided our fresh water, the whiteness of a swan stood out. 

With the tide going out we moved our gear and canoe to the current water line and loaded up. A light northern wind kept the bugs down. It's our first northern wind after days of southern or SE winds. 

We cross the river. As we approached the island, about third of the way across the channel, the wind was now gusting and picking up. As we continued it built to a steady blow and we began to ride the waves and close the shoreline. We picked out a little sheltered cove behind a point on the map and that was our target, although it was difficult to figure out what was what with the nondescript shoreline and also being some distance from shore. I suggested a target to aim for and it turned out to be our destination. With ease and one wave over the canoe side we rode the waves into the bay and landed—tying up the canoe. 

After a walk around we found the place a good location to wait out the whitecaps. 

Once the Mantis tarp shelter was up we both napped until noon. Then our usual lunch, followed by a high tide line walk about. Found bits and pieces of wood, including a paddle blade, plastic such as an outboard motor oil container, metal coffee tin (fine grind it stated) and gallon white gas container. One small Inuit stone structure, in disrepair. 

More book reading. Then supper. The water is now brackish, so we used it only for dish washing. 

I'm also done reading Carol Shields The Stone Diaries so I unpacked the book Obasan by Joy Kogawa. 

Our canoe was grounded at the end by both painter lines tied together. Now the tide is pushing back in and it is again floating. Soon we will call it a night and camp, as the wind has remained strong enough to produce whitecaps most of the day. 

I good day, less bugs with the stronger wind. 

Friday 31 July

It did calm down a bit but the wind blew all night. In the morning the Mantis was flapping. It had pulled its two downwind pegs. Both guidelines were wrapped and wrapped and intertwined around a dwarf birch branch. 

Up to stronger winds today. No thought of moving. A slow cooked breakfast of hash-brown potatoes and eggs, with a double round of hot drinks. 

I set up the camera and tripod in the interval shoot mode and photographed the outgoing tide. I had to reference the Pentax manual on the iPad to figure it out. And guess what, it opened to the right page, left over from last summer when I looked up the same camera feature. The issue was and is, the Interval Shoot feature is NOT available from the Auto Picture mode. The mode must be in the normal picture mode. 

Low Tide image

I also set up the solar to charge. Due to the solid overcast sky, I linked the two solar panels together, then the battery pack, and ending with the inReach. Everything we are charging this year is via USB. No 12-volt such as a Satellite phone. Once the inReach was charged I then charged two Pentax camera batteries, again via links solar panels, on a very overcast day. 

It is a cooler day, especially in the wind. No sun to warm up the tent or Mantis. 

These weather bound days provide time for more reading and resting. We aired out our sleeping bags. 

After a hot lunch of fried tortillas, cheese, and refried beans we hiked to the nearest tall hill, about 4 km return trip. It was windy enough that I could feel the push on my body including making it difficult to breathe. Saw our first caribou, a young one, on the return hike. Back around 5 p.m. 

Still blowing hard. Not sure if it will let up later this evening to allow us to paddle onward. 

It's 8 p.m. and supper of chilli and an excellent corn bread with corn and peppers is done and all the kitchen kit and food is packed away. The rain has been falling for a couple of hours and the temperature is down a little, cool in the wet wind, but not cold. It appears we are here for the night. 

Saturday 1 August

Wind bound with a lot of rain overnight and throughout the day. 

Up late for a big slow cooked breakfast and then back in the tent to warm up my very cold feet. Read for hours before napping. 

Up again for a snack that progressed into supper. Wind is done a bit so we are thinking about packing up our wet camp and moving. 

At 6:40 p.m. we shoved off into wind and waves. The wind was down to the point that there were mosquitoes while packing up—that’s a sure sign that we should be moving on. Once on the water, the wind and waves might have been a little more than expected but we paddled forward. In time, the wind would go up and down but the waves mostly decreased in size. On shore we saw two sandhill cranes, then a wolf. 

As we slowly rounded the point, the wind was less and less broadside although the old waves that rolled in, as a swell, were large as we rounded the point, where the open water reach is vast. 

It was mostly overcast with a thin bright horizon to the West. As the sun progressed to fall, the clouds were lit from below. To the East, it was pink. 

Two ocean ships, the sealift to Baker Lake, were off Brant Island, at anchor. A male caribou wondered the shoreline. We had passed many signs of Inuit use. A seal shows its head and body. It's a good-sized animal. 

The Sealift image

By 10 p.m. we were near Brant Island, along the mainland north-shore, looking for a place to camp for the night. We camped on a small island, quickly setting up the tent and turning in for the night. Now, at 11 p.m. it is too dark to read, much darker compared to our last two summers further north on Victoria Island. 

Sunday 2 August

The wind is up, still from the Northeast. We did an outdoor kitchen, to aid a quick getaway. We are almost out of fresh water. The two ships are still anchored off in the distance. 

We load up and push off into a high tide. Across the bay we find a lee from the NE winds and look for water, stopping twice before we fill our 20 L dry bag with pond water. 

As we poke along the shoreline, staying close to avoid wind exposure, we see signs of Inuit use. Once out passing the islands a curious female caribou has our attention. 

We pause for lunch in the North channel of Chesterfield Inlet en route to Baker Lake. It is still cool and overcast, with NE winds. The tide continues to recede. 

In the afternoon, there are current lines at some of the points, but we continue to make good progress, not noticing the upstream current. In fact, we take notice of the strong back eddies that pull us onward. There are fresh water creeks and runoff from the recent rains draining into the Inlet. 

Freshwater along Chesterfield Inlet image

At the narrowest section we are stopped. The current is now strong and there is no good tracking option on our side of the Inlet (north). We decide to pull back and wait for the tide to change, as it's still ebbing. In the end, we end up crossing to the South shore, which is better for camping. The tent is up and we are going to rest. It begins to rain lightly. We are surprised. 

Our plan is to also cook supper before proceeding with the hopes of at least another 6 km to where the North Channel braids. It's 4:30 p.m.

Waiting for the tide to turn image

All day the shoreline and surrounding area has been outstanding, very scenic. The North Channel of the Inlet has almost continuous contoured sides. There is often roughed rock coming out of the water and reaching upwards. The narrowness of the Channel also adds to the stunning visual effect. The overcast sky has dulled the views a bit but we have appreciated the day. 

We left at 8 p.m. with the incoming tide. The rapid was washed out enough that with effort we canoed up. The wind was still blowing when we cooked our supper, in the open air, behind the canoe on edge. The mosquitoes found us there. Once on the water the wind died for a short period but then returned with force. It pushed us up the channel from behind. 

Just before 10 p.m. we camped on the southern side of the channel on a good sized island. Two sandhill cranes left as we arrived. By 10:30 we were done and tent bound. 

Monday 3 August

We were slow to rise this morning after our late arrival in camp. The overnight temperature was okay. No rain that I heard but the wind blew all night from the NE. 

Again, for the second day in a row we did an outdoor kitchen for breakfast, as with our late arrival we did not set up the Mantis. While eating a motorboat sped by, without stopping. The old Inuit would never do that. 

With our out of our daily routine of the last couple of days we were in no hurry to rush onto the water. The tide was high and the water tasted fresh, so we dumped the lunch bag, which had become our fresh water container. The remainder of the North Channel of Chesterfield Inlet was just as high-contour scenic as yesterday. Another motorboat roared by without slowing down. They did wave.

To our surprise, the high tide was causing a westward current flowing in our direction of travel. This, along with the NE wind helped propel us along. A third motorboat came towards us and stopped. One of the two guys from Baker Lake talked while the other one sat in silence. They were out caribou hunting on the August holiday Monday. He said they were with the other boats all doing the same thing. Their route was about 2 hours from Baker via a GPS course directly across the lake. They had at least four guns plus fishing gear in case no caribou were found. We learnt the shotguns were to hunt seal and the rifles were for caribou. The idea of the shotgun is to continue shooting, as with each shot the seal will surface more and more until your buddy kills it with the rifle. They were in a 20’ Lund with a 115 four-stroke Yamaha outboard motor. We wished each other well and parted ways. 

We rounded the point and headed northward leaving the narrow inlet behind. 

An old tent ring image

The headwind kept the bugs away and temperature cool. Around 1 p.m. we stopped for lunch before seeking open water by heading across the bay for the northern lake shoreline. 

By 4 p.m. we were looking for a campsite, happy with our mileage today and not wanting to over do it after a couple of late nights. We camped on a raise like beach area with curious sik siks. 

To some degree, it was time to take care of some in camp business, such as digging in the annex pack for more maps and new books. We also opened food pack #3. The Mantis tear was repaired. 

All in all, it was a slow paced evening, including a nice long evening. The wind died as we ate supper. I hiked to the hilltop. Plus there was time to catch up on our journals as well as crack open our books, which have been closed for a couple of nights. In the distance, over supper, several motorboats passed, we assume returning to Baker Lake. 

Also off in the distance we could see a cabin around lunchtime, on one of the islands. And we also might have seen a larger ship such as the sealift bound for the hamlet of Baker Lake. On the two islands off our camp there are man sized triangular open structures, visible via binoculars. We continue to see old Inuit stone structures everywhere since the lower Quoich River. 

Camped image

Tuesday 4 August

Late last night the evening gradually became still, without the breeze that blew all day. Under conditions like that it is very tempting to pack up and carry on. Big lakes, such as big water is, means a lot of exposure to wind and waves, so when the going is good, you should often take advantage of ideal paddling conditions as when the conditions change you could be wind or weather bound for days at a time, for instance 4 days. But last night, we stayed put having put in three good days. This morning we woke to a calm and foggy and cool airs. The slight wind was again NE. The water surface was flat. A seal swam by checking us out. A raptor got chased away by a seagull. Sans rain gear the fog misted our upper bodies. Our legs were tucked under the canoe spray deck or skirt. 

The Big Lake. Calm. Mist. image

Navigating was easy as we followed the shoreline. Some bugs pestered us. At times the lake surface was covered with a recent hatch of what I'll call mayflies. 

We stopped at the cabin near James Point, which we think is a Bake Lake HTO cabin (hunters and trapper organization). The scenery continues to be pretty with lots of contours. 

Before stopping for lunch the sealift tug and tow pass us eastbound. Lunch was at noon on a wonderful granite outcrop with orange lichen. We also collected a good quantity of musk oxen wool. The wind also picked up a bit. 

The remainder of the shoreline and land flatten out, gone are the contours. With poor camping in the area and near ideal paddling conditions, we headed north cutting across the bay, pausing at the tiny rock island. 

Alone the North shore, there were several cabins. We stopped at one. Shortly after 3 p.m. we where investigating our camping options and the cabins at the Ketyek River. The Ketyek is of interest as a possible canoe route/river. So, we are near Jigging Point. 

Wednesday 5 August

We were in no rush this morning, slowly moving and rolling out of the tent. Before we knew it, we were both in the Mantis making preparations for morning tea and coffee, while still half asleep. Without the need to pack up our in-tent contents we were out and at breakfast before we were mentally ready. Breakfast was simple, granola and a double round of hot drinks. We both read our books at leisure. 

By 10 a.m. I was solar charging and had washed my sleep shirt and boot socks. I fuelled the stove and was planning a hike. 

Off I went. I walked upriver a fair distance to get a view of the high sided contours. The tundra was excellent for hiking but I was very chilled by the air and wind for I had shed my fleece. Then I headed overland for the isthmus heading towards Jigging Point. There lies an excellent camping location. From the base I climbed over 50 metres. The view and breeze was nice. The cloud cover was replaced with blue skies and my chill turned to overheating. There is a faint but noticeable ATV track on top of Jigging Point. The rock is most interesting. Signs of Inuit stone structures, in general, abound Baker Lake. Up top there was an Aluminum Survey type marker. 

Map of Jigging Point image

On the way back I descended and saw signs of old raptor nests (two). Sik siks were seen and heard throughout my hike. I headed for the point near our camp where a cabin was located. Near it there were outstanding Inuit stone structures included double and triple attached tent rings. The cabin was in pretty good shape. 

On the final return trek to camp I walked past bear tracks in the sandy beach. 

Back at camp we prepare the trout we had caught. We had fish and potatoes. A small fish feast. 

We decided that the calm waters were too tempting to pass up. After a nap we packed up camp and paddled on. To my surprise, the lake was calmer and much warmer, too hot, once away from shore. As we paddled a couple of motorboats passed us as well as the sealift ship (fuel tanker). 

Our idea was to round Jigging Point and camp. We found the camping poor but saw our first kayak stands of the trip. Again, due to the still evening, we paddled onward towards the inner bay. En route we stopped at an interesting site, complete with wheel barrels, wagons and sleds. “This must be Baker's soapstone site that we had heard of.” On the ground we picked at off cuts of soapstone. 

I little further we stopped for the night and got at cooking supper and then erecting the tent. It must have been after 7 p.m. when we arrived. 

Thursday 6 August

Being in no rush this morning and after our later arrival, we were slower to rise today but it was still before 8 a.m. that we got things on the go this morning. First hot drinks, although it was already warm out. Then granola. Finally we enjoyed a second round of coffee and tea while we read our books. 

The next order of business was hike, back towards where we saw the soapstone depot on the shoreline. We headed high and followed the ridge, which included an on and off ATV trail. There is an old camp, for lack of a better term, on the top of the ridge. From there we poked around a fair bit looking for the quarry. We did our own searching and saw a hare, but no quarry. On the return we stumbled across a very old track and once we followed it we were able to find the quarry area. 

There were several small areas that had been dug and chipped away at. Some rock was removed with a drill, others by S-Mite. There did not appear to be much soapstone around to the naked and untrained eye but it was interested to poke around for a bit before heading back to our camp for lunch and to pack up camp. 

Our afternoon was an easy dozen kilometres. The big lake was calm. Not smooth but slow rolling small waves. The winds were light to start and slackened off to the point that we were both overly hot. 

In general the exposed shoreline is rugged and rough, not well suited for camping. We tucked ourselves deep into a bay and camped on a raised coarse sand beach. It was before 4 p.m. Of course, there are Inuit signs abound including kayak stands and a wooden cabin, to which I closed the door. 

It was warm enough that we sought the shade outside of the Mantis. We both washed bodies and clothes. A couple of motorboats sped past today, always some distance from shore. And the sealift fuel tanker sailed past heading easterly. In the later evening the black flies were abundant. 

Shade of the Mantis image

Friday 7 August

Well, it's Saturday. Yesterday morning we looked at the lake conditions and stayed put. We were a bit keen to move, and it would have been possible with only the odd whitecap. But we stayed put. 

Both of us read and then napped. After lunch it was more of the same, resting, reading, and a nap. In the mid afternoon I hiked up to the ridge to the East. It yields a great 360-degree view. The ridge itself had one inukshuk. The walk there had a lot of recent tent rings and what I would call garbage and debris. Strange, but this vast lake could do with a shoreline clean-up, similar to highway clean-up program. 

On the return trek I saw a big hare. It looked in very good shape. 

Before supper I finished John Wyndham, The Chrysalids. I've read my four books so I pulled out Gone Girl from the annex pack. I'll give it read. 

After supper at about 8 p.m. we assessed the lake and weather conditions. No whitecaps so we decided to pack up. Within minutes the black flies were out in full force. The transition to bad black flies was very quick. The last couple of days, maybe with the warmer temperature, black flies have made their debut. 

We were on the water paddling within the hour, broadside to large rolling waves. The winds were fine. For two hours I paddled hard as the bright sun slow dipped below the horizon and left the shoreline silhouetted. The Akutuak River mouth did not look inviting to us in twilight. We continued onward canoeing towards our second option, the sheltered bay just west of the river's mouth. There we pulled across in an excellent tiny causeway and quickly found a tent site. I was asleep before midnight. The locals call this area Twin River. 

Saturday 8 August

We were quick to start moving, as the wind was not blowing the tent, out and packing up the tent. For speed, we also did an open-air kitchen for breakfast. I ate and drink facing the wind. Standing as well to gain as much height as possible for whatever air movement there is. 

Then we walked over to view the river rapids at the mouth. As expected, it's a small river. Near our tent site there were Inuit stone structures, noticeably kayak stands.

Kayak stands image

Before 9 a.m. we were back and pushing the canoe off into the big lake. The waves were down in size and the wind light. The sun beat down on us and whenever the wind calmed it was too hot. We neared the point (Ingilik Point) and started to see more cabins. Around noon we stopped for lunch and did a walk about checking out a cabin site not too far in the distance. It was good to stretch our legs. 

Back on the water the light breeze and soaking my hat kept the temperature okay. The odd motorboat sped by some distance off. 

By 2 p.m. or so we were approaching the Prince River mouth. We walked around to find a place to camp. We could see ATV movement on the West shore. There is a road in the works from the hamlet of Baker Lake and for all we know, it may be completed. Two motorboats fished in the river as we pulled out and started to make camp. 

As we arrived, the wind switched around from the South to the North. Our timing was good. Without the wind the black flies are bothersome due to their quantity in numbers. 

So here we are, with time in hand. Our plan remains Baker Lake on Tuesday. We have less than 20 km to go. Done almost 500 km. It has been a big loop.

The North wind blows hard. The sun is behind clouds. The evening meal is done. Michael, Martha, and two kids arrived by motorboat to fish. Out for the day from Baker. They caught two trout at "Twin River”. 

I messaged Helen of Baker Lake Lodge via the inReach and she replied re the weather. Rain Tues/Wed so we may move Monday instead of Tuesday to Baker, if the conditions are favourable. 

We hear sandhill cranes calling during supper and into the evening. With the northern winds the temperature is down, as are the bugs! Yeah. Time to start a new book.

Sunday 9 August

The morning was slow to arrive. After it rained last night. We slept soundly until 9 am. Then we slowly got organized and moved from the tent to the Mantis. The northerly wind was strong and cool but once in the tarp shelter it was pretty good. 

Then we made a breakfast decision, in part on what we had on hand in the food pack we are using. We had thought of making a slow cook potatoes and eggs but it was with the canoe at the water's edge so instead we made oatmeal with dried cherries as well as a cranberry and raison scone (bannock) complete with another serving of hot drinks. 

I also washed some clothes so that they would dry before my planned day hike. We both bathed last night. 

By 12:30 p.m. I was off to hike the three peaks or hilltops in the area. One is named (Akilahaarjuk Mountain) and has a marked elevation of 89 metres. The beginning was up the Prince River. I could see some cached boats and canoes on the other side. As I climbed blueberries were nibbled on.

The hiking view image

Up top and walking into the wind the bugs stayed away. I passed some caribou bones and skulls. Further on lots of sik siks were out keeping a watchful or curious eye. As I approached the second ridge the wind dropped and my head net came out. From there to the last hilltop there were ancient beach ridges to follow. All in all, it was easy walking. 

There was a gravesite on top of the last climb. From there I descended to two cabins on the bay shoreline. They appear to be in use, several caribou rib cages and drying racks with the common disarray and usual garbage and debris all around. 

I followed an ATV track back and walked the high water mark. 

We fished up to the rapid but no bites, no followers, and no fish caught or seen. 

We rotated the Mantis as the wind is now off the water from the SW. The light breeze only keeps the black flies at bay while facing it. The warmer daytime temperature may also make the bugs more active. 

I napped and then wrote my journal before exiting the tent for drinks with olives. Oh the things we pack!

Monday 10 August. 

Hard to believe we will be home soon. We woke to stillness. It was quiet. Even the rapid from upstream could be heard.

Over breakfast a sik sik visited and sandhill cranes flew by. Their call is so distinct. 

We left the beautiful Prince River campsite, sandbars and grand views, to follow the shoreline all the way to the Hamlet of Baker Lake. The camping with cabins continued as the lake is peppered with cabins. 

The clear sky was bright and it warmed our backs. The slight breeze and cooler early morning temperatures kept the bug count reasonable. When we stopped to stretch our legs or for lunch our bodies cooled and we felt chilled. Back on the water, our effort of paddling and the sun warmed us up. Nearing Baker, within view of the new large tank farm and the sealift-docking site we heard a peregrine falcon. Then we saw the chicks, and the other adult partner of the nesting pair. We could see three white chicks out of the nest, and a forth around the corner, four chicks in total. 

Chicks image

Next was passing the sealift, which consisted of three tugs and two barges.

As we cruised the Baker Lake shoreline we saw many larger aluminum hull boats with good-sized motors. It should be easy to find someone to do a motorboat pick-up. 

We stopped in at the Visitor Centre but the young girl did not know much about the canoe campground. We called the Hamlet office and then Environment’s Wildlife office. We ask Russell to open up the canoe campground building and the one toilet that was in okay condition. Once there we found what looked like two groups camped. Three hard shells looking like a Widji group and two PakBoats. 

After canoeing over to the old church and portaging to Baker Lake Lodge instead of tenting, we walked back and found two Widji girl groups, both were on the Thelon (Elk to Thelon and Sifton to Hanbury to Thelon). 

We dried out all of our kit and hope to rebook our flights to depart earlier than Thursday. 

inReach trip stats image

Tuesday 11 August

I finally rebooked our tickets. We are booked on the afternoon flight.

Packing for the flight and off the see David Ford to return the bear spray and hand off our remaining white gas stove fuel. 

Once at the airport we visited with the two Widji girl groups. Our flight was cancelled due to low cloud in Baker, although from the ground all looked well. 

We called Helen at Baker Lake Lodge. We are back for another night, at our cost because the flight was cancelled due to weather. 

Wednesday 12 August

I need to finish my journal! Basically, it was slow process flying back to Winnipeg with more delays.