Lockhart-Hanbury-Thelon 2

CanadaNorthwest TerritoriesHudson
Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Allan Jacobs
Trip Date : 
Additional Route Information
Distance: 
1258 km
Duration: 
40 days
Loop Trip: 
No
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
14
Total Portage Distance: 
9 m
Longest Portage: 
4 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Advanced
Lake Travel: 
Advanced
Portaging: 
Difficult
Remoteness: 
Advanced
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Unknown
Route Description
Technical Guide: 

Warburton Bay of MacKay Lake, Lockhart River, Aylmer, Clinton-Colden and Sifton Lakes, Hanbury and Thelon Rivers to Baker Lake

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

Editor’s notes:
Ted Mellenthin is a highly experienced white-water paddler; some of the rapids run on this trip should be portaged or lined by most recreational paddlers.
This report, originally a personal account in typewritten form, was not prepared for posting at CCR; as a result, some information is not easily available.
Some errors were introduced by the scanning process.
The report is posted also in Nunavut Canoe Routes.

Title of report: Tundra Love

Route: MacKay Lake (Warburton Bay), Hanbury and Thelon Rivers, Baker Lake

Year paddled: 1999

Distance/Duration: 1258 km, 40 days

Author: Freda Mellenthin

Introduction:

How much could I expect of life as a widow near retirement age? How much is still in store for me during my "golden age" years? As it turned out, lots! It is never too late for adventures, provided we have some spirit left in us. This is what happened to me:
In October 1998 I met a man very much to my liking. He was the absolute outdoor type who spent all his recreational time in white-water canoeing. In fact, he was such a dare-devil that he confessed to me much later that, if he had not met me, he would probably have killed himself in extreme white water.
Ted and I had the ripe age of one hundred and twenty-five years together. Our relationship was very close from day one, although we lived over 1000 km apart, he in Calgary and I in Vancouver. We saw each other every two weeks, and in between our telephone wires got hot every evening. Soon we started going on short canoe trips in Burrard Inlet. We snow-camped on the shores of the Squamish River in February. As an absolute novice to canoe paddling I received my first canoe instructions. A teacher by profession, I often felt like a slow learner. Soon we started planning for a paddling vacation in the summer. I had always wanted to visit the extreme north, the Tundra. By the end of February we had decided on the Hanbury/Thelon trip, which would be Ted's fifth trip to the tundra.

Feverish preparations began immediately: sewing a sail and constructing a mast for the 18' canoe, buying maps, learning to use a GPS (global positioning system), reading other canoeists' reports, designing a buggy for the portages, and again and again questioning ourselves: "Are we doing the right thing"? Ted's canoe friends were very skeptical: "You want to take a novice paddler to the Tundra"? "That little lady? She is only five foot one"! "Twelve hundred odd kilometers? You are crazy"! "You are going to spoil your relationship. Make sure you carry your own return ticket!" For a while we were probably topic number one for a lot of friends and relatives. However, nothing could deter us from our plan now and our preparations continued.

Finally, on July 2nd we arrived in Calgary for last-minute preparations. All our gear was together, and the food for forty-two days individually packed and stowed away in two water-tight barrels; on July 6th we were finally on the road to Yellowknife.

Now my diary of this incredible trip can really start.

Tuesday, July 6, 1999

We arrived in Yellowknife at 9:00 p.m. after a two-day drive from Calgary, Alberta. We saw Alexandra Falls and Louise Falls on the Hay River, spectacular! We also delivered an 18-foot canoe to Pat and Jesse Jasper. Pat let us sleep in her camper and also drove us to Thelon Air.

Wednesday, July 7

Had breakfast at Pat's, very hospitable! Went to Royal Bank, Canadian Tire, Prince of Wales Museum, had a meal in a family restaurant, registered with the RCMP, and drove to our plane, a Beaver of Thelon Air. We loaded all our gear into the plane, 500 pounds! Finally at 4:30 p.m. we took off towards the north-east, a two-hour ride to Warburton Bay on MacKay Lake. On the flight, the trees became smaller and smaller to finally give way to the true Tundra, low-growth shrubs, endless lakes and ponds. We saw two houses in one hour, one bush fire, and no animals. We unloaded the plane; the pilot Dennis waded through the water to anchor the plane. I helped unload it. Then Dennis carried me on his back to shore. We set up our tent (our bedroom) and our mosquito tent (our living room). In the latter we have a table and two brand new chairs. The air smells so good. The only sound is the buzz of the mosquitoes. We are camping on an esker. The lake is calm and beautiful. Sunset is at 1:00 a.m. and sunrise at 2:00 a.m. This afternoon our excitement when loading the canoe rose to a point where it was easy to make a mistake and forget something. One of us has to remain levelheaded!

Thursday, July 8

Our first paddling day! We woke up at 7:30 a.m., had breakfast, porridge and eggs. A beautiful sunny morning. We packed and were en route at 10:15 a.m. The American couple from Wyoming, also flown in yesterday, passed us, but later we overtook them. Around noon there was a shower which we spent under a tarp on an island, eating muffins and other snacks. The mosquitoes were very active and left traces on our faces and especially Ted's head. In the afternoon we had a north-east wind and made some use of our sail. For a while we went 5 km per hour. Our GPS kept us on our course. We heard loon laughter and some other bird noises. Ted cast his fishing rod and got a big trout within two minutes. Later we let it go and caught a smaller, younger one. We stopped paddling at 7:00 p.m. and set up camp on a peninsula. I filleted the fish, and as soon as I had thrown its guts into the water, a seagull arrived from nowhere and started feeding on it. We hiked up a hill to scout our route for tomorrow, but were too tired to go all the way. We lost our water container/shower with which Ted had been hoping to have some fun when holding it up for my showering activity. 27 km today

Friday, July 9

This morning at breakfast we decided to take the detour route instead of doing the portage to Portage Bay, since we had hiked up from our campsite yesterday and had seen how difficult the terrain might be. It was a good decision because this way the wind blew from the right direction and we sailed all day. In fact, the wind was so strong that there were whitecaps on stretches of open water. The boat takes waves very well and sails beautifully, if steered properly. At times Ted could barely hold the direction and therefore could not assist with paddling. We had to find a narrow channel through the islands, the only existing passage. Ted is doing the navigation very well with the help of the GPS and the compass. He sometimes makes errors but corrects them very quickly and always keeps the overall picture and direction in mind. I had an upset stomach and we had to land on an island so I could relieve myself. That turned out to be a blessing because from that viewpoint we could see our route for the detour. This morning we lost one of our table knives, and this evening, when setting camp we noticed that Ted's lifejacket was gone, but we still have a floater jacket for him. It got so cold this afternoon, because of the wind, that we had to wear our floater jackets. We sailed through the 8 km channel with our feet up, enjoying the scenery. I received some instruction about prying and drawing in a rather military fashion. I am not a very gifted student when it comes to practical things, but rather a slow learner. We saw a fishing tent and motorboat used for rich people who want to go fishing in remote areas. We arrived at our camp at 7:30 p.m. The mosquitoes were more peaceful than yesterday; we had rice and wieners, and then made a hike up to the top to investigate some caves. We saw several man-made stone structures, where Inuit had put rocks on top of each other for who knows what reasons. Sometimes there were small rocks supporting a huge one. Ted and I get along very well and despite of my low canoeing IQ, he is very grateful that I came along to the Tundra. 30 km

Saturday, July 10

We left camp at 10:30 a.m. and arrived at 7:30 p.m., through very rough water and strong wind. We had to navigate towards the tip of the land to go around Nodinka Narrows. The shore was very rocky and breakers very high. There were whitecaps and deep troughs, and some waves were up to 8 feet high. We had the sail up and Ted provided a rudder via his paddle. It was dangerous and we were not using our floater jackets, a no no which we are not going to do again! On the last stretch I got wet up to my waist and very cold. When we landed around the point I was shivering. Ted was very concerned and immediately got out some of my dry clothes. We had hot tea and an hour's rest in the sun without mosquitoes because of the wind. When we finally continued, we both wore our floater jackets with the beavertails buttoned around. We had to cross Mackay Lake on open water to the north shore. The wind was weaker now, almost no whitecaps, but still rough and very good fast sailing, just 40 minutes to cross over. From then on it was good smooth sailing on the north shore past many bays, sailing from point to point. Ted said that it was critical for a while, but I didn't notice. When we set up camp after 8:00 p.m., the sun got hot all of a sudden and the mosquitoes ate us alive. When you lie in the tent during a windless night, you hear steady raindrops on the tent walls, but in reality it is the mosquitoes dropping on the tent.
We hiked to the top of a hill, and later added up the kilometers we had accomplished already; it is 85 km in three days, not counting all the zig-zagging yesterday. That's good, especially for the beginning when the muscles are not yet very strong.
I have to learn the proper manoevering strokes! There are two kinds of draws, the dynamic one when you don't move much forward, and the stationary one, when you do move fast. Today in high waves when Ted screamed ”draw" because we were in trouble, I did not hold the grip on top properly, and I did not recognize that I had to draw with my arm stretched out because we were not moving much. The draw was necessary to keep the balance! I had better learn fast! 28 km

Sunday, July 11

I woke up an hour later than Ted. He will have to wake me up from now on; otherwise we are not able to leave at 10:00 am, which he does not like very much. We only left at 11:00 a.m., then had to return to straighten out the load in the boat, because there was no room for my right foot. Ted was not amused. But it was a beautiful day with the sun shining on the water, and white friendly clouds on the northern horizon. We had a lot of wind-assistance in our paddling. We paddled across many bays, always from point to point, with usually a small gust of wind in the middle of the bay. Towards late afternoon we paddled beyond map #1 and had to stop to get out map #2. The transition from map #1 to #2 was difficult and confusing. At one point we paddled too far into a bay instead of to the next tip. Our planned route was to cross over to the south shore now, but we decided to stay on the north shore longer because we did not want to cross too long a stretch of open water. Tomorrow we'll be able to cross over on a narrower spot of the lake. Ted gave me some stroke instructions, but became too impatient when I did not get it right. I understand that I have to improve for the rivers, which we'll hit in 3 weeks, but like other students I get confused when the teacher becomes impatient. I told him that I would have got fired from my job, if I had treated slow learners in a similar fashion. Poor Ted! He felt so guilty after that! We paddled till 10:00 p.m. today, i.e. 8 hours, because we could not find a campsite in the mosquito-infested swamp. We also wanted to find the mouth of the Snake River and therefore went on and on. It did not bother me because the evening was beautiful, with calm water, occasional light sailing, a lot of paddling, warm weather, peace everywhere. At one point we saw a battered aluminum canoe stranded on the shore. Ted tried some fishing close to our camp destination. The mosquitoes were on the water, swarming around us like crazy, and the fish jumped everywhere. He got a fish, but it jumped off the hook when Ted had him almost in the boat. Finally in camp, Ted thought that I must be tired after such a long day and tried to do everything for me, fetching whatever I needed. He was tired himself, I am sure, but he can't quite believe how much endurance I have. Nevertheless, it is wonderful to be looked after so well and be spoiled, as I never was before. 40 km

Monday, July 12

Today we started at 11:15 a. m. with the mosquitoes in full swing. We crossed bay after bay to find the one from which we wanted to cross to the south side. Sailing was not too good. Then a storm came up and we had to land to wait it out. Positioning ourselves was difficult since we have no more waypoints in the GPS on this side. The storm died down faster than expected although we would have liked to keep some wind. Finally we had arrived at the right spit from which to cross over. The water was very still and it was a very peaceful crossing. Then rain started and it got quite cold. We landed in a bay of the south shore and camped right at the edge of the water on a gravel bar. Ted saw bear droppings here but so far we have only seen geese, sea gulls, loons, some little birds and a ground squirrel. We saw several holes of dens though, and a spot where a bear must have dug for something to eat. The tundra is in bloom, forming a carpet of white and pink flowers, it is alive and beautiful. I did my first laundry. 30 km (GPS)

Tuesday, July 13

We packed and loaded and were ready to go at 10:00 a.m. for the first time; but while we were packing, the wind became stronger and stronger, and whitecaps appeared everywhere on the water. So we decided to wait a while and went for a hike into the tundra. We looked at animal holes, speculated as to who lives down there and even found relatively fresh bear droppings, where a bear must have dug up some sic-sics, a sort of a ground squirrel. We took our time, sat on a big rock and discussed parts of our past. The wind became stronger and stronger. Leaving now became impossible, so we took out the tent again, put it up with mattress, sleeping bags and all, and decided to have a snooze. I am not used to naps, but it worked! We woke up nice and cosy in the tent, but outside the wind was still howling and the lake was very noisy. No chance to go now, we were wind-bound for the whole day. I read the report on the Hanbury/Thelon that Ted had bought at the information center in Yellowknife. Then I did some sewing, first a thumb protector for Ted's sore thumb out of a nylon sock, then elastic into the sleeves of my fleece jacket and a small patch on the screen of the tent where Ted had ripped it by accident. At one point the wind had died down a bit, so we decided to make supper and then go. But the peace did not last long. New gusts of wind whipped up high waves and we went out quickly to put more rocks on the extension of the tent fly, secure the boat better, set up our bed again and settle down for a night's rest, yet prepared to leave as soon as the weather calms down, even at midnight. 0 km

Wednesday, July 14

We woke up at 8:30 a.m. with the wind howling, the tent shaking and the waves splashing high. Another wind-bound day? We are having breakfast in our cosy tent, cooking in the vestibule under the tent fly. Ted is doing some map work, figuring out how many km we have done already. Our mosquito bites have a chance to heal a bit, since the beasts are resting in the cold weather. I have a small blood-shot spot on my eyelid which is becoming lighter. Ted and I had a very good time together, talking about our past, getting to know each other closer, sleeping, eating, talking, sleeping. I have not slept that much in years. 0 km

Thursday, July 15

Ted woke me up at 6:00 a.m. "Hey, the winds have subsided a bit, let's pack and go!" I looked over the lake and saw whitecaps and gray sky. One gets lazy after two days of rest. Should we go? Or will another squall whip up the water and give us trouble? We packed and were ready to go at 8:00 a.m. Ted had to line the canoe to get out of the big rocks on the beach, then we were on our way. It is windy and miserable, but we are sailing through some whitecaps and deep troughs, aiming towards the corner where the waters of Mackay Lake feed the Lockhart River. First came a very mild rapid (almost not one), but a bit farther a tight wild one. My first rapid ever! After running the first part of the rapid, Ted, the master white-water specialist, manoeuvers us with the help of some rough commands into the first eddy. We get out and scout the rest of the rapid, which goes around a bend. Ted makes a master plan in his mind how to navigate it around troughs and boulders. Will the crash course he gave me work? We paddle out of the eddy into the current. Is it ever fast! We speed through a deep trough. A curler wave stands up in front of me and pours into the bow and all over me. I confront it head on, and a moment later we are already in a peacefully flowing river, the noise of the rapid behind us still in our ears. My first white-water experience - exciting and also scary. Normally you do such things in your twenties, not in your sixties. We continue on Lockhart River, and after a while spot some caribou, the first ones on our trip. Then two hours later, we witness one of the tundra miracles, a herd of way over a thousand caribou passing over the mountain. We land to watch it; we climb up the hill and sit on a rock, letting the herd pass close to us. They are following ancient caribou paths down the hill towards the water. The first one jumps into the river and swims across. One by one, in pairs, babies, mothers, bucks, all follow. What a spectacle! Back to our boat, we continue our trip to the next rapids close to an esker. We scout it and decide to run half of it and portage the other half, which is a 9-foot waterfall with a deep hole. We have to walk back and forth four times; Ed. note: distance?). After that we continue to paddle up to midnight, along Outram Lake into which the Lockhart River feeds. What a day! Sailing in a wind, running two rapids, watching a huge caribou herd! And a good meal! In the evening two wolves follow on the tracks of the herd. Ed. Note: Distance?

Friday, July 16

We left camp at 11:15 a.m., too late, but yesterday we had a 14-hour day. We paddle against headwinds towards the end of the lake. We can hear the rapid at the outlet of the lake long before we are there. Close to the current we are stuck in a rock garden. Ted leaves the boat right there with me in it, and wades across the rocks to scout the rapid. After a long time during which I am afraid that the canoe will take off with me, he comes back with the decision not to run it. It could be run, but it is too much of a chance with a heavily loaded canoe and a novice paddler in the bow, a wise decision for which I am thankful! We try out our portage wheels for the first time, leaving everything in the canoe. They work all right except that we have to unload the two big barrels and get them later. We pull and push it across the tundra for 300 meters. The mosquitoes are wild. A bear must have been here for fishing not too long ago by the looks of the fresh droppings. Finally we are back in the boat to paddle the second part of Outram Lake to the end where the last rapid, not hard, is run easily. Then we are in Aylmer Lake, headwinds, no sailing, but a beautiful landscape. We rest for an hour, paddle till 8:00 p.m., hike up a mountain and admire a 360-degree view of the Tundra. On top we find an old paddle stuck in some rocks. Then finally we camp on a gravel bar; Ted catches a fish. We make a fire, have some interesting and controversial discussions and finally retire at 1:00 a.m.
25 km (no sailing)

Saturday, July 17

We got up at 6:30 am. but only started paddling at 10:30 a.m. We did a lot of extra little things before packing, such as a fire for cosiness, and frying & eating fish caught the evening before. I repacked one barrel and put the hiking boots at the very bottom; I washed my hair and both our safari pants; as a result, we missed two hours of good wind and didn't have lunch until 2:30 p.m. After lunch a north wind came up which gave us a headwind and high waves. It took us 1 1/2 hours to make 2 km around the comer with very heavy paddling, Ted had a hard time holding the boat and preventing it from running into the cliffs.
At lunch he had shown me again how to take a new compass bearing, but got very frustrated when I wanted to try a different way of making sure that the lines are parallel to the map grid. We finally paddled around the comer into the bay. The 5 km crossing ahead was impossible with such a wind. Ted was beat and very tired and also depressed, thinking we have to camp here at only 5 p.m. "We will never make it to Baker Lake", he lamented. I suggested to eat first and go on afterwards. Men usually calm down when you give them something to eat!
We had soup, pancakes and spiked tea on a cliff with a beautiful view and quite spiritual discussions. Thus fortified, we started the crossing at 7:50 p.m. with no wind and a beautiful evening, warm feet, a spectacular sunset at 10:30 p.m. and record paddling. It was so good that we decided to go another 6 km to the next way-point, which was also the tip from which we had to make a big crossing the next day. We found a campsite at 12:15 a.m. It was cold after the sun had disappeared. When we finally crawled into the sleeping bags, our hands and feet did not warm up for a long time. But we had made 40 km today and will be off Aylmer Lake tomorrow night. The night was so cold that I had to put on my sweater. 40 km

Sunday, July 18

Butzi's birthday - Happy Birthday Burchard Mark Olaf! I hope you got my present, the newsletter "Insight". Wake up at 7:50 a.m. Some mosquitoes have worked overnight and taken a meal from my legs. Nice moving with a good wind. We have to get going fast! We left at 10:15 a.m. to do a big crossing leading us towards the end of Aylmer Lake. After two hours of paddling we can't find our direction; is it a bay we are going towards? We don't want to go into bays and paddle hours longer, but want to take the shortest route. The bays are so wide that you often cannot see the other end. We have lunch on a little island and reorientate ourselves. Good thing we did! After lunch a wind comes up and for the rest of the day, except for one hour later on, we sailed in the wind until after 1:00 a.m. It was simply too good to give up. Let me recall the details: we found the exit of Aylmer Lake; when we were in the channel to Clinton-Colden Lake, what did we see? Three motorboats approaching, the first outside human contact since 11 days ago. They were from a fishing lodge nearby and had tourists in their boats. On Clinton-Colden Lake we had headwinds and worked extremely hard for one hour. We wanted to give up and stopped, just to find out that we were about to paddle into a bay instead of heading east. The eastern direction gave us back our sailing wind. Instead of quitting at a normal evening hour, we had a quick snack and then crossed a 6 km bay. We had full intention to camp on the other side, but could not find a suitable spot. The ice had pushed huge boulders on the shores with low swamps behind. At 1:30 a.m., we finally had the tent up on a cliff, sitting in the tent opening with a night snack, our "happy hour". 58 km today, 313 in total.

Monday, July 19

We woke up at 8:30 a.m. and took it easy in the morning, Ted had a headache. Suddenly he said: "There is a paddler coming towards us". And really, 15 minutes later a canoeist, a fifty-six-year old man from New Mexico, gave us a brief visit and tried to make us believe that his name is "Sky". He went in the opposite direction. A little later a strong wind came up and we were wind-bound the rest of the day. I hope Sky crawled into a hole on time before the wind got him! Inside the tent Ted took his camera lens and my binoculars apart because both had water in them. Now we can't use them anymore because we don't have the right instruments to fix them. I did the laundry, we went for a one-hour walk, and we talked, ate and had a very relaxing and tender time. Ted's beautiful white fleece sweater is slowly changing color, his beard is growing and he can be such a sweetheart! We went to bed at 8:20 p.m., prepared to get up any time the wind has died down. I already prepared lunch for tomorrow. 0 km

Tuesday, July 20

Ted woke me up at 2:30 a.m. "Hey, Freda, the wind has died down, let's go!" I was game right away. Instead of cooking porridge, we ate the pumpernickel sandwich I had made yesterday and drank tea from our thermos bottle. We packed and were ready to go at 3:30 am. It was cold and still quite windy. We sailed very fast through the first 4 km, but across the next bay the wind had changed and we had to fight against it very hard. There were whitecaps and deep troughs. My right arm and leg got wet through all the waves. We finally made it to an island and landed, both very cold and exhausted. It was 5:30 am. We found a wind-sheltered spot in the big rocks and cooked our porridge and coffee. After we were warm and comfortable again, we set out into a much calmer lake, but with still enough wind to sail up to 7 km an hour. We had quite a few crossings of 6 to 8 km. to do from point to point. Hour after hour we sailed, paddle-assisted by Ted and me. Ted does all navigating and he is so good at it! Once we landed on a peninsula to investigate a smashed camp. There were cooking utensils, empty booze bottles, appliances, gas-containers, tarps, etc. I picked up a teaspoon and a table knife, because we had lost ours, also a plastic cutting board which I need to cut up the fish that Ted catches. We finally came to the end of Clinton-Colden Lake and found the outlet easily thanks to Ted's direction. The lake got narrower and narrower until we reached the famous crossing where Hornby had gone down towards Ptarmigan/Artillery Lake.
Here was our last chance to turn back via Great Slave Lake and shorten our trip. But that was no longer an option for us: we were determined to go on to Baker Lake. We passed waypoint after waypoint from our map and finally reached the first portage before crossing over the height of the land where the waters divide into east and west. This portage was very short, about 100 meters, but we had to go three times. Then a bit of paddling across a pond and we had reached the famous Hanbury portage (so we thought), about 500 meters long, which leads us towards the water system that flows into Hudson Bay. We also saw our first herd of muskoxen, about 14 animals, prehistoric-looking, huge hairy-horned cattle. For the portage we went once carrying a load, then for the second trip we put our wheels under the canoe, put all the rest of the equipment into it and pulled the whole thing up the hill and down on the other side. It was hard work, but it was OK. We set up camp close to a small lake. Ted caught a fish around midnight using the canoe, losing my soap which had been sitting on the seat. It was a special midsummer night atmosphere with the pink and dark blue sky and the silhouette of the canoe on the lake. When we had a fresh delicious fish after midnight, Ted said: "People have told me that we will either love or hate each other at the end of this trip, but I know already that we will love each other" ---. We had paddled for 15 hours, including the portages, and had accomplished 50 km.

Wednesday, July 21

We got up late today, but convinced that with yesterday's progress we will make it to Baker Lake in time. What we did not know was that yesterday's portages were not the only ones; the real Hanbury portage, one kilometer long, came up after we had paddled across the small lake for 20 minutes. Discouraged, we unloaded, took one load by hand, then prepared our "Tundra Buggy" and pulled it first uphill, then downhill towards the next lake. By the time everything was loaded for the second time today and ready to go, it was 4:40 p.m. All we had done so far today was this unexpected portage. As we left, we had a strong headwind and paddling was very hard. But we did 15 km into the Hanbury river system, only stopping at the next portage, which is just a few meters long across a narrow peninsula. We unloaded the gear and took it to tomorrow's starting point and camped right there. The mosquitoes were crazy and I saw my first sun dog, a thick, very short rainbow. Ed. Note: Distance ?

Thursday, July 22

Ted woke me up at 4:30 a.m. We cooked porridge, packed and left within the hour. Ahead of us was a very shallow riverbed with huge boulders in it. We did not want to portage again, so Ted got out of the canoe and waded through the ice-cold water, pushing and pulling the boat with the full load and me in it. He wanted to spare me getting wet feet. I felt like a princess! We scratched a few rocks and left some green colour on them. We also noticed some marks of a red canoe on the rocks. The Hanbury River sometimes flows through a lake and sometimes behaves like a river.
We had no head wind and made good progress. Around 2:00 p.m. we stopped for lunch. Ted caught a beautiful Arctic trout and I cooked it with mashed potatoes; it was very good! The rest we had for supper. Later we paddled through Sifton Lake. Around 6:00 p.m. we started looking for a campsite. The shores were too high and boggy, and we paddled from bay to bay while the sky became darker and darker. Suddenly Ted said "Pull in here quickly!" It was not suitable for camping and I was a bit confused, but as soon as we were "parked," a wild storm whipped up the water and high waves formed instantly. It started pouring and we got our tarp out and sat under it watching in awe. Two thunderstorms had come together and unloaded above us. What a spectacle! Ted said he had a premonition to pull in, because as he says; "Somebody up there likes me." My reply, "You better start talking back to him".
After the storm had calmed down, we continued paddling. The landscape is changing, the lakes are smaller and the shores are closing in. We are camped in front of an esker in the sand; the sand is reddish brown and it looks like a southern landscape. Today we passed the 400 km mark; that means we have done one third of the trip. 35 km

Friday, July 23

We had a very restful night; the morning was cold and windy, and it looked as if we would be on our way at 10:00 a.m. Everything but the tent was already dismantled and packed. But the wind became stronger; gusts of wind developed quickly and became stronger and stronger. We took shelter in the tent and had some tea from the thermos. The weather turned into a nightmare and we decided to go to sleep, so the sleeping bag and the thermo mattresses came out again. In the morning our water bucket took off across the bay. Later on we decided to hike to that side and look for it. We found it and used it to collect mushrooms which tasted excellent, simmered in their own juice, "living off the land." While hiking, I slipped and hurt my left knee on a pointed rock in such a way that a sharp pain ran from the knee along my thighbone. It was so painful that I felt sick to my stomach. Ted is a bit angry about my accident because he is worried about it. I hope that it will heal quickly. So far two bumps have formed on the knee and I hope that I can still kneel in the canoe.
Ted is so affectionate and good! He washes the dishes, he is so grateful if you do a little extra thing for him, and he smiles a lot at me. The deeper wrinkles around his eyes have remained white because they are more protected from the sun. But he can't stand it if I do something differently from the way he is used to do it. I'll work around it, no problem, but I'll still keep up my own style and beliefs! Who knows when we will leave today, before or after midnight? In this area of our earth you can travel right through the night during the summer months. 0 km

Saturday, July 24

Ted woke me up at 3:30 a.m. "Come on, let's go!" Within one hour we had packed, loaded the boat, eaten porridge and had coffee. From 4:30 a.m. on we sailed through bay after bay, all part of the Hanbury River which flows in and out of various lakes. It is always hard to find the outlet of a lake, and Ted had a rough time with it. Several times we climbed hills overlooking the river system to find our way. We saw a muskox on a hill looking at our canoe and then positioning himself in the attack pose. It was very cold, not more than one degree; the whole day was cool and windy. Is fall starting here already? I took out an extra sweater and finally solved my problem of permanently cold wet feet; I put wool socks into the neoprene socks. Again and again we had a hard time finding outlets where the Hanbury River comes out. There are so many islands in the lakes and it is not always clear which is an island and which is the mainland; outlets are often behind an island. We had pancakes for lunch. In the afternoon we had to run a rapid which was not marked on the map. Luckily Ted took the sail down in time! A big wave hit me sideways and made my legs completely wet. Earlier on we hit a rock in the middle of a lake because I tried to circumnavigate it on the wrong side. Luckily Ted-built boats are quite resilient! I was very cold until we started camping at 8:30 p.m and I had a chance to change into dry pants. After supper we went for a walk and then Ted caught some fish. A very harmonious, beautiful but cold tundra day was behind us. 50 km today, not counting detours.

Sunday, July 25

I woke up at 9:00 a.m. Ted was already awake and had prepared the coffee and the porridge. He had let me sleep because we had headwinds. Although we have paddled in headwinds several times, at one point we had decided that it does not make sense, because you make very little progress, but spend all your energy. We are in a beautiful spot here, high above the water and with a view over the whole tundra. In the distance we can see muskoxen grazing; the sky is light blue with soft white clouds, a beautiful, bright Sunday. There are no mosquitoes, because the wind is too strong and cold. I took two Advil pills to get a head start against a cold that tries to sneak into my body, perhaps because my legs got very wet in the rapid yesterday and I went on paddling like that. I'll beat it, I am sure! After breakfast I fried the two small trout Ted had caught yesterday. I steamed it with fish spices, two wild mushrooms and two cloves of garlic. I had cut it open to fry it flat. Next time I'll keep the fish whole and try to prepare it Ted's way, to see which method works better. Ted got out the 50,000 maps which we should have done earlier: we would have avoided the many detours around the islands yesterday; these islands are too hard to see on the 250,000 maps. We worked together on the new maps, writing down old and new waypoints. Then I cooked a late lunch, a pancake as large as the pan and one inch thick filled with salami. Around 7:30 p.m. the wind had become weaker; we decided to pack and were on the water at 8:05 p.m., battling a head wind. We paddled the 24 km to the Canyon Rapids. There we ran the beginning, then stopped in an eddy because only part of it can be run with our boat. For a stretch of 50 meters, Ted lined on the right side, which means he holds the canoe on two lines, walks along the shore and pulls or pushes the canoe onwards. The next 50 meters had to be portaged. We unloaded all gear and Ted pulled the empty canoe over the rocks while I started carrying everything over. The last part of the rapid we ran again. The whole rapid took us one hour. We continued paddling until midnight against a headwind, crossing Lac du Bois. At 12:00 a.m. we set up camp where the Hanbury River starts again. I did not know that I was capable of sleeping first during the day, and then again at midnight. That's when it gets dark for about 2 hours. Ted was very cold and beat and I tried to spoil him and make him comfortable. We did 6 km (Ed. Note: ?) and the portage.

Monday, July 26

We slept till 9:30 a.m. and woke up to a very windy day. The wind is going our way, but is very strong! Breakfast at 10:30 a.m., what a life! It is cold outside and we are cooking breakfast in our tent vestibule. You can open the "door" to the vestibule for cooking while you are in bed. At 1:00 p.m. the wind had died down somewhat and we set off. We sailed quickly across the second half of Lac du Bois and reached the first rapid. We ran the first part, then had to line the middle part on the right side and then ran the last part again. Not long after that we came to Grove Rapids which needed to be lined, then portaged on the left side, at least the first part. We made three trips of 500 meters, with heavy loads, sweating but in windy mosquito-free condition. When done, I made a meal out of the mushrooms I had gathered during the portage. We had mushroom stew with mashed potatoes. Ted caught a small fish, which I saved for later. Then we ran the second rapid without a problem. Now, running these rapids is nothing for an experienced white-water paddler like Ted, but it is not for the meek and safety-minded either! After Grove Rapids we had to cross Hanbury Lake with high winds in our favour. We practically surfed across on white-capped waves. At the end we came to Caribou Rapids. Luckily we scouted them from a hilltop, because there were unexpected, unrunnable ledges in it with chutes, tongues and keeper waves. So that became our second portage of the day. It was already 8:00 p.rn. and we woke up all the mosquitoes that had already gone to rest. We found three caribou horns, one completely intact, and made funny photos with them. We did three trips of about 500 meters; the last part of the rapid looked runnable, but had a large boulder garden. Ted had a plan on how to go from the left across to the right, but somehow we did not follow the plan and ended up in the middle, stranded on a big boulder. There was a potential danger of losing the boat. So Ted braved it by getting into the water up to his hips and pushing the canoe, me in it, out of the boulders, pushing, wading, always holding to the side of the canoe, then jumping back in. I was glad that I am not the screaming type! I knew that Ted knew what he was doing, although it was not always clear to me. I was also afraid that he would not make it back into the canoe and I would have to run the rest of the rapid alone. But he got us out of trouble thanks to his expertise and wise decisions. We camped on the right side of the Hanbury River at 10:00 p.m. We had soup and were in bed at midnight. It was cold, with a full orange moon shining on the river. When I got up at 3:00 a.m., there was frost on the ground.
Today we have done three rapids, one lake, two portages, but only 15 km.

Tuesday, July 27

A windy morning, east wind which means headwind and delay for us. I had a complete sponge bath and breakfast in bed, served by sweet Ted. The winds have not yet stopped and it is already 4:20 p.m. We slept twice, had some lunch and slept again. There is rain, some hail, and a wind that tears at the tent fly. It gets between the two walls and makes a loud flapping noise. Ted and I tried to recall our seven portages (Ed. note: 9?) up to here including yesterday's rapids. For future reference it is important to note whether we lined, portaged or ran on the left or right side of a river. Although I was a bit scared when thinking of rapids before I did my first one, they are becoming fun now, but they still make me a bit apprehensive.
So, what is it like to go through a rapid? You are in the middle of white water, which is roaring around you. You fly through it; the tongues of the white waters try to suck you in the wide-open black hole before you. You have to brave the waves and lean into them to stay in the boat. You go through a four to five-foot wave here and there and the water pours over you into the canoe, if you sit in the bow. All the while you try to avoid smashing into an often only partly visible rock. In my case I listen to the commands of Ted in the stern, who has to think for two people. He screams: "Draw, draw hard, sweep, backpaddle, draw or you will die," hoping that I will do the right thing. Then in a flash you are out of it again in calm water and you feel really great.
In the evening the gusts of wind and rain had died down a little and we went for a walk up the esker. We saw some sic-sic playing, brown with black tails. Finally at 7:30 p.m. we had loaded the canoe and were on our way again. We first battled a strong headwind, then sailed a little, and then paddled again. Soon we came to a rapid with two ledges right across. Ted and I unloaded the canoe, and then Ted lined it on the right shore over both ledges. We carried the whole gear over and then continued. There was a big lake we sailed through with fairly high side waves, then we paddled again and also had some flow. We stopped for a camp at 11:30 p.m. The evening had a beautiful sunset and a full moon coming up. 15 km

Wednesday, July 28

Twenty days of paddling and 526 km behind us in total. We started paddling at 11:00 a.m. against a headwind; the sky was gray and uninviting. Our route led us through several lakes through which the Hanbury River flows. Sometimes it was hard paddling and sometimes we sailed across a lake. We came to one rapid, scouted it and then decided to line the canoe the first half and run the second half. We had lunch in the sand dunes, formed by eskers which are ancient upheaved riverbeds. We hiked up two equally high esker hills which according to Ted's imagination, looked like giant breasts; we took many photos of the landscape, sand ridges, lakes, and the river. We saw a hawk, some caribou and some muskoxen in the distance. We continued mostly paddling hard, battling the wind. Around 5:00 p.m. we came to a weather station and a government water cabin which was locked, then finally we entered Hoare Lake, very tired and in a bad mood. We decided to cook supper and maybe cross the open water of Hoare Lake later. We made a fire; I cooked soup and a pancake. Then Ted caught a grayling, gutted it, and I fried it. It was very tasty. At about 9:30 p.m. we were ready again to brave the headwind to cross Hoare Lake. The waves were high; the bow was rocking up and down. I counted to a hundred many times before we reached the other shore. It took us l 1/2 hours to cross the lake. Then we paddled around some river bends until we finally stopped to camp at 10:30 p.m. Ed. note: distance?

Thursday, July 29

We got up late and I had breakfast in bed. Earlier I woke up at 5:00 a.m. and had a hard time falling asleep again. I think I heard a grunt twice, but then slept some more. While eating breakfast we suddenly saw a grizzly running down the hill, once looking back at our tent. He was brown with some gray and probably not fully grown. Was that where the grunting had come from in the early morning? Barrenland grizzlies walk for miles and do not know the experience of human encounter. We left at noon - too late - with headwinds all day. But this was the first river-only day, for the Hanbury had finally become a real river instead of the lakes with just a bit of river between them. At 2:00 p.m. we stopped for lunch. Ted caught a big trout and we had mashed potatoes with fish. We had a headwind but good flow. Later we saw a muskox and a wolverine. He was not afraid of us, but stood proudly on shore. We passed through high sand dunes with white fine sand. It looked like a southern landscape. We camped on a sand dune at 9:00 p.m. after 8 hours of paddling. 35 km today, 571 km in total (half our trip).

Friday, July 30

While we were packing in the morning, a wolf came by. He sniffed at our "droppings", then marked them with his scent, then came back very close and looked at us. He was a beautiful big gray animal with amber-coloured eyes. We paddled 2 km to MacDonald Falls where we had to portage, carrying gear on foot and then with the buggy and some gear in it. Then we paddled the 500 meters across the lake and stopped for Dickson Canyon, our main portage of the trip. It is 4 km long and Ted was worried about it for days. It was gruelling, but we managed by carrying loads twice (16 km) and then the canoe. Ted carried it a bit, then Ted and I carried it a bit more, and then we used the buggy the rest of the way. Ted almost didn't use the buggy, except I persuaded him to try anyhow. The canoe was really too heavy to carry 4 km. After all, it had been worthwhile to have carried the Tundra Buggy, designed by Ted, up to here. He pulled the canoe on wheels like a horse, and I held the rear end on a rope attached to it. Yesterday some black flies had slipped into my head net and had bitten me in the eyelid. It is very sore and swollen and baggy today. I am using hot tea bags to soothe it. Ted led the canoe down to the water tonight, while I made supper and arranged our gear, which was scattered all over the place where we had dumped it. He had worked very hard today and needed to be spoiled now. So I served him supper in bed at 11:30 p.m. and retired myself at 12:30 p.m. What a day with two portages! Ed. note: distance?

Saturday, July 31

This morning we let all our gear down the steep embankment at the end of Dickson Canyon. Then we cooked breakfast down by the river. We loaded, but left the Tundra Buggy behind on purpose. It had been very useful yesterday, but it was bulky and heavy in the canoe. The foldable table was already left behind at MacDonald Falls. We ran a rapid, and then, after a few kilometers, we had a portage at Ford Falls of approximately 300 meters over a hill. We went three times. I went too far once with a top heavy backpack that leaned to one side, a bulky cloth bag in one hand and two paddles, a can of camp gas and the gun in the other. I could manage the weight but not the bulkiness. I had to let go and grab the things again every twenty meters to get a better grip. Being too occupied with the handling of it all, I went too far on the worn-out portage trail instead of turning left to where we wanted to put in. I ended up on an esker; there I abandoned part of the stuff to get it later, went back, and finally found the spot where we wanted to load the gear again. I was very frustrated and annoyed with myself, and on top of it, Ted let me know how stupid it had been of me to go too far. I was quite cheesed off! It took me a while to calm down again. The landscape was beautiful with sand dunes on the shores and beautiful weather too. Unfortunately that also meant the mosquito plague, and a real plague it was all day long!
A few kilometers farther down the river we came to Helen Falls, a huge waterfall with high cliffs above. First we paddled as close to the falls as possible. Then Ted hammered a piton into the rocks on the high cliff. Then I had to somehow come down the cliff to receive the gear from above. First I tried to climb down the rock wall, but it was very brittle and receding further down. I realized how dangerous it was and barely managed to get up again. Ted above had observed my attempt with horror and hollered to stop. Up again, I took the regular portage trail and finally arrived on the ledge close to the water to receive the canoe and all the gear which Ted let down the 10-meter cliff on a rope. Down below I untied it. The canoe came last and I had to line it around the comer of a cove where it could be loaded again. All went well on this unusual operation which had saved a two-km portage.
A few 100 meters later down the river there was a ledge, over which we had to portage again, but a very short one. On the other side Ted caught two fish; we had supper and then went on until 10:30 p.m. The same evening we came to the confluence of the Hanbury and the Thelon River. We camped on a flat sand bar with white sand. We had done 30 km today, with two portages and one let-down off a cliff. We now have no more portages or rapids to do for a while, which means a lot less stress, especially for Ted.

Sunday, August 1

Today was our first relaxed paddling day since we started on the Hanbury River. All of Ted's big worries about taking a novice paddler to a white-water river are over. It must have been an enormous pressure for him to take me through all of it. I was not an instant learner, since practical things don't come that easy to me, but a least I did not panic, I always kept my cool.
We sailed a lot along the Thelon today. We had some gusty winds, some calm air, but always the steady current of the mighty Thelon River. Around 1:00 p.m. we came to the historic spot, "Warden's Grove" where Hoare and Knox had spent some winters. The cabins are still there, with kitchen utensils, even tea bags. There is a food cache high up and a canoe stand. Later on a Russian satellite crashed nearby. (Ed. note: this was Cosmos 954; it crashed in 1978, spreading radioactive material from its reactor as it came down).
After this sight we continued paddling until 5:00 p.m. Then we cooked supper on a sandy beach, soup with the rest of the fish from yesterday. From 6:40 to 9:00 p.m. we paddled on. Once we saw two wolf cubs on an island walking along the beach. We passed steep embankments with pine tree stands and grassy islands with sand dunes. I had washed some clothes and my hair this morning while Ted had reorganized our possessions. Now I have to memorize where everything is, since Ted always forgets. Men don't remember details, that's how they are, I guess. Around 9:00 p.m. we found a beautiful campsite where someone had already built a fire pit. The mosquitoes were very active all evening and I kept my bug-shirt closed. Lately we wake up in the middle of the night to scratch the mosquito bites or treat them with Benedryl. It was raining late in the evening, but our tent was already up. 45 km

Monday, August 2

We left at 10:40 a.m. with a slight headwind. Two hours later we arrived at a well-known cairn on the high shore where paddlers hike up to put a message in a hidden bottle. We suspect that a canoeist with a red canoe passed by here one or two days before us, because we saw traces with red paint on several shores where we had put in. In the cairn we found the card of a person who works for St. John Ambulance. Is that the person with the red canoe? Then we hiked up the mountain to find a geodetic mark. There we also had lunch. In the afternoon we came by Hornby Point, named after a pioneer of the North who built a cabin here and starved to death in the winter because he and two friends had tried to live off the land only some fifty years ago. We did not find the remains of the cabin although we looked for a long time. The trees in this little grove were marked by bear claws and I was afraid that we might encounter one of these animals. We paddled till 9:00 p.m. and camped on a gravel island. Across from the mainland we saw a moose grazing. I had read that moose are here, but Ted did not believe me. I am glad he has to believe me now. 38 km today, total of 680 km.

Tuesday, August 3

Yesterday Ted unloaded the canoe and took it out of the water, then turned it upside down to dry it out. He wanted to repair it the next morning, since it had a slow leak, which must have happened on the wild waters of the Hanbury River. This morning it is sunny with a strong headwind which does not make sense to fight. The resin has to dry anyway. So I dismantled the tent, rolled it up, the same with the mattresses. I am not as fast with this job as Ted is, because he usually does this chore. When I had taken the rocks off the edges of the tent fly and the tent door was still open, the wind grabbed the tent and I had to run after it. What a scary experience that will teach me for next time! Ted had back pain yesterday and is on his Robaxisal pills since then. I guess it is from the portages three days ago. He might have a slight inflammation. We left at 11:40 am paddling against a strong headwind with high waves. We had to use all our strength to pull the canoe forward. After 20 km the river turned and we had a better wind. Shortly after lunch we stopped to watch a moose grazing on the high shore. Later on we stopped to climb up to the shore ridge. It was actually a plateau on which we found an old Inuit tent ring. There were also many blueberries and we filled ourselves. The blackflies were with us. Later we passed high steep cliffs that looked like fortress walls, then shores of reddish clay or light brown sand. There was more sailing in the late afternoon and good paddling on a fast moving river. The first signs of fall are here. We saw a flock of geese flying in migrating formation, and the nights are getting longer. After 10:30 p.m. it gets dark fast and it is completely dark around midnight. In the tent we have started to use a head light. Today we found out that our fire-making gadgets are getting scarce, and the waterproof matches do not work well.
Personal hygiene on a trip like this is a bit of a problem and can be handled according to temperament. The water is very cold and we lost our camping shower on the first day. I use the sponge bath method, alternating between body parts. I have also done three laundry washings so far. But changing underwear every day is out of the question. Ted jumps into the cold river, soaps himself quickly, moans and groans and comes out after one ducking. He wears his underwear until he can't stand it anymore and then he digs a hole and discards it. 55 km

Wednesday, August 4

I am very lucky to visit the tundra with a three-fold specialist such as Ted. He is a white-water canoe expert, an expert canoe builder and has become an expert sailor. Together those three gifts make for a safe trip.
We got up at 9:30 a.m. Ted did some more canoe fixing, It was big sailing from the start; the wind was wild, almost too strong for sailing. I did not have to paddle but had to assist with steering the canoe when we drifted off too much. We can sail up to 15 km per hour with our little triangular home-made sail. After 15 km we stopped to look for a famous pingo, which is supposed to be a 4 km hike from the river. A pingo is a super giant ice-cone, which has been heaved up as part of the permafrost from underground. This one is 50 meters high and has several smaller towers on top, which have been carved out by erosion. From 2 km away the pingo looks like an Egyptian pyramid, the highest point in an otherwise flat landscape. We climbed on it and had a super view of the tundra, small lakes, green carpet-like tundra meadows and a few trees here and there, and oh!, the perfume of the tundra, spicy, clean, full of herbal essence! After three hours we were back from our hike. Such a hike can be dangerous because it is very easy to get lost without a compass. There are also mirages, especially at noon; everything looks much bigger than it is. After the hike it was back to sailing again with whitecaps and a speed of 10 - 15 km per hour, going along a south bend of the Thelon River. But after two hours it bent north again and we had the ugliest headwind for 4 km. We visited the so-called Look-Out Cabin, the last warden's cabin which is now burnt down. Finally around 8:00 p.m. the wind became milder and we had some beautiful calm sailing. Ted caught two whitefish at our campsite where we turned in at 9:00 p.m. 55 km today, 790 km total.

Thursday, August 5

We woke up at 9:00 a.m. to a gray and very windy day. We did not hurry too much to get going, because there was a strong headwind. We finally left at 11.20 a.m. and paddled hard all day, but at low speed, fighting the wind and staying close to shore. We passed several islands with beautiful light brown sand. For a short while when the river turned south we were able to sail. A float plane flew above us, the first "human" contact since weeks ago. He tipped his wings to greet us when we waved. The last person we talked to was the paddler "Sky" on July 19, sixteen days ago.
We really are not missing any company. Ted and I communicate very well, and my brain is cluttered with so many faces and voices and places that flash through my mind during the day that this northern twosome solitude is like a cleanser of my mind. Today we quit at 6:00 pm when very strong gusty north winds pushed us ashore. We were very cold and hungry. We decided to call it an early day, put up the tent and made a nice fire from driftwood. Of course the strong wind had to quit after we were already settled! But we had had a hard day and need some leisure sometimes. I made Lipton soup and added the mushrooms Ted brought me. It was good! 27 km today, 817 km in total.

Friday, August 6

We got up at 6:00 a.m. and left at 8:00 a.m. with a strong cold headwind and very cold air; I had to use my glove-mittens and the floater jacket. At one point we only were able to go 2 km an hour because of the wind, so Ted lined the canoe for 2 km with both of us walking on the shore.
We had lunch at 12:00 p.m. but only rested for 25 minutes because it was too cold. Then we paddled and paddled and paddled, often going north against the wind. We saw five moose, one male, one female and three calves. We had some rain and fog in the distance. At 7:00 p.m. we arrived at the government water cabin. This one is open to use. When we arrived, another canoe was already there, what a disappointment! As it turned out, the occupants were a father and son from Guelph, Ontario, Thomas and Philip Jacob. They were very nice and offered to share the cabin with us. There were four bunks, a stove and a lot of food left here by other canoeists. Most of them fly to the confluence of the Hanbury and Thelon, then paddle the Thelon and get picked up at Beverly Lake, the first lake after the Thelon stretch, a trip of two weeks. 50 km today, 867 km in total.

Saturday, August 7

Today we had breakfast in the cabin, pancakes after the porridge. We left at 10:30 a.m., before the other party. Thomas made a photo of us and he will phone Hella to tell her that we are well. The Thelon is going "downhill" through a few easy rapids. Around 2:00 p.m. we met the Jacob party again and had lunch together. We also saw two motorboats speeding across the lake-like Thelon River. They were Inuit looking for moose. I hope they don't get one of the five moose we saw yesterday on Ursus Island! Ted was here nine years ago and saw a lot more game than we are seeing now. We continued and entered Beverly Lake into which the Thelon feeds. The weather was mixed but the wind was mild. Our goal was to cross Beverly Lake this evening, so that we can start through the islands tomorrow. The weather was favourable the first two hours and we paddled hard across open water. Later a wind came up and it started dribbling. There was some difficult navigation through islands instead of going around. We saw two small caribou on one of the islands. We pulled in at 10:30 p.m. just before a heavy rain, seldom seen here, had started. We were cosy and dry in our tent. 60 km today, 927 km in total.

Sunday, August 8

Today we are already on the water for a month, since we started on July 8. There is a strong east wind, which means headwind. We are taking it easy this Sunday morning. I had taken some food packages from the cabin that other paddlers had left for the taking. One was scrambled egg from egg powder. I added two mushrooms. It was good! Later I washed two shirts, one pair of socks and one pair of pants. At 3:00 p.m. the bad weather started to subside. I put the wet laundry into a bag; we packed and started paddling against a mild headwind. Lake paddling is harder than river paddling and slower. The water became smoother by the hour. Ted did a marvelous job paddling between (not around) the many islands at the east end of Beverly Lake. Here the Thelon comes out again and has some flow. Ted took many bearings from our compasses. He insists that I assist him with my compass, yet only he has two sets of maps before him to compare the map to the landscape. But it makes him feel better if I watch my compass too. From time to time he opens the GPS for consultation, but we are on the last set of batteries. Today we saw several caribou, but not more than four at a time. But passing one bay there was such a strong smell of caribou in the air that the big Beverly herd must have crossed there some days ago. We also saw some muskoxen, snow geese and sandhill cranes. At 5:30 p.m. we cooked supper on a sandbar. Then we paddled through the evening with a beautiful sunset. The whole horizon was first orange, then red. The clouds changed into the same colours, and the whole colour scheme reflected in the water. The mosquitoes were active and the fish jumped, sometimes so high that you could see their head out of the water. We stopped paddling at 10:00 p.m. and had the tent ready at 10:30 p.m. As soon as we had settled into the sleeping bag and felt warm and cosy with two times 37 degrees of body heat, it started raining. Our camp is on a very flat gravel pit with lots of caribou and geese droppings around us. 26 km today, 953 km in total.

Monday, August 9

Today we'll reach the end of Beverly Lake paddling through the islands towards the waters of Aberdeen Lake. Ted woke me up with coffee and porridge ready. How nice of him to spoil me like that! We left at 10:30 a.m. and, as soon as we were around the comer, we saw two white tents on the mainland shore. There were some Inuit camping and we paddled over to say "hello". When we landed they came down to greet us, two men and three women, some children and two teenagers. One of them, Vera, offered me tea from her cup right away. We sat down in front of their tent. They had shot two moose yesterday and the heads and some guts were lying around. The two hides were stretched out on the ground to dry in the sun. They offered us moose meat and broth from a big pot. Then we talked and joked a little, and then they showed us tent rings on higher ground, which their ancestors had left there. These are circles of stones that mark where the teepee walls had been. I talked to Philippa about their life nowadays; their language, Inuktiktuk, is often neglected by the children who learn it in school full time until grade 3, and later only one lesson per week. They gave us a cigarette lighter because we are almost out of fire-lighting gadgets. I took many pictures.
We left after a two-hour visit. It was good sailing for a while, although we got stuck in low water in the sand once and had to get out and pull the boat by hand. Then we sailed into Aberdeen Lake, but halfway across the water the wind became very strong and came from the wrong direction, and we had to paddle very hard to get to the north shore. Finally at 8:00 p.m. we pulled into shore and built our camp. We advanced our watches one hour which should have been done some weeks ago. Only 25 km today, 978 km in total.

Tuesday, August 10

We started paddling at 10:00 a.m. into a rainy, gray day. It drizzled and rained all morning, something unusual in this country which is quite dry. We passed many islands close to shore and even sailed a little, which brought us out too much into the open water so that we had to paddle closer to shore against a headwind. Around 5:00 p.m. we found the cabin Ted knew about. It was a small plywood shack put up long ago and now abandoned. There was an old bike, a broken sewing machine and rusty tools lying around; it had no glass in the windows any more. On the way to where the cabin is, Ted cast his fishing rod and had a beautiful big trout instantly. When we filleted it, there was a whole fish in its guts. I did not know they swallowed fish. I cooked mashed potatoes and the fish in the cabin, out of the wind. It was delicious and we filled our stomachs to the rim. With a full belly my feet slowly became warm again. Most of the day we have wet feet despite the neoprene socks and rubber boots. At 7:40 p.m. we paddled on to reach our goal, passing the half mark of Aberdeen Lake. The wind was in our favour and we had a beautiful evening sky. In this part of the tundra we do not see flowers anymore, nor mushrooms or blueberries. Here the permafrost is very close to the surface and creates swampy shores with puddles. From time to time we can hear a jet plane coming and going to Europe high above the clouds, flying over the pole.
This country is huge and has a harsh beauty, and the weather in early fall seems to change several times per day. It is a bit like Ted whose mood changes quickly on this trip, but who has a big heart and a lot of feeling, yet can appear as harsh as the tundra. On a lighter note, men are really funny! Yesterday I turned our sleeping bag inside out to find my red nylon shorts which serve as my pajama pants. I left the sleeping bag with the black lining outside to give it some airing. Ted did not even notice the difference and crawled into the inside-out sleeping bag. 40 km today, 1018 km total.

Wednesday, August 11

We left at 10:15 a.m. today. When I woke up at 8:30 a.m., it was very foggy and discouraging, but the wind died down a bit when we started on the water, yet it was strong enough to make paddling easy, sail-assisted. We had two showers, some sun, and a wind that changed direction several times. We passed very uninviting shores with walls of rocks pushed high by the ice and similar walls much higher up in the tundra, walls that the ice probably created over a hundred years ago. We saw some sandhill cranes, big birds similar to storks. We had supper at 6:30 p.m., fish soup from part of the big fish Ted caught yesterday, cooked in a Norwegian soup mix; then we paddled for another two and half hours until 9:00 p.m. In fact we came to the end of Aberdeen Lake and paddled quite a ways into the channel that leads into Schultz Lake. We paddled a lot today and it is a big achievement to paddle through Aberdeen Lake in two days.
We usually spend two or three hours on the water without a break. So what do you do if you have to relieve yourself in the middle of the water? For Ted it is easy! He uses the bailer, no problem. I can't do that. Once Ted had to stop the boat for me in the middle of the Thelon River on a sandbank of one square meter.
In the evening we saw a caribou swim from an island to the mainland. We are camped on an island in the channel, which is actually a stretch of the Thelon we left behind in Beverly Lake and which is coming out of Aberdeen Lake to flow into Schultz Lake. This island has many old remnants of the Inuit culture. There are old tent rings formed with rocks, food caches where they put their kill to hide it from predators, and many inukshuks, old way signs to show the direction. The Inuit also put big rocks up on the ridges as waypoints. These rocks look much bigger from a distance because of the northern mirages. 45 km today, 1063 km in total.

Thursday, August 12

We woke up to a strong wind with whitecaps on the lake. We were wind-bound, no use fighting against a strong headwind! We had breakfast and packed everything except the tent, and decided not to go, so we only spread the floater jackets on the floor of the tent, used two rolled up mattresses as pillows and had a good snooze. I was kind of groggy the night before anyway and had been hoping for a wind-bound day. We got up at 2:00 p.m.; the wind had weakened somewhat and we decided to leave. We were on the water at 2:30 p.m. Poor Ted had packed the tent without taking my neoprene socks out. So he had to pull the tent out of the hag and unroll it, he was not very pleased about it. "We are never going to make it to Baker Lake" he griped. The weather was quite miserable all afternoon, wind, rain, rainbows, cold, black clouds, showers. Nevertheless, the wind was often in our favour and we were able to go quite fast, average six km/hr. We passed around islands and had to find the channel leading us out of this maze. Nine years ago, Ted and his partner had missed it and were stranded on an island. But by taking frequent compass bearings and some wisdom, Ted navigated us out on a direct route. At 6:00 p.m. we stopped on an island to cook supper. I made a soup and Ted cast his fishing rod to pull in a beautiful young trout. So we each had a fillet with mashed potatoes.
I believe that Ted did not have enough to eat on our trip with only one pumpernickel slice and half a can of sardines per lunch and no salad or vegetables, and that his nerves are suffering a bit from this deficiency. We are also out of coffee and vodka for our happy hour - missing the latter already for the last two weeks.
We left the island at 7:40 p.m. with the goal to reach Schultz Lake. It was a milder evening than it had been all day, and we had a good wind. We passed a homemade boat on a beach, made from two gas drums that had been there already nine years ago when Ted first passed by. We crossed two lakes and then found the outlet into the Thelon River which presents itself again for a stretch with very fast flow. At 11:00 p.m. we reached the mouth of the river where it empties into Schultz Lake. We put our camp up here on a gravel bar, unloading the canoe completely for a repair job tomorrow. We settled down for a very cold night. It is definitely fall here now! 30 km today, 1093 km in total.

Friday, August 13

We are on Schultz Lake, our last lake, hurrah! After a good night's sleep the sun is out for a change with the ever blowing wind. I washed my hair with dish soap and then repaired a small seam on the tent while Ted repaired the boat, this time with success; he also tried to catch arctic char, but in vain. We left at 1:15 p.m. and had to paddle hard against a headwind, only doing 2 km/hr. We stopped for lunch at 2:30 p.m. and paddled into a bay while a muskox was looking from the high shore at us. The wind did not die down and we struggled for one more hour until Ted got too frustrated with it and suggested we stop and go for a hike.
From the mountain top we saw the cabins of the fishing camp where Ted and partner had stopped by nine years ago. They had had a meal there and had met some guests. Now it is all deserted. The cabin doors are nailed shut and a lot of equipment is lying around outside, a front end loader, an all-terrain vehicle, boards, heaters, a light machine, etc. One habitable cabin was not locked and we entered it to spend the night here. It had three beds and a big kerosene heater. There is also a brand new boat motor, a 30 hp Mariner. On the door was a note written by two people who changed their route to another river and wanted the next person to notify the RCMP in Baker Lake about it.
The last two days I was really quite beat in the evening. Maybe the 36 days of hard work on the water with roughly four days rest is taking its toll. We could be in Baker Lake in three days. A hard 15 km today, 1108 km in total.

Saturday, August 14

We are wind-bound, but very comfortable in the cabin. After breakfast we had another very cosy snooze. We had our last pancakes and last jam. For lunch we cooked a soup and had two slices of pumpernickel instead of just one, since I discovered one more package in the big barrel. We hiked up the steep shore to an inukshuk, found some blueberries and picked some Labrador tea for trial, since we have only seven tea bags left. When we came down, a motorboat stopped by with an Inuit and his nephew going fishing. We talked for 15 minutes, and then he took off again. They are all very friendly. Gossip travels fast across the tundra, everybody knows everybody else. They know who went out fishing or hunting for the weekend. We went back to the cabin to try our Labrador tea. Suddenly there were footsteps and a tall man, half-Inuit, half-Indian stepped in, followed by his wife Barb, both on a fishing trip to get a big arctic char. I am sure that they were checking up on us. We talked for a while; they wanted to offer us tea bags when they heard about our shortage of tea. About 3:30 p.m. the strong wind had died down and we left at 3:45 p.m. First there was a bit of sail-assisted paddling, but then we had to go quite far into the lake to circumsail a sand spit. It was very hard paddling/fighting against the wind that pushed us very strongly towards the open lake. Coming back to shore on the other side of the sand spit was a real battle. Then we lined the canoe for 2 km, lining and pulling the canoe in the water while walking on the shore. Finally there, we decided to have supper and wait it out. We left again at 7:30 p.m., first against an ugly headwind to get to the bend of the next bay, but then there was sailing into the other direction. We sailed across bay after bay, cutting the round a bit short to avoid too many detours. From about 10:00 p.m. on there was surfing, dream surfing. We decided to go on until we could not see any more. The North Star came up and it was cloudy and cold. We could have gone on forever, but we stopped at 1:00 a.m. It was so dark that we had a hard time finding a landing spot, let alone a camp spot. It was cold, our feet were wet and we were tired. The camp was up, bed ready in 15 minutes. What a day! 40 km today, 1148 km in total.

Sunday, August 15

We are now 39 days on the trip and are getting a bit "road"-weary. We are early since we had planned for 42 days. Last night was quite cold and our summer sleeping bags are hardly adequate anymore. We woke up to a beautiful sunny day and took our time with breakfast and packing. We left at 1:15 p.m., paddling sail-assisted, slowly going towards the narrow coastlines where the north and south shores of Schultz Lake get together.
We had to cross two large bays. Two Inuit boats passed along the shore, and later the two parties that had said hello to us yesterday. The weather remained sunny and we had to take off our jackets and toques. These narrows become once again the riverbed of the Thelon, which starts to flow quite fast here, even showing some white water, around some bends. The fish were jumping like crazy, so we pulled into shore, Ted caught a beautiful big trout, and we had dinner, first soup, then fish with rice. It was very good, for we needed food like that to brace us for the upcoming Aleksektok Rapid in which quite a few Inuits died already riding their motorboats. As it turned out, with Ted's expertise and my following his directions, it was OK, even fun. The stretch after the rapid was still very fast with waves up 10 four feet and nine to fifteen km/hr. We pulled into shore around 8:30 p.m. I made another soup while Ted cast his fishing rod, just for fun. He had a fish on the first cast. I chopped it up and put in the soup to make a sort of bouillabaisse. Ted loves to fish, especially here where you always seem to catch something the first five minutes.
Today was like a July summer day, as we had them at the beginning of the trip. I had to dig out my head net and wear it once more for the mosquitoes and black flies were pestering us terribly. They fly into your mouth, you swallow them, they get into your tea and your soup, and you don't bother anymore but eat or drink them with your meal.
We might arrive in Baker Lake tomorrow or the day after, depending on the weather and how fast we get going. Maybe we even want to camp one last time in the tundra. I am beginning to look like a bag lady, with my Gortex suit all dirty. 40 km today, 1148 km in total.

Monday, August 16

We woke up to a gray, misty morning. While Ted cooked breakfast down at the water, I rolled up the mattresses and stuffed the sleeping bag. Would it be the last time on this trip? We still had 70 km to go to Baker Lake. We left at 9:45 a.m. to travel the very fast flowing Thelon River towards its mouth. The shorelines flew past us as we travelled around nine to twelve km/hr. Once we saw a boat with a motor and a trailer for an all terrain vehicle (ATV) sitting close to shore, but no people.
Around noon we saw a white Inuit tent and stopped to see who is there. A dog was tied up outside and the tent was radio-wired with antennas. An old Inuit woman greeted us and invited us in. These tents are like little houses with gables and a slanted roof, high enough to stand up in. The Inuit woman hardly spoke any English, but she offered us coffee and cookies. There was plywood on the floor laid out with carpets, a Coleman stove, a low double bed, a radio and a two way communication radio device, a bible written in Inuktiktuk, dishes, some food - all very neat. We learned that her husband is prospecting for diamonds. They all do it here in Nunavut now. She was also a very heavy smoker with the smoker's cough and all.
After an hour we were on the "road" again. It started to rain a bit. From time to time we had to paddle through some white water or a very mild rapid. Around 3:30 p.m. we wanted to stop to cook our lunch when it started raining heavily. Just then I saw another tent on the left shore, but nobody home. The tent door was tied and a plywood board put behind it. Ted said that in this region it is OK to use somebody else's facilities in bad weather. He opened the door and entered. Everything was neat inside. We lit the Coleman stove and cooked our soup using our own pots and dishes. It was cream of mushroom soup to which we added freshly picked mushrooms from our evening stroll last night. It was so good! As a thank-you gesture we left a can of camp stove fuel in the tent with a thank you note. The heaviest rain fell while we were warm and dry inside. Then on we went along very fast water with swarms of blackflies around us, which is always a sign that the weather is improving again.
The tundra flew by us, sometimes on high shores, sometimes quite low above the river, and from time to time a creek was emptying its permafrost water into the Thelon. What a great river the Thelon is, fast, very wide, sometimes turbulent, and yet almost unknown, never heard of in the South! Once we saw a wolverine running along and sometimes a sic-sic.
Yesterday evening we had walked in the tundra the last time and picked the last mushrooms of the season. This morning before leaving we found the last blueberries. Soon everything will be frozen over again, for winter starts the end of August. The flowers have already spent all their blossoms and are returning their seeds back to the land. The tundra, green in July, is turning brown, and for us it is time to say good-bye to a wonderful, hard and unforgettable time in this wild and austere country in which our relationship to the land and to each other has deepened and matured. Ted and I will never forget our time together here. A tundra love it was, but our love will continue into the southern regions!
Towards 6:00 p.m. the river widened, and then one last rapid spit us out into a wide bay.
Only nine km to Baker Lake! We paddled hard, passed the airport, paddled some more, and by 8:00 p.m. we hit the shore of Baker Lake after 40 days on the water and a stretch of 1258 km, 70 km today.

We are thankful for a safe arrival and a voyage in which "God held us in the palm of his hand", as the Irish saying goes.