Kayaking Journals Of: The Mackenzie River in The Northwest Territories
DAY 8 ON THE WATER SUNDAY JUN 26:
I was waiting for the guys at Simpson Air in Fort Simpson to park my van by 7:00. It is a private airstrip, and they keep it locked when not there.
Thought they said yesterday 7:30 but it was 8:30. Nobody gets too excited around here.
About a mile walk back to the kayak, finished putting a few things away, blew the sides up, Stormy jumped in and here we go again.
Here we go again at the boat put in Fort Simpson
It was about a mile and a half across the river. Everyone I talked to told me it was best to paddle the N Side which would be my right shoulder. With the current moving about 8 knots, from what I was told, it didn’t take long even with a good stiff breeze blowing upriver.
That crossing kind of set the tone and the anticipation of hopefully what today was like, we went a lot of miles. I estimate 30 plus and could have been a few more.
I can imagine what it will be like, and it will continue to have this kind of current all the way, until we take the channel in to Inuvik.
Once again very limited opportunities to spot places to camp which didn’t set well. That was obvious right from the get-go.
Some not so great, but when it is time, it is time, and we can just about make anything work if we can get to it.
It is a spectacular view looking down river on these sunny days
More cabins on this stretch of the river. I saw two boats headed upriver, one boat headed down river and 3 guys who were paddling right down the middle of the river. I think they were deaf guys because there is no way they could not have heard me from where we are camping, high up on a bluff.
This is what I will be looking for and stopping at from now on
We took a break here
There are several cabins here owned by a long time, long ago family of from one of the First Nations. They must have been here this weekend, because a lot of the grass is mowed, and weeds knocked down. Couple of new cabins, not junky by any means, not easy to get to.
This is perfect
I knew the cabins were here. I was too close to the bank to see them, until I spotted their access in and just assumed and was right.
I got the tent poles mixed up, doesn’t matter now. But I have been able to make the wrong one’s work, I will just have to be gentle. It is my intention to stay in most of the villages for a night, which means one less night putting the tent up. We will see how that goes. A lot of that going on. I don’t know if I mentioned in the last journal, but I forgot a good jacket in the motel room and my hip boots sitting out front of the motel in Fort Providence that morning I got the ride back to Hay River. A lady at the visitors center in Fort Simpson called them, they have them and I will detour in there on my way out of Fort Simpson and pick them up, only about 50 miles. Also return a pair of pants a guy gave me. Try to find the Environmental Resources guy who sat down with me and let him know I finished the trip.
5 trips up and 5 down always a challenge
Long ways down
For tomorrow night I have a spot picked out to camp, we shall see how close we come to that and if in fact it exists at all. This book I am using was written 18 years ago and everyone has told me there is not another one. If I was younger, I would do another trip specifically for the purpose of writing an updated guidebook for the Mackenzie they need one. But no way now. A fellow I have communicated with out of Portland area is also working on some maps that would be a great improvement. And as mentioned several times, the maps I purchased in Hay River do not show the cabins nor the Coast Guard Markers on the bank.
View from the top of the bluff
Weather was a little cool this morning, the breeze upriver was stiff until about 1, the sun came out, the breeze quit, and it was hot.
Had noodles/soup for dinner. Cherry pie in a box, best ones I have found so far.
The Kachava and the energy bars she made for me work great for breakfast. I put together some trail mix myself and that also works for snacking with the bars throughout the day.
First bear sign
DAY 9 ON THE WATER MONDAY, JUNE 27::On the water with a good current and a breeze down river. I am tired this morning. It isn’t so much the energy being expended as it is the stress and anxiety of the camping situation. I passed a smaller cabin first yesterday afternoon and should have stayed there to get off the river sooner. Then there was another one that had a very large visible sign that said “No Trespassing” which is the 1st time I have seen that on any body of water and of course didn’t violate that request.
We sailed for several hours
Taking a break at a Ferry landing
This where the ice pushes the gravel up from the bottom of the lake
This is what I am dealing with
Not a good picture but this is where we ended up for Monday night
No camping spot became available, so spotted an area on the bank that had a lot of small willows knocked down by the ice and it was fairly flat and that is where I set the tent up and it was just ok. But. It was in the sun and we sat there in the sun for hours and hours. Fortunately, I had an umbrella and that helped with Stormy sitting/laying next to me.
After about 2 hours I started to feel lousy, not well at all. Then about 8 I just gave out, a little delusional, over the top with anxiety and worry and just wasn’t looking forward to getting in the kayak in the morning, even though I knew where my destination was for the end of the day, but it was a long ways away but there were numerous cabins. Tough.
Did I panic, I don’t think so, I just gave out. So I punched the SOS on my In Reach, and with some follow up messaging with the “rescue” part of Garmin, in about 2 hours a float plane with the pilot and 2 RCMP came in and took me back to Fort Simpson. We all agreed it was the right thing to do and I still agree with that. There was no charge for the flight/time for all involved. I do have a Million Dollar Insurance Rescue Package I purchased and will forward that information to the RCMP and they will bill and see what happens.
Not embarrassed in the least. It was just one more way of me trying to stay in control and not let the river beat me. I spent the night in a hotel, didn’t get in the room until about 2 AM. Had a good breakfast in the little restaurant downstairs and happen to meet the Mayor. He asked me what he could do to help me. I told him I needed to find somebody that would take me back down to retrieve my kayak and gear. He said he had the right guy and took me over to his house. He wasn’t up yet so I went back about 10.
I still got him out of bed, they just don’t get moving early around here. His name is Rod Gunderson, been here forever, married to a Band member, Band being tribe/First Nation name and was the road supervisor in this area and retired from that. He said no problem, we will leave at 12:30. He has a jet boat he designed and had built, and it is a rocket ship. We were back by 5 and his wife had Chinese food to go and cold Pepsi for us waiting. Cost me $350 and $100 Canadian.
Rod and his boat, what a Godsend
On the trip up and back we discussed several things 2 of the most important were. #1. The river will drop if I were to wait for 2 or 3 weeks. #2. If I wanted, he would take me up to his cabin on the North Fork of the Nahammi River and spend a couple of days with me and leave me there and come back, he is busy. Then come back in with more supplies and stuff for the cabin for the summer. He just told me yesterday that he hasn’t been in there since last October so there will be a lot of work to be done getting the place cleaned up, grass mowed and knocked down. He has anything and everything in there.
It is a 2-story log cabin, with a shop, generator building, and I guess from the pictures and what others have told me it is a beautiful place, right in the mountains overlooking the river. This river is famous for river rafting and canoeing so there will be people on the river most of the time I am there. The mouth of the river is right across from where I was camped, and it is about 30 miles upriver.
Finally, a chance to relax. I am taking my keyboard in with me and doing some practicing on the piano. Along with the food I have, the food I bought, what he bought yesterday and what is in there, I should have plenty to eat and the right food to eat. I fight my stomach/digestive system constantly.
I have decided to finish this paddle on the Mackenzie. I have gone thru all my gear again, paired it down to almost 60% of what I started with in Hay River. The Northern Stores is in every village are well stocked, so I only need enough for a maximum of 2 weeks.
I will put on my maps all the cabins from one village to the other. Rod has two maps for the 1st 150 miles. He is going to call a friend in each one of the villages, keep in mind he has lived here all his life, and ask them to help me identify where the cabins are on the N bank to the next village and that will happen in each on of the villages until I reach Inuvik. Also, one of the RCMP’s talked to me and said he has been stationed over the years in each one of the villages and he will call once I put on the river and let them know I am on the river, and I will go to the detachment office, and they will also help me identify on my maps where the cabins are. So, I should be good the next time. I certainly won’t be paddling the river alone. There should by then be a few more paddlers on the river.
Remember the 3 deaf guys in the canoe I spotted Sunday night right in the middle of the river? They are from Texas, and they put on the river with no life jackets. Unbelievable.
We will leave at noon tomorrow; Friday July 1.I will post another Journal when I get back of the 3 weeks in the bush at the cabin.
This is the view from the Bannockland Inn a B&B I stayed in Wens/Thurs nights and a very smart thing to do