We elected to sleep in again and woke up at 6:15 AM to another cold morning. During breakfast another wolf began howling from just over the ridge and a whole pack responded. The howls, while a little spooky, really set the tone of adventure. We pushed off and made quick miles down the river, paddling under the large rolling hills. At a distance, we saw a small group of caribou along the shore and a few minutes later we approached another group trying to cross the river. As we drew near, they reversed course and made for the opposite bank, allowing us to get very close. A few miles later, we came upon another few caribou, and just in front of us was a wolverine swimming across the river. Both the wolverine and the caribou ran off into the bushes.
As the day progressed it became windier with a few scattered showers. Zach developed a quick bout of severe pain in his foot probably due to some ischemia from the tight dry pants.
We paddled until about 5:30 PM having made about 43 miles.
We began the day early, eager to knock our last day of portaging and to finally traverse into the Coppermine. We paddled the short distance out of the lake and into the river and were met with two falls portages. The river’s gradient was steep, providing an excellent view into the valley below. It was also a great change of pace to go downstream. Our third portage of the day ended up being semi-devastating, both long and filled with thicket traps and swamp. Between the steep drops were long sections of river winding through the stunning tundra landscape.
Later on in the afternoon, we ran into the final three bars before Point Lake. We portaged the first, due to an ominous calm at the beginning. We then ran the second and portaged around the third. It was a great feeling to put the boat down at the end, making the sixth of the day but also bringing our total to over 80 for the past two weeks.
Another early and rainy morning paddle brought us to the beginning of Sandy Portage. As one might guess, it began at a beach. Like the ones before it, there was little indication of a trail. Bram, Ax, and Quinn went to scout the portage into Mossy Lake, while Zach while Zach went to look at the river. The group came back in about an hour and decided that, due to the “trails” length, we were better off pulling up the river. So we did. It took us almost all the morning to do three shorter portages into the river section to the right of Mossy Lake. It is quite apparent that this river’s reputation is well earned; quite a tough piece of topography to traverse. My exhaustion is compounded everyday. We managed to get to Icy Portage by mid-afternoon and found the beginning of the trail at a large floe of ice up an old, but very wide stream bed into the first unnamed pothole. Although it was a “little” longer, it would probably save us some time. We decided to camp a few minutes behind the portage, where it rained during mexican night. Everyone is in super good spirits, but the exhaustion is clear on everyone’s face.
I had coffee all day at Subway yesterday, which unfortunately, made it impossible to fall asleep. A grave miscalculation. Also around midnight a local woman and her teenage daughters come to “party” at the boat landing. It wasn’t all bad as we were waking up, only two hours later. We decided to sleep in until 3:00 AM to let the still audible wind die down a little. We paddled into Little Peter Pond, after granola and coffee pills in the dark. There were still some big rollers that splashed some water over the gunwales. The group had to stop after an hour or so to bail. We decided to portage after another peninsula to avoid an open section of Peter Pond. After bushwhacking through 200 meters, we saw that the open section of the lake was still unpaddleable. We decided to have a nap and see if the rollers and wind might die down. At about 3:00 PM we decided to move, donning spray gear and aiming for a point on the far shore. The boats are quite ornery in wind. The wind roared up again at 7:00 PM so we decided to camp, hoping for calmer wind through the night.
Today, June 21st, we continued our slow ascent of the Churchill, deciding midway through our first stretch to pick up the pace a little, attempting to make up one extra day. We paddled, pulled and portaged up and around falls and made the rest of the miles over Black Bear Island Lake. Oh, and we saw a bear also, climbing up the shore and generally ignoring us. Also, we had pancakes for breakfast. Later in the afternoon we ran into some fisherman who didn’t believe us when we told him our route. Quinn (Cliff) saw a cliff and convinced the whole group to jump off. I almost lost my hat. We camped 15 minutes later having gone 24.5 miles. Space Camp has turned into Summer Solstice – the days are getting longer from here on out.
Woke up to clear skies and cold temps. Breakfast turned out to be a mix of “yogurt nuts” and oatmeal. We bobsledded our boats down the muddy bank, leading them down to the log bridge to avoid stepping in the oppressive mud. The initially calm morning turned into another windy disaster. By mid-morning we were battling both current and headwind once again. I cannot believe this water is low and the current at points looks ironically fast. We ended up making it 17 miles by lunch but, unfortunately, fell asleep for 2 hours afterwards. We woke up and decided to push further, but made it only three miles until camping next to an outcrop of rocks. We were moving up the shore at points right before the rivers delta. I took some ibuprofen to battle the swelling in my fingers from this morning, possibly the result of paddling mostly on one side. There is currently a gull, making some annoying noise…
Woke up to a relatively warm morning and the rain had subsided during the night. The wind, however, was still gusting from the north, an element that would prove to slow us tremendously throughout the day. We pushed through a ripping side-wind at Native Lake and another sneaky long portage around a dam. At the end of the portage we stared down a large headwind from the north. Without the current to help us we would surely have been wind-bound. We pulled over for lunch at a park in Lac du Bonnet, also sandbagging a local’s favorite fishing spot.
We pushed as far as we could but were eventually shut down by the open section of lake north of the town. While waiting for the wind to subside we ran into some heavily accented locals who congratulated us on our journey. As one of them put it, “You guys are just going for it, huh?” Camped a few hundred meters to the south within sight of an air field.
Where do you start”? Everyone asks us late into the night, to which we reply “THE SOURCE!” Camp Kooch-i-ching, a wilderness tripping camp in the Boundary Waters. It is there we all met as boys, discovered our love for the outdoors, and became friends with other amazing men and women who have inspired us, through their own adventures, to embark on this trip.