August 7th, 2019
Yellowknife – Reindeer Lake, Dissention, Porphiry, Hunter
Big day today. Seven portages in total. We awoke at 4:30 AM to a cool, overcast morning. Bugs still unfriendly. Quick cold spell should destroy them, but at the pace we are going, they may stick with us until the end. We paddled to the end of Reindeer and portaged on the river right side over the first piece of land we have walked over that you could argue looks to be tundra. Much of the area is burned out, the shrubs grow low and mossy tussocks sprout from the flat landscape. We had another short portage into Dissention Lake whose reputation had preceded it thanks to George Simmons’ log from the ’68 Arctic Trip. We paddled almost to the end of the lake before stopping for nuts. The next portage was a bit longer, perhaps 1/3 of a mile. We portaged on the river right side and stayed on a ridge-line which provided good footing and a clear line of sight through the charred, standing wood. James and Zach had a steamy spat over the put-in, one believing the other had portaged further than necessary and created a riskier loading spot over exposed boulders. These things happen. Ill temper or resentful stewing may last through the next paddle stretch, but rarely even that long. We do a good job of explaining, communicating, and apologizing. Tiny failings happen on the portage trail. When you have a double-load or the boat over your head, but we know that we depend upon one another and every man is attempting to help us reach the ocean. It just doesn’t always feel that way when you have 90 plus pounds on your back, and you get devastated by a boulder field or holes in the moss.
We continued into Porphiry, paddling to the end of it before stopping for lunch. We crushed some PB&Js and began the set of four portages into Hunter Lake. During the first portage we split up, Quinn and Paul portaging river left, the rest of us river right. River left seems to have been the right call, as those lads beat us. I am total blanking on the fifth portage, but that is a good thing, as it was most likely short and not extraordinary. We avoided another short portage as we were able to line up some shallow current, providing an excellent change of pace. We portaged a longer trail on the river left side, hugging another ridge-line before crossing 100 yards of large boulders to load our boats again. Thank god I played the hot lava game so much as a kid, as one false step with the boat or double load and you are in a hole of pain. The last portage of the day, on the river left side, was short and easy. We got onto Hunter and decided to look for campsites. We had to paddle until just about the end of the lake before finding a low-lying ester with great tent sites on the left side of the lake. Bugs bad all day, but it was a great day nonetheless. Traveled over 20 miles before calling it just after 6:00 PM. It would have been great to get to Greenstocking Lake by today, the tenth day of the Yellowknife section, but we are still moving fast. Seems like we might only have 15-17 days left out here. Pretty wild. The nearer we get, the more excited I feel. This is our moment. We have all sacrificed and worked so hard for this, as have all our loved ones. Body feels better than it did a few days ago, but this section has been a shit-kicker. Next seven days don’t promise to be much of a reprieve. All I know is I need to catch a fish before all this is said and done or Wiper will kill me.