Wow – strong past few days. The boys are pretty tired and are scattered throughout our campsite in shady places. Many of them are rubbing their eyes. We left our special sand esker and paddled to the town of La Loche this morning. We unloaded all of the packs and rearranged all of the gear in preparation for the Methye. While executing these tasks, locals pulled up to us and inquired about our trip. One man by the name of John was so thrilled by the adventure and our route, he left us and returned with 3 hot bannocks his wife had made so that we could get a taste of the food his people have eaten for years. It was delicious and warm. We got all of the gear into granite bags so that we can try to complete the trail in one stretch. A few of the trip members are skeptical of this plan due to the heavy weight each individual will carry and the risk of injury. I’m eager to hit the trail in the morning so I can see what the jazz is all about. Not too many bugs at this spot, just a few enthusiastic horse flies.
After getting to the cabins at the beginning of the La Loche River at 1:00 AM we decided to get up at 5:00 AM so we could complete the river during the daylight. We had a quick coffee and granola and got on the water by 7:00 AM. After just one stretch, I knew the river was going to be tough. It included paddling through thick reeds that slowed us down. Then we spent a couple of hours pulling up rapids that eventually led to a marshy section. We did a quick PB&J and hoped to be done pulling up rapids for a while. We did some long stretches in the heat and stopped at a bridge for dinner around 6:45 PM where we had Thai noodles. We were all exhausted. I thought I was going to fall asleep on the side of the road. We got back on the water around 8:15 and did a small stretch to the last set of rapids. It was the last thing we wanted to see. Nothing like going to bed with wet clothes. We did our last stretch to the lake where we arrived at 10 PM. We paddled along the shore to a sandy/marshy campsite. Overall it was a great day, we paddled 33 miles, spent over 14 hours on the water and only had 4 hours of sleep.
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.
We intended to break camp by 4:00 AM but the torrid winds dissuaded us from any pretensions we might have about paddling Peter Pond Lake. We slept in until 8 AM, our bodies welcoming the unexpected rest. After eating oatmeal, we separated into two groups. James and Bram stayed with the gear and tents while the rest of us accepted a short ride into town with a friendly local elder named Izadore. We stopped at the “Friendship Center” Buffalo Narrow’s community center, where we were gifted with some small pendants made of beads and paperclips. The beadwork displayed a white symbol upon a blue background, an image we had seen displayed all over town, it is the Métis symbol.
Izadore showed us how turbulent the lake’s waters were. We would not be paddling today. Izadore gifted us with 6 blankets and 6 more pendants before we said our good-byes. He is extremely kind and we were all moved by his solicitude. We spent the rest of the morning in Subway drinking coffee, eating cookies and charging our electrical devices. The weather remained cool, cloudy and rainy all day. Plan to have an early dinner and hit the tents. Ideally on the water by 3 AM.
Woke up at 3:30 AM after only getting 4 hours of sleep. We had a quick coffee and oatmeal and got on the water in an hour and 15 minutes so that we could attempt to make it to Buffalo Narrows today. It looked like we had a chance since the winds were out of the southeast. We paddled south to finish Ile La Crosse and headed up the arm in which we would hope to sail to Buffalo Narrows. The wind died then shifted out of the north so we were unable to. We did a couple of stretches up the arm then we had to stop because of lightening. We had a quick PB&J and got back on the water. We paddled up to Macbeth Channel hoping to camp by a dirt road since there weren’t many campsites. We got there and there wasn’t a road so we paddled for another hour and decided to look farther up for a campsite. There was not much since it was all cliff and shrubs along the shore. We eventually got to a cabin which had a nice field and we decided to camp around 5:30 PM. Bram made Thai noodles and got quickly to bed as rain settled in. We paddled 42 miles but felt like more maybe because I’m exhausted.
Had a mix-up with the journal yesterday so I’ll be taking this one. We woke up at 4:00 AM. Daddy once again served up some delicious oatmeal and strong coffee. He added some cinnamon to the pot this morning, making for a lovely smelling cup that reminded me of the fragrant coffee from yesterday. It’s all about routine and repetition baby, the two R’s.
We paddled across Dipper quickly and into another marshy paddle up the Churchill, where rocks are dwindling, and campsites are few. Nothing like the Churchill we had grown to love. The talk of the morning was James’s sudden onset abdominal pain, so we stopped for an hour-long mid-morning nut break. James chewed on some Pepto. He was better by our next stop.
The day was spent paddling, portaging and pulling up rapids. We all seem very excited to get off the Churchill, to save our boats and our boots. The pulling up these past 4 days has been slippery, wet, crushing and tedious. However, looks like we’ve camped past the last “real” rapid of the river, but don’t count your eggs. Our campsite is called “Cross Island” named for the large metal cross that has impregnated its shore. A spray painted sign welcomes us, and we all feel very safe her, except Paul.
We awoke at 3:30 AM – gobbled down some granola, told some funny jokes, and WAZZAM! A fully-grown black bear in our campsite 75 yards away. She moseyed on down the shore without a care in the world, in the opposite direction of our breakfast circle. We talked some bear theory afterwards and discussed our plans to defend ourselves. We got into the boats, paddled up the river a ways and did some longer stretches till our morning nut break.
By 10 AM, we had reached a beaver stream that cut through a peninsula we believed we needed to go around. We were unsure, however, that the stream would be wide enough all the way through to the lake. We sent up the drone on a little scouting mission where we discerned the feasibility of canoeing through it. The area where we launched the drone from was located right next to an expansive marsh that contained several vociferous birds – many of which I had heard for the first time this trip! One of them sounds like C3PO.
The current through the stream was strong and was very windy. We completed the shortcut in an hour. Lunch was held on a beaver lodge next to moose tracks. Paul vouched for postponing lunch for 30 minutes because he wanted to get to the area where “the topo meets the river.” It would be there that the group would find some flat rocks to stand on, he said.
We saw some bald eagles, and I counted 40 pelicans on the water in a group.
Dinner was prepared by Bram, mash and pemmican gravy with a dash of chili powder, oil is added for flavor.
Currently hyper windy. White stallions across the lake.
Up at 4 AM and had oatmeal and coffee and on the water by 5:40 AM. We did some stretches across Sandfly in a big side-wind. We made it to Cowpack Island and had nuts. Paul and I tightened our nuts on the boat because it is squeaky. We did a couple more stretches across Sandfly still with a side-wind and made lunch in McDonald Bay. We headed south toward the river that had a ripping current. There were two marked bars but felt like five. We couldn’t find a portage for them so we pulled up them and it was way harder than the Sturgeon-Weir. We got almost to the top of the second one and Axel found a trail that led to a road and we had to bushwhack over the other side to a put in. He met a fisherman and once again he asked to shake his hand. It must be a Canadian thing. We pushed off and did nuts around 4:30 PM and camped soon after. We paddled 29 miles today, which was nice to do since we haven’t been doing that much over the past couple of days.
Today we awoke at 3:30 AM. Oatmeal and coffee for breakfast – Today Axel and Zach learned that they do not need to chew oatmeal…a revelation that should speed up morning meal time and thus help us break camp more quickly.
Pretty lousy morning, it was cloudy with rain on and off for most of the day. We stopped just before Silent Rapids to leave a note for the seniors, then attained some rapids, did a bit of portaging and PB&J for lunch. We made camp right after lunch at a fishing spot on Sandfly Lake. Great tent sites but some fishermen are dirty as hell and have no concept of other people or conserving the environment.
We switched boats; which is awesome and humorous. It’s kind of like a divorce and then a new marriage. Axel and I said our goodbyes with minimal hostilities and now I am with Bram, who I think, will treat me better and appreciate me more 😉
We emptied sea liner bags, took inventory and transferred weight. Rain picked up so we set up tents and took afternoon naps. It was lovely but I was very groggy for dinner. We went right back to the tent after Thai noodles which Zach cooked…he did a great job, considering it was the second time he has cooked in 45 days.
I was half asleep when James told me I had to write in this journal! Perhaps he is mad because I keep commenting on how thin he looks. We’ve all lost weight but young James is especially gaunt. One does not need to be a doctor to know that boy is in desperate need of a cheeseburger. I intend to buy him 5 McDoubles from Donnies in Fort Mac. I’m afraid that one strong wind might blow him away before we get there though.
Apologize for my handwriting. No surface, half asleep, holding pen too tight and my handwriting stinks anyway. New pace is dope. Morale is high. Boys are hungry, planning to eat more provisions to cut weight for Methey. It was nice to have a day where the sun was not devastating us. I don’t like all this wetness, but you cant have your cake and eat it too!
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.