Day 109

August 25th, 2019

We made it! We reached the Polar Sea! What a journey it was. We awoke at 5:30 to a clear morning that promised warmth and sunshine. We took our time during breakfast, relishing our final minutes in the bug tent. We pushed off at 7:00 AM and Class #1 rapids sped our progress to Bloody Falls, which was only ten miles away. We reached this final obstacle in no time, not bothering to scout it as we had been told by everyone that it was not possible. We portaged up a steep slope on the river left side and followed a clear path over wooden planks and rock for one kilometer.

The portage was not terrible, but after over a week since our last overland carry, it wasn’t easy. Bram and I joked it seemed impossible to imagine how we had made it to this point if the Bloody portage felt this difficult.

At the end of the portage we ate some nuts and watched a fishing boat in the distance. With less than ten miles to Kugluktuk, there was no denying the approach of human development. We pushed off and began our paddle to the final destination. It was during this stretch of paddling that my heart and throat swelled as I contemplated the culmination of our efforts bringing us to this place. I was so proud of myself and of Zach, Bram, Quinn, James and Paul. A young southern wind blew in behind us as the sun reflected off the clear water. It felt like the world was ushering us forth, whispering encouragement and approval to our souls. Joy and love overcame me and I sobbed quietly in the stern.

We pulled over on a shallow sand bank only a couple of miles away from Kugluktuk. Zach and Bram switched positions in the boat so Zach could better record the final paddle strokes that took us to the ocean. We held the shore nearby as the horizon stretched before us one last time. We beached in the town and a man on an ATV drove right up to us. From a distance he looked like he was wearing a massive puffy but as he neared our boats, we realized he was simply morbidly obese and his outerwear was nothing special. We greeted him warmly but received no response or anything but a vacant expression hidden behind sunglasses. After twenty seconds of terrible awkwardness, Zach approached the man and began enthusiastically telling him of our adventures. He never received a response and our “moment” was effectively squashed.

Thankfully, another man named Donald pulled up in his truck and warmly greeted us. He directed us to a free campsite further down shore and assured us he would stop by shortly to help us find showers.

The boys explored town while Bram and I stayed with the gear. We met a local woman named Andrea and her young daughter Ayesha while they were fishing. Andrea invited us to her home to shower and wash our clothing. We accepted her offer and ended up sleeping on her floor after she assured us that Grizzly bears hung around the campsite on the beach. We bought our flight home for the following afternoon and called our loved ones. It was time to go home.

Day 108

Coppermine – Escape Rapids

The Coppermine river gave us her all and shined in all her splendor our last full day of this epic adventure. Tomorrow we will find ourselves in Kugluktuk, after just a 20 mile paddle, but today we got to bask in the glory of all that the Great Spirit has created in this lush river valley rushing amidst the barren lands of the North.

Today started with sunshine, then a quick rainstorm then back to sun for the remainder of the most epic day of the trip. We paddled a stretch to Muskox rapids, which we scouted. Nothing too tough, just big waves. After Muskox we encountered never ending whitewater through a towering, wide, copper colored gorge. We shot everything, only stopping to land-scout the named rapids. Sandstone rapids gave us no trouble and we continued on our way. Finally we came to “Escape Rapids,” supposedly, the most challenging run of the river. We scouted from a steep cliff river left, and decided to shoot for it on river right. The waves were big and a little spicy, but our trusty spray-deck kept most of the water out of our boats. It was a thrilling run through an “S” curve and did definitely require some technical maneuvering. It was my favorite shoot of the day and it brought us right to a lovely campsite with an incredible view. Words cannot describe how beautiful this day on the river was, but I can say it was my favorite day on a canoe trip ever and that’s out of about 350 other canoe days in my life.

Muskox 2


Day 107

August 23, 2019


We spent the day in the cabin.

Up at 7:00 AM – Moderately high winds and rains in the morning resulted in our decision to hold out for improved conditions…we brewed coffee a couple of times throughout the day. Played 500, read books, slept in tents and kept an eye towards the skies. By mid-morning the dark clouds had retreated and blue skies and a brilliant sun accompanies us the remainder of the day. I gathered a few more interviews and went for a short walk to a nearby knoll with Quinn. The sun casted a glorious light over a landscape I had seen almost exclusively in a dull overcast state the past week – the crimson red shrub that I first began noticing near Point Lake glowed with a brilliant gold eminence. I shall not soon forget. The termination of our trip is beginning to set in for me.

By the way, we laid-over at the cabin after receiving weather reports from Bev.

The sun is starting to set, Paul, Axel, Bram and James are playing quite possibly the longest game of 500 ever – Quinn is lying on the ground scrolling through photos on the Leica, and there are enthusiastic murmurs of an Aurora Borealis watching party this evening.


Day 106

August 22, 2019


We arose around 7:30 AM to the same cold, windy, and rainy conditions as yesterday. Some of the group members, Paul and Axel, wanted to layover since conditions seemed worse but we voted to continue. We got on the water around 9:00 AM after granola and coffee. We did an 11-mile stretch in ripping current/headwind to a nut break around 11:00 AM. Right before the break we saw roughly 8 to 10 muskox bedded down along the river. They made some weird noises as they ran away. We enjoyed our nuts as we discussed what we would do in the northeast section of the river because the wind was coming straight off the ocean and gusts were well over 30 mph. We did another long stretch and saw a lone muskox that didn’t seem to mind us. We also saw an abandoned cabin that we decided to do lunch at to get out of the wind. We had PB&J and decided to camp because of the weather and because the NE stretch didn’t seem doable. We made a batch of coffee and played cards while we dried all of our wet things out. I am currently making chili-mac “ferda boys.”

This is probably my last time writing in the journal and I cannot say how proud of us I truly am. We have come so far and have become closer than ever. Thank you to everyone who helped make my dreams of paddling to the Arctic Ocean possible.




Day 105

August 21st, 2019

Coppermine River

Authors Note: Please pardon the tardiness of this entry. Sometimes it is just simply too wet to get out of the bag and exit the tent in search of a writing utensil.

Today we woke up around 6:00 AM. Later wake up times are a nice luxury to have toward the end of the trip. Mornings are always very cold, and as was the case with this morning, quite damp. On this day in particular, water falling from the sky was a constant. From the time we pushed off around 8:00 AM to the time we made camp around 5:30 PM, it rained. There were maybe 20 minutes total throughout the day when you could not see perfect little circles littering the surface of the water. The sky was gray throughout and mist covered the mountains entirely. Everything started out wet and gradually evolved into utterly soaked. Luckily there was not an abundance of wind.

After about 10 minutes of paddling we stopped at an abandoned cabin that Wiper had told us about. We took some pictures and looked for initials we may recognize carved into the wood. We continued paddling, eventually making our way to Big Bend. The current picked up a bit and the rain began falling harder. There was not a single moment in the morning or the afternoon where the sky held signs of breaking up. One is hard-pressed to think blue skies will ever return after a day like this; the world is enveloped in gray gloom. Sunshine becomes a distant memory, much like dry clothes. Our paddling jackets and dry bottoms have really paid themselves back lately. For a while I was worried we had carried them all this way for nothing. The neck and waist gaskets are not exactly comfortable but the material is truly waterproof and it holds in all body heat. At times I began sweating underneath my dry top and then must either remove my top or throttle back or both, ideally just the former.

We made great time, cruising down the river and arriving at Rocky De Fire around 12:30 PM. Zach, Paul, Axel and I hiked up the cliffs on the left side to take a look at the whitewater. From the high vantage point the set was magnificent, and appeared to be an easy enough shoot. Stay right-middle, don’t go left. From the left shore we could not see all the way to the bottom of the rapid however, so we ferried across, ate a quick lunch then Zach, Paul, Bram and Axel went to scout the entire set. Upon returning, Bram gave James and me the thumbs up explaining the bottom looked fairly simple much like the top. I was much relieved because my feet have become extremely sore recently and the prospect of portaging, especially in the rain, was about as unappealing as you can get.

Paul and Axel remained on the right shore cliffs to capture photos of us shooting the set. Bram and Zach went first, very clean shoot, eddied out a little earlier than planned but spun out of it and continue onto the planned eddy nicely. James and I started back paddling very early into the “V” at the top. The waves were much bigger on the water than they looked from the cliffs. We steadily coasted over the

giant haystacks but the water was taking us where it wanted. The current was pushing us left into an enormous wave train riding along the side of the cliff. With the first monstrous wall of whitewater looming over us we ducked just to the right of it and casually made our way to the eddy without taking in a single drop (not counting the rain.) The shoot seemed simple enough, right-middle, definitely not left. Paul and Axel hiked down then shot too far right, probably because they saw James and I nearly get eaten by waves on the left. Chilling in the eddy was surreal. Gorgeous cliffs on both sides, whitewater zipping by, large deep eddy steadily swirling clockwise. The bottom set was a breeze and it emptied out into a cove almost with a bowl of beautiful autumn mountains all around us. The fall colors are absolutely splendid up here. Oranges, reds, yellows, even some purple all mixing together into a golden brown that accentuates the green pines and stretches for miles. I desperately hope we can get even just 5 minutes of clear sky and sunshine blasting its brilliant illumination onto these autumn ridden slopes. I’ve never imagined such a gorgeous showcase of color brought about by low-lying shrubs and grasses and mosses.

We pulled off after checking 5 potential campsites. We had to find high ground. Everything is drenched to its core – so remarkably wet.

Teriyaki rice burritos in the bug tent for supper with monkey munch for dessert. Under 100 miles from the Arctic Ocean has not really set in that the trip is going to end. I am both ready and not ready. Eager and scared. Excited and Anxious. “I don’t know what to do with my hands.” Ricky Bobby

Rocky Defile


Day 104

August 20th, 2019

Coppermine River

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.

Caribou Crossing

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.


Day 103

August 19, 2019


Another drizzly morning, so slow getting out of the bags. No big deal though. Yesterday’s mileage illustrated the strength of this current. We can easily paddle 30 to 40 miles per day and arrive at Kugluktuk in 5 or 6 days.

We ate some raw apples with our granola this morning, courtesy of Max Ward. We paddled beneath cloudy skies all day, though it was not nearly or chilly as yesterday. Highlight of the day was spying a white Arctic Wolf on the shoreline. He seemed like a curious bugger, as he followed us along the river during our lunch floater. We paddled another stretch after lunch and heard at least two wolves howling with one another from a top the muddy eskers. The entire experience was quite splendid.

We camped at 4:00 PM. Our site provided an excellent sand beach and a beautiful view of the river and tall, white eskers. The sun peeked through and everyone used the warmth to bathe and dry their clothing. I cooked mac n’ cheese burritos and half a meal of pemmy mashy. The calorie intake has been well received, and we all enjoyed monkey munch for dessert. A relaxed day. I am fine with that as it is one of our last.

This trip flew by, but we all understand it is coming to an end. Winter is coming. What an adventure it has been. I am surprised to say that on a scale of bitter to sweet, I am quite strongly weighted to the sweet side. This expedition was a noble endeavor. It is a good thing, and being one, it must necessarily come to its own end. But there are many more good things to come. The next adventure awaits. Confront the unknown willingly and courageously, and you will find your target. Aim high.


Day 102

August 18th, 2019


Our first full day on the river gave us a glimpse of her character. The water is high and seemingly shares our interest in descending quickly into the polar sea before the freeze-up. We slept in to avoid rain but eventually it was unavoidable. The rain continued in a light, ceaseless drizzle all day making us cold, wet, but not too grumpy. We had quinoa with special brown sugar cinnamon apple chunks for breakfast, it began our almost 40 mile day through numerous rapids.

The high water forced us to portage past a very large rapid early in the day, but the rest of the rapids were not as daunting. We shot everything else, only having to scout from land a handful of times. The rest of the shoots we trained down picking the line as we went.

After the last marked set, Quinn tried fishing because he knew camp was our next destination. After about 5 minutes, he hooked a 20-inch trout that gave a good fight. Unfortunately, it took at least another hour and 10 km to find something suitable. So, Mr. Trout got a free boat ride along our painter for longer than expected. Dinner was delicious and filling as we broke into our “extra” food for the first time tonight. I guess we’re feeling like we’re gonna make it soon.


Day 101

August 18th, 2019


Up at 5:30 AM, breakfast of granola and sunflower butter. Paul made the coffee extra strong J. Paddled a few stretches to nut break, Quinn was trolling and caught a nice sized grayling that he dragged to our lunch spot. We paddled past a mansion and a few gentlemen walked down to the beach, greeted us and welcomed us in for coffee. We were given 20 apples, 15 pounds of pulled pork, 2 loaves of bread, large cups of coffee and 6 beers. We left the mansion surprised by the activity and grateful for the effusive hospitality. We made a stretch to lunch where we fileted Quinn’s grayling and ate sun-butter tortillas. James caught another grayling even fatter than Quinn’s, so we ate that too and just reveled in our first official shore lunch of the trip…it was a good feed. We paddled and are now camped above the first real set of rapids since reaching the Coppermine. We ate mac for dinner and literally ALL of the pulled pork. Most of the trip members clutched their bellies in the bug tent after dinner as they tried to sooth their stuffed stomachs – less than 250 miles to go.

Arctic Grayling


Day 100

August 16th, 2019

Awoke at 5:00 AM and on the water at 6:30 AM. The winds were out of the NW as we made a crossing to a big island we went south of. We had nuts after a couple of stretches and I could feel my body start to freeze because I didn’t move the whole break. Axel and Paul put on the paddling jackets for the first time since Winnipeg. So yeah, it is cold as hell. We did another stretch to a cairn filled island. Then, another small stretch to lunch where the boys saw Point Lake Lodge off in the distance. We went to it and met Amanda, who I had met in Yellowknife, George, John and Bernie. We shared some stories over coffee, cookies, cheese and crackers. They invited us to stay at their cabin at the beginning of Redrock, and are having chicken dump for dinner (made by Bram and it is amazing.)