Trip Journal

June 18th
We woke up in Yellowknife to find that someone had chucked a rock through a window of the car. Much of the valuables were still there, but we did lose Alex’s camera. I called Air Tindi to tell them we would be late. I reported the incident to the RCMP, and then called the friend back home in MA who had loaned me the car. He is also a mechanic and he told me it must be fixed or the car would be worthless when we returned. From Air Tindi we called a glass shop, which said they would fix it. Air Tindi was very helpful about the situation. The plane ride was great! We were able to get all three canoes in the Twin Otter without nesting any of them. McCleod Bay was frozen, which we tried not to worry about. We were excited as the plane circled and landed on Harry Lake, the first lake on Pike’s portage. We had little trouble unloading the gear. The plane roared off as soon as the last pack was unloaded, and then all was quiet. We laughed as we loaded the canoes and paddled toward the end of the lake. The portage into French Lake wasn’t bad. There was an ugly snow mobile abandoned on the trail. The wind was behind us most of the day. The portage from French to Acres Lake was a bit longer. We had a little trouble finding the next portage into Kipling Lake, as we went beyond it in the little stream. We portaged out of Kipling in the NE corner. The portage was about a mile up a hill and through wet moss. We loaded in the second pothole and finished the portage from the other side. We camped at the end of the portage in Burr Lake. The boys posed for pictures with huge caribou antlers. It rained a little, but there was not much wind. It was cool and the bugs were not bad. I could hear a thrush singing as I drifted off to sleep.

June 19th
We encountered ice in Burr Lake. We were able to skirt some but we began pulling across in one area. The ice was not safe! We were able to break through or paddle around most of it. The Portage into Toura Lake was broken up by a pothole, making it more manageable. Still, it was tough. We skirted and broke through ice in Toura. We found the right side was open and we made it to the portage. The portage was the shortest of the day (700 meters?), but it was difficult to stay on the trail. We had lunch on the far side with a small fire. The last lake in Pike’s Portage is small and unnamed. The portage into Artillery Lake was long and started up hill. When we arrived at Artillery we found it was completely frozen. There was no possibility of paddling the edge of the lake so we pulled up onto the ice. This ice was much stronger than the ice on Burr Lake. Still, we put on our Kokatat pants and jackets, and pulled the loaded canoes till after 5:30. The pulling was slow going and we did not make it out of the narrow end of Artillery. I did not think we would be able to make it across the lake if there was no break in the ice. We hoped that when we reached the wide part of the lake we would find openings. It was cold and rained on and off all day. It hailed twice, which under the circumstances seemed a lot like snow. We kept warm in the campsite with the Mont-Bell down.

June 20th
We took our time breaking camp. We started in the water between the ice and shore, but soon had to get up on the ice to haul the boats. We were all decked out in the Kokatat gear in case of a mishap. Getting on the ice was tricky and we devised a few methods whereby we could hop in the boats if the ice started to break. It wasn’t long until the we found solid ice. At first we arranged the bow painter into a large loop with two small loops for each guy to hold in their hand. Sam modified this with larger loops, which we could slip around our chests. In this way we were like sled dogs. We could lean forward and our arms and hand would no longer be strained. We had lunch on the ice, and supplemented our meal with high protein soy nuts. After lunch we came to a shallow band across Artillery, which was open. The lake was open all the way across the width of the lake, but the strip was less than a mile wide. As we approached the water the ice became very dangerous, so we got into the boats and hacked our way through the ice with the Mitchell whitewater blades. These paddles are bullet proof and have metal at the end of the blades. Once in the water, we paddled across to find thin ice on the other side. We went to the west shore, but didn’t find it too promising. We hiked up the shore and up on a hill for a better look. It seemed better on the east side, so we crossed the lake. It had been hailing off and on during the day, and now it looked like we were going to get hit with a big storm, so we set up camp. The storm missed us, so we had a wonderful dinner. After dinner we looked closely at the map and became discouraged by our lack of progress. We reasoned that if it took us too long to cross the lake we would have to abort the Morse and Back Rivers, and go directly to Baker Lake.

June 21st
We started in the channel on the right shore but had to pull up onto the ice after only five minutes. The ice was strong, but it seemed to be tougher going than the day before. Chase and Sledzik set an ambitious pace and the rest of us fell behind by the time we took breaks. It was overcast again and very cold all morning. We couldn’t stop for long because we were drenched with sweat and became cold quickly. We passed a fault in the ice where we could se the ice was at least two meters thick. By lunch I was exhausted. I took off everything on my top half and put on dry gear. We checked the gps and found we had gone 6.7 miles. We did a good one-hour push after lunch bringing our mileage to ten. It was still early, but we were very tired. I had time to wander and take pictures. Occasionally I would lie down and rest. The sun came out in the evening and we cooked dinner leisurely. There was enough sun to charge Woodhull’s movie camera batteries.