Trip Journal

June 22nd
We got on the ice at 7:45, and pushed hard till lunch. We were all seeing the landscape move in hallucinatory ways. Our feet and legs were taking a beating. Most of us were also chaffing too. The sun that had been shining when we went to bed was gone again. It was overcast and cold, as usual. One problem with traveling this way is that you canít rest for long, or you get too cold. We did one-hour marches followed by 15 minute breaks. We fit in four marches before lunch and stopped at 12:30. We brought wood with us this time and built a fire on the ice. This allowed us to stay warm, take a longer break, and roast our sausage. We had done over 12 miles and we were pretty exhausted again. We did one more march bringing our mileage for the day to 15. We realized that if we could maintain that pace, we would not be thwarted by the ice. There were signs of trappers at our campsite and I found a wolf den on the sandy hill, which Alex and I investigated. There were tracks, but we didnít see anything. I walked further looking for more dens, but didnít find any. I did find a pond with fish sipping stone flies off the surface. I was far too tired to contemplate setting up my rod. I walked back to the campsite and collapsed onto the ground and rested till dinner. After dinner I tried to sand down the skid plates on my boat with rocks so that they would not catch on the ice. The canoes slide pretty well until the skid plates engage, and then it twice as hard to pull the boat. The rough surface of the skid plates creates a lot of friction. Sledzik and Sam tried putting duct tape over theirs. We are lucky that the Nova Craft Prospectors have some rocker. If you tried to do this with patches on the bottom of the boat you would not succeed.

June 23rd
We were in the canoes at 7:50. Finally, it was a beautiful sunny day. None of us noticed any difference from the work we had done on the skid plates, but I think that if I had had some real sand paper or a file, it might have made a difference. In hindsight, if I had known how much the skid plates slowed us down on the ice I would not have had them installed. Alex and I felt good during the first pull. The pulling is monotonous, but I try to get into a meditative state to endure the pain. Staring at the ice in front of my feet I see millions of flies crawling out from the tinny holes in the ice. The nymphs must be rising to the surface and climbing out through the holes. Still, there are no black flies and few mosquitoes. We only did three pushes before lunch, but still made over ten miles. We built a fire on the ice again and had the Usingerís sausage for the first time. It was delicious! We made two more pushes after lunch and reached the Lockhart River, which was liquid! We immediately saw lake trout in the water beneath the boats. We paddled a couple of miles up the river and camped above some swift water. Alex and Sledzik each caught a trout. We saw three wolverines on the far shore. They galloped awkwardly, and would periodically get up on their hind legs to look at us. We cooked the fish in the Cache Lake fish chowder, which was very good.

June 24th
The weather was clear and sunny again, and we were glad to be paddling. The current in the Lockhart became strong at times, and the wind made paddling tricky. We came across a fishing/hunting camp surrounded by an electric fence powered with solar panels. Alex and I went to shore to investigate. We saw bear tracks everywhere, and one set looked very fresh. The others were now out of their boats around the point where there was a small cabin and another fence. We yelled over to them that we had seen fresh bear tracks. As soon as Alex and I were back in our boat, we saw the others sprinting back to their canoes. Apparently, Chase had surprised a big bear as he was coming over a bluff. As we paddled off we saw another smaller bear sitting on the shore watching us. It looked like he was waiting for us to come closerÖwe didnít. We continued to see lake trout in the river. We portaged one rapids and tracked another. At the third rapid we tracked right (river left) and then ferried across and finished tracking on that side. The maneuver was scary, because the waves were big and the water was ice cold. When we reached Ptarmigan Lake our hearts sank as it too was frozen. It was difficult getting up on the ice, and when we did, we found the walking difficult. The surface was not as smooth as Artillery. We marched out to the first point and camped, not wanting to face the ice that stretched out endlessly before us. We camped on a little island covered with mountain cranberries. We picked them for hours, our knees becoming stained red. Sam almost filled a nalgene bottle, with which he made a topping for the scones that was absolutely delicious. I checked in with Brenda on the sat. phone.

June 25th
The ice was varied Ė from bumpy to flat, to soft wet snow, to dangerously thin candle ice. We were careful and had no problems. We reached the end of Ptarmigan Lake (ten miles) before Lunch and got off the ice, bringing our ice-miles total to 65 miles. We paddled upstream on the Lockhart once again seeing lake trout beneath the canoes. When we came through the last narrows we were faced with more ice. We pulled up onto it and did about three more miles and then camped on the end of the thumb where we turn SE toward Hanbury Portage. At this point we were only 13 miles behind schedule. We feared falling further behind as we had more ice, rapids, and portages the next day. There were not even any willow bushes in the vicinity of our campsite, so we broke out the MSR stoves for the first time. When the sun is shinning it is quite warm, and very hot in the tents, but as soon as the sun dips below the horizon the temperature plummets.