Trip Journal

June 26th
We started out on ice, but the day was broken up between ice-walking and paddling. The ice was thick and firm for the most part. Some of the potholes had ice, but we could usually paddle the edges. We crossed Hanbury Portage, which I guess includes two other portages. The H.O.L. portage must be one of the first ones because there is a stream flowing in the direction of the last portage flowing into the headwaters of the Hanbury River. I was glad we had the 1:50,000 map for it. In the river we saw more lake trout, and some ptarmigan on shore. We shot a small rapid and camped at the beginning of Smart Lake with ice ahead, and our ice-mile total at 75.

June 27th
Chase’s birthday! We began pulling on ice, but soon noticed the left shore was open so we got into it. We passed through several narrow stretches with fast water, and saw two Grizzly bears in one of them. One was fishing at the mouth of a stream while the cub watched expectantly from shore. We skirted ice in many places and pulled over short distances. Once after the first two boats had knocked a chunk of ice out of the way to clear a channel, the main sheet of ice moved in to fill the space almost crushing Chase and Sledzik’s canoe. We reached Sifton Lake about 11:00, and found it was frozen. We tried unsuccessfully to get up on it, but noticed the channel on the south shore was open. We had to paddle in and out of bays, but there were few obstructions. Rounding a bend and intending to stop for lunch we spooked a white wolf at the shore. We soon discovered that we had interrupted a drama. We had interrupted his attack of a caribou, which he had pinned in the strip of water between ice and land. We backed off and ate our lunch while keeping an eye on the caribou, wondering if we would witness a National Geographic moment. The wolf had backed off but still had his eye on the caribou. After lunch when nothing had happened we got back into the boats and paddled on past the caribou. Just as we were approaching, the wolf reappeared over a rise just a few meters from the caribou. Of course, we spooked the wolf again, but as we paddled off we knew it was the end of the line for the caribou. We camped on Sifton just across from Muskox Hill where the lake bends to the southeast. While we were preparing dinner, a wolverine trotted along the bank right toward us. He turned away just a few meters off looking annoyed. The birthday cake pancakes were not pretty, but they tasted good.

June 28th
At 6:45 we were in our canoes brushing our teeth when we spotted a wolf trotting along on the ice. He paused to study us, but then moved off up stream. We found the channel at the edge of Sifton getting clogged with ice more frequently than the day before. We were hampered by ice all day. We skirted it, pulled over it, and chopped through it. Still, there was plenty of paddling too. We were slowed by headwinds at times, but also had the benefit of current in several areas, including some fast water sections. We pushed after lunch to make some extra miles and crossed onto map 75P. The navigating was tricky but we finally found the narrow opening we were looking for. We shot the top of an S shaped rapid, eddied out left and scouted. There was a huge hole on river right, but the left looked okay. We finished the shoot successfully and camped at the bottom. There was enough willow wood for a fire so we cooked spaghetti and a double garlic bread.

June 29th
After breakfast we rounded a bend where the river expanded again to confront more ice. Walking NE we overshot the opening we were looking for. It took us a while to get back on track. In the narrows we shot the first section of a rapid, and portaged the bottom. We saw a wolf on the west shore of the long bay below the rapid. We fought headwinds through Lac DuBois. We watched a caribou grazing at the peak of a hill as we approached Grove Rapids. We all shot the top section. Chase and Sledzik shot the second section, and we all portaged the rest in sections on both sides. Hanbury Lake was frozen so we dragged across it and camped at the beginning of Caribou Rapids.