Friday, August 24, 2007

Coppermine River 2007

What is there to be said about it. I don't really know. We paddled a river, intersected by some lakes, we got some fish and we saw some wildlife. How some people are able to write books on their trips I don't know, I find it hard to write some lines about it. But I guess I have to try.
On the 7 of July 2007 (07.07.07 a total coincidence) we flew out from Yellowknife whit a charter plane.
After about one and a half hour we landed on Lac de Gras in the late hours of the evening (about 670km from Kugluktuk, our final destination). Although its July, the last remains of the arctic winter can be seen. Most of the lake is cowered whit ice. Its only in the outlet there is some open water. And there we landed (Oh, who are we? Its Arild, on his eleventh canoe trip in Canada, Svein on his first, Robert on his second, Lotta on her first and me on my third. OK, then you know who the crew is). The weather was great, no wind and the late evening sun hanging low in the never ending horizon of the tundra. The bugs were out, and the fish were, by some, reason hiding.
Next morning, before the others had got up I went fishing, and on the third throw a nice 2,5 kg Lake Trout was landed for breakfast.
At the same time Robert had gone fishing as well, and got a 7 kg Lake Trout on his firs throw. And that was the largest we got this time. After putting together our folding canoes from Pakboat and Ally, we set of for the first rapids. First rapid was short and fun. But one boat got the line a little wrong, and someone had his first flip over in 11 years, and for his paddling partner, a flip over in his first rapid ever. Perfect start. We were ready for 4 weeks of fun.
The first days saw us through a mix of lakes and fun stretches of river between them.
Some nice rapids, most of them we paddled, one portage and some short stretches of lining when it was to shallow to paddle. The Lake Trout fishing continued to be good. If we did not get some in three attempts it was a bad spot for fishing.
On day 6 we came to Obstruction Rapid. This is a long and big rapid. We ran the firs part, nice and easy canoeing. The mid section was to wide and shallow to paddle, so we lined/waded it.
The third part was BIG fun, and by far some of the biggest water I have done in a canoe.
After the big fun comes the long silence, or something like that. Anyway,
Obstruction Rapid was the beginning of Point Lake, a 120km long lake. This is actually a really nice place on earth. Slabs going down into the lake made good campsites, the fishing was good, and the weather warm and sunny. And the bugs did not bother us to much. Our biggest fear on Point Lake was to get a headwind, but we never saw it. So life was good. After Point Lake we entered Redrock Lake.
On a point, overlooking the lake there was a fish camp or something like that. A float plane indicated that it was someone there, so we went to shore. There we met Max Ward and was invited for coffee and lunch. This was not a regular commercial fish camp, but a private lodge for Max and those he invite. It was like walking into a world we had forgot long ago. We were walking on a soft carpet and washing our hands in warm running water. Eating fresh baked cookies from the kitchen, and being served lunch by a waiter! It was almost a relief to hit the lake again, back in the canoe, a world I new. We turned down the offer to spend the night there, and was happily frying fish in our lavvo in the evening.
After Rocknest Lake it is river for the last 400 km down to Kugluktuk. The first part, about 80km, is some fun rapids, fast moving water and some small lakes. Then there is 130 km whit slow moving water down to Big Bend. From there it is fast river and funny rapids.
The first part is some major rapids and some fast moving river in between. One of these rapids had to be portaged, it was to obstructed to paddle. The rest was just plain fun. The long stretch of slow moving river was a dull and slow part. We had headwind, the fishing was bad and it was cold. There were days whit out fish for dinner, but we lived ok on rice and pasta and a large supply of spices.
After Big Bend the river pick up speed, the Arctic char is plentiful and we saw quite some wildlife, including two wolfs, a lot of Rudolf (caribou) and moose. The Arctic Char is a strange friend. When he is there, we normally got enough to over eat for lunch and diner for a couple of days, and then it would be days we did not meet him.
There is some named rapids on this part of the river (Rocky Defile, Muskox, Sandstone and Escape), and we were eager to see what they looked like. But as everything else, what is written is not what you find in reality. We found some really fun rapids, but not nearly as difficult as described. Never trust what an American write, they use the words different from us.
The last rapid, and a mandatory portage, is Bloody Falls. In 1771 Samuel Hearne and his Indian guides came down the Coppermine and at the last rapid they came over a group of Inuits camped there. The Indians and Inuits were historic enemies, and the Indians massacred the Inuits, hence the name of the falls.
Here at Bloody Falls we spent out last night. One should think that this was a night for thinking back on the trip, contemplating the last moth. I don't know what the others did in their head, but for me it was just an other night. I know its not the last time, I will be back soon, so why think too much?

One last thing. After every one of my trips to Canada people ask me if met many bears. I just have one answer to that: Did Santa come to your house last Christmas? I think there is a bigger chance to meet the real Santa than a real bear. What people think to be bears is in fact someone who has dressed up like a bear, just like some like to dress like Santa i December.


Michelle Laurie said...

Hi Aslak,
Great photos and great to hear the trip went well. It sounds like an amazing month.
I must tell you, as a Canadian, there are plenty of bears! Next time you are in Canada lets go canoeing together. I am a bear magnet :-) I have had three in my backyard alone and have seen about twenty this summer without looking for them.
Glad to hear you are still planning more Canadian Wilderness Adventures. Still, it always good to take time to reflect.......
Take care and looking forward to reading the dog stories.

Anonymous said...

I saw four bears on my trip (in 2010). I guess it's just timing.