Sun Feb. 15 (day 7)
The sun hasn’t risen over the tree tops yet – it’s 6am and –35C. Only the snow squeaks and I hear or feel my breath on my cheek. So quiet! Mornings and evenings, time I feel religious when winter camping…
I’m not sure what is going to be different today as a result of last night’s conversation re our time challenge. We break camp as usual and start walking south, heading into a series of short portages which follow some little creek. There is no glide on the runners due to the cold temperatures, I have to fight for every step. A further complication is the route is somewhat overgrown and the lead person has to stop and cut the willow brush in places. The twisting winding trail is fun however, I practice pulling on the tump lines to keep the komatik on the packed trail behind me and out of the deep side snows.
Yesterday in late afternoon, my left foot was starting to develop symptoms of the crippling ‘mal de rackette’. Not sure why it developed but I’m taking it easy today. With our slower pace, this is not a problem but the day is still early.
The small creek has big wide shoulders with a few clumps of scattered alder bushes. The level ground is a pleasant change from the usual up and down of the portage trails. A big blue sky overhead mirrors my buoyant mood. I don’t care if we finish the traverse as planned, as the pleasure of being outside with good company in glorious conditions is enough for me.
It’s only 2 or 3 km from our morning camp when we stop.Craig and I head off to pack trail ahead, leaving the toboggans with the others as they start the lunch fire. The creek still offers the best walking, we continue along its shores. A patch of open water and surrounding shattered ice are evidence where a moose broke through but managed to get out. Moose, deer and martin tracks criss cross the creek in this wind sheltered valley of Eden.
Not much further along, the creek splits into two. The trail narrows and we clamber up and down between land and frozen creek bed. A huge boulder marks the sudden opening into a wide open terrace. There, we stop, study the terrain and decide this is far enough. After beating through more willows, we locate the end of the portage trail and return to the group overland. At lunch, the official announcement is made that this will be our furthest camp south. We’ll explore the area ahead however on a day trip tomorrow and overnight a second night in the same camp.
I’m not sure how the rest of the group feels about this decision. It was made perfectly clear at the outset that completion of this route was a long shot, maybe 50-50 at best given the unknown conditions (overgrown trails, terrain), the unexpected (last minute drop out of one person) and the always unpredictable (weather). My guts say we gave it our best shot and re-routing to Plan B is the right choice. With peace of mind, I look forward to what the next six days will bring.