Day 7 (July 12):
Finally we have settled into a camp rhythm – I’m up first, making the coffee, getting breakfast, Ron and Alfred pack the tents. It’s a calm start to the day after yesterdays bluster and 3 seasons in 24 hours….typical arctic weather. We’re on the water early, by 9am…fantastic orange cliffs close to waters edge with 2 or 3 abandoned eagles nest…a hairpin turn looks promising on the map but turns out to be a less interesting slope being gray scree dotted with spruce.
Unexpectedly there is a braided section of the river – it’s a challenge to guess which channel has the most water. More gravel swifts, pleasant paddling. At km 485 the river bends sharply to the east and we are dumped into a strong headwind same as yesterday…again we lunch, wait one smoke. This time instead of lining we paddle, sort of, hugging river right so close the lush green shore grasses brush the gunnels while I grab them to pull us along. Within 3 or 4 km the wind has totally died, the valley opened up with more meandering braided channels. Black banks are lined with overhanging willow shrub, roots exposed, washed clean by the scouring action of spring flood. Pretty! A fully racked caribou browses deep in scrub and only when he dashes off, startled by our passing, do we see him.
A long level terrace 150m from rivers edge beckons as a campsite. A well beaten animal path is punctuated by somewhat crusty bear droppings (hard on the outside, soft on the inside). Contents include siksik skulls, tiny bones mixed with plants fibers. Later we stroll above the trees – it’s hot and gusty, feels more like the desert than the arctic.