Day 4 - Monday July 10
Doug takes us for a ‘tufa’ (humps of calcium carbonate) mound tour...using a small punt, he ferries us across a stream to fast to wade - the 5 km trail to the tufa mound is well worn, but interesting being lined with bright flower including locoweed, yellow lady slipper, butterwort and bear berry. He explains about the tufa formation and how delicate it is. Shoes must be taken off before climbing the tufa. For a delicate substance, it is rather prickly to my town soft soles. I walk gingerly along trying to avoid the biggest ridges. Luke warm water washes over the tufa, depositing more material. My biggest urge is to have a swim in the tufa spring waters but this is strictly verboten.
Back at Rabbit Kettle, we pack up and portage the 800 meters from Rabbit Kettle to the river..at last! To be on the banks of the fabled Nahanni - I can hardly believe it - after 4 days of travel and years of anticipation, it is almost a religious experience. With big smiles we load the canoe and take our first stroke
The 8 km current takes some getting used to...the olive green water is not what I expected, being very silt laden with a visibility of only some 4". The ABS canoes make a hissing sound as they are gently abraided by the river waters. Our first wildlife siting are 3 immature (horned?) owls perching on a lodge pole pine branch...they are not anxious to fly, hopping from branch to branch when they spot us. Bonaparte gulls with their black heads gracefully accompany us as we paddle downstream.
The sun gradually burns through the thin cloud cover...I don sun protection as the low angle bouncing off the water burns my eyes. By 8pm we are at Hell Roaring Creek - a pretty gravel bed site sprinkled with alders, magenta broad leaf willow herb and twisted heads of some tall mountain avens. I am grateful for the clear water of the creek, drinking long and deep before thinking to treating the water. A solitary beaver is spotted swimming upstream....
My turn to cook. Its a fast dinner of chili con carne, dehydrated at home. Everyone collapses into their tents by 10:30pm, overwhelmed by the days events. The sun is still up but hidden behind some mountains. My sleep is restless, the wind gusts, heavy rain falls in intense bursts and as I hear/imagine rock slides through the night.