July 12 – Day 4 – wind bound!

It’s now the third morning at this campsite. I feel ready to move down river. At 7am with grey and drizzle, no one jumps up to make the coffee, including me. I satisfy my urge to ‘do’ by squishing yesterday’s blackflies against the tent nylon. They leave a satisfying smear and I enjoy extracting my revenge. Later feeling repentant, I wipe the nylon clean.

Despite the deteriorating weather, we breakfast, break camp and load the canoes. It’s 10am and our first day actually paddling down stream on the Thelon! However….what a start…looking downstream, white caps foam mid river at the Hanbury/Thelon junction. Alfred is not comfortable with me at stern and hesitatingly dips the water with his paddle blade. We keep as close to shore as possible in an attempt to gain wind shelter from the lee of the land.

It’s quickly apparent (to me anyhow) that this is loosing battle: the wind is too strong for us. In the 16’ canoe, Ron is fiercely paddling but not making much headway. At a bend in the river, the Thelon swings slightly north – and all is lost. The wind nails us, exactly 3 km away from this mornings’ (and the day before and day before) campsite. Hello barren land!

Scrambling up the rocky river bank, its pretty much the same as upstream: a flat plateau dotted with a few spruce trees, carpeted by dwarf willow, Labrador tea and sphagnum mosses. Hauling the boats on shore, we decide to wait and see if the wind will die down. At 2pm, the wind hasn’t diminished. We lunch on salami and bagels, chewing thoughtfully.

At least its sunny! Ron and Alfred relax on a mattress of shore shrubs. I, with restless energy to burn, wander around, inspecting sand blowouts and various animal tracks.

Again I find a modern tent ring, this time with tea bag and refuse in a blackened firepit. I kick sand over the fire pit, distribute the rocks and grind the tea bags to dust under my heels. Last summers red lingon berries lay like tiny deflated balloons, their tartness preserved, still able to prick my taste buds.

4pm and no change in the wind – except perhaps a bit stronger? So that’s it for Day 1 on the river - a 3 km paddle and 4 hours of waiting. Camp goes up on the spot, overlooking a large sand island mid river.

I’m not sorry to set up here. Three planes flew low overhead today, searching for a landing spot. I wondered if they set down at Wardens Grove, not far downstream. It would be nice to keep some space between us and other canoe parties so everyone has some space.

The sky clears overhead but an ominous dark cloud bank lays heavy on the northern horizon. The wind is slowing but the temperature is dropping like a led zeppelin. At 5C, a hint of snow is in the air. 

I like to stroll after dinner. There is always some thing to discover. Broad banded wing feathers, perhaps from a rough legged hawk, are lodged in tundra ground cover. A siksik skull, incisors yellowed worn, lies with nary a body bone. I pocket the skull for show and tell back at camp.

Dark silvery grey clouds thicken and start to move faster and faster across the dim sky. Retreating back to the shelter of the tent, I hold my breath and wait to see what will come next. After a late tea, we all turn in and hope for some paddling tomorrow.