August 19, 2015 Churchill River Canoe Trip

Day 4 of 5

I slept in to 9 a.m., waking up about 5 times in the night for 15 minutes average each time (which is a very thorough sleep for me when camping). Sarah had slept outside wrapped in the tarp with a bug net on in an experiment to avoid tent-induced claustrophobia. The buzzing sounds of the mosquitoes kept her awake much of the night this time, but this meant she got to see northern lights, which I missed. The overnight low was around +12 C. We both found our -7 C “three-season” rated MEC synthetic mummy bags much too warm. I spent the first part of the night opening and closing my sleeping bag as I went through cycles of being too hot or too cold. In hindsight I should have bought thinner and lighter down sleeping bags with synthetic liners or blankets to add for colder temperatures, since most of our camping is done in summer.

After a late breakfast we hiked to the top of a rocky peak directly behind our camp, making noise to warn any bears or cougars that might be nearby. I found possible evidence of bear activity, but not being overly knowledgeable on the subject, was not certain. In any case, bear spray was at the ready on my belt, as usual.

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Part way up the rocky peak behind camp

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At the peak of the rocky ridge behind camp (~12 p.m.)

We discovered the mobile phones just barely had one bar of reception at the rocky peak (no reception at camp). I was not able to call out on my phone due to weak signal, but texting was functional. I texted Sarah’s father requesting him to book a dental appointment on my behalf for my chipped tooth so I could have it fixed shortly after we planned to return to the city. I was also able to check the weather forecast, which did not look overly ominous. We had a spare battery pack to charge the phones if needed. We did not bother with a solar charger considering the short duration of the trip.

In the future I plan to figure out how to get AM weather band on my phone, or a small solar powered radio. I’m also considering a DeLorme inReach or satellite phone rental for future trips with this level of isolation. There were several motor boats travelling back and forth along the river each day which did provide a means of emergency contact in addition to the mobile phones, but it could be many hours between boats at times and using the phones required an accessible high ridge.

From the peak we hiked a little way southwest along a rocky ridgeline. The ridge was covered in pines and moss\lichen without undergrowth, which made for easy hiking — for a short distance, after which the ridge then plunged downward into gloomy darkness full of thick trees with undergrowth and many fallen tree trunks.

We looked at the map, philosophically contemplating how long or arduous a cross-county ~2 to 3 km hike due south to Iskwatikan Lake would be. My guess was 6 hours one way with a lot of swearing, scratches, bruises, bug bites and probably wet feet from a few marshes. Paddling is definitely the way to travel in this country! But I’m occasionally tempted by the idea of a challenging hike, and could be persuaded with more adventurous company (for better or worse). Sarah had done cross-country running as a teenager — we might have talked ourselves into it if we were 10 years younger. But I know I wound’t last long in this terrain at my current age and physical condition.

Not surprisingly, since we weren’t using a compass, it took us a while to find the camp on the way down. We started passing unfamiliar landmarks, ending up a few hundred meters east of camp, requiring a bushwhack along shore back to camp. Along the way I showed Saryn the nicer campsite I had discovered yesterday with a relatively flat area for a kitchen set up. There was evidence of a fire pit from other users. We decided it wasn’t worth the effort to move the camp, considering we planned only one more night at this location.

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The grass IS greener on the other side — or, at least the rock is flatter, in this case. This photo of the “better” site, taken the previous morning.

Back at camp we considered swimming, but we observed a half dozen leaches swimming off shore during each meal, not to mention 2 or 3 on the canoe bottom when we pulled it on shore each night. The leaches, cool weather and shoreline thick with a very slippery algae resulted in a consensus vote against swimming. For the rest of the day we were not overly adventurous or energetic and moved slowly, recovering our out-of-shape bodies. We cooked on the fire pit during an intermittent light rain.

We relaxed in the evening sitting along the shore. A motor boat with local first nations people cruised by the camp. We waved, after which they left the bay. A while later we heard gunshots — they were possibly hunting deer coming to shore for water. I noted it might be wise to have brightly coloured clothing for this area.

My lower back was getting quite sore in the usual problem area due to the combination of many hours of driving in the past few days, much sitting at wedding functions, not doing routine back strengthening exercises, not cycling (maybe?), two days of paddling after not paddling for several months, hauling heavy items in and out of the canoe from awkward angles while on shore and multiple camp chores that require leaning over to do things at ground level.

The rest day prevented my back from getting worse, but it remained tensed up for the rest of the trip and for a few days after the trip (more driving after the canoe trip didn’t help). Saryn had to lift things out of the canoe for me for the rest of the trip.

We went to bed by 8:30 p.m. to catch up on rest.

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