Paddlers for Parts 2001 Transplanted Kayakers
For Parts is a very successful and on going story.
My name is Greg Loftus and I am a transplant recipient that would like
to share a small tale with our readers.
Paddle for Parts is the second event in what started as a three part mission to
raise Organ and Tissue donor awareness and a little cash for the Kidney Foundation. This began with a "Pedal for Parts" in
May of 2000 when Corey Elliot and myself rode to Edmonton on our bicycles over a twelve day period.
We were very pleased
with the results, having managed to raise 1680.00 dollars in only three days of fund raising. With the great response from
Yellowknifers, I decided to move to step two, which brings us to our second thousand mile journey. Paddling the Mackenize
River from Fort Providence to Inuvik NT.
Having decided on the trip and method of travel, sea kayaks, I began planning
the trip. I had hoped to start with four fund raising Paddlers, but due to time commitments and other factors two would have
I contacted Vashti Thompson of Valleyview AB., and asked if she would care to come out and play. Much to my surprise,
a week later I received a call from Vashti telling me to "count her in." Now having arranged for the most charming kayaking
partner, I began planning the trip.
We bought the maps from Terry at Tiget the Map Place and Terry was most helpful. Many
I sent the maps to Vashti who turned them into 8.5" by 11" laminated books for the journey.I took the time to
way point the entire route into my old but faithful GPS unit and was satisfied that we would arrive in the right place hopfully
at the right time. Being devoted fans of camping and hiking, we owned all of the necessary equipment to make the trip. My
next step was fuelling the Paddlers for the trip.
Local Support Appreciated.
I contacted Margaret Woodley of the Yellowknife
Direct Charge Coop and asked for partial sponsorship. Many thanks to the Yes vote from the board. Next we contacted Canadian
North and with much assistance from Petrina McDaniel, we again received sponsorship that made the entire trip closer to being
a done deal. With much help from Northern News Services,we had advertisements and posters. Yes we were going! The Kidney Foundation
of Northern Alberta and the NWT set up a web site and were world wide and going strong. Visit the site at any time, www.kidney.ab.ca,
click on paddle for parts and you will be in for a pleasant surprise.
Spring went by and Vashti arrived on my doorstep
on the second of June. We spend the second and third doing trial runs with loaded kayaks and on June fourth, we headed for
Fort Providence. My neighbour Ollie decided to act as the return driver, so we loaded Vahti's truck and left.
in Ft. Providence and filed our Wilderness trip Report with the RCMP by hanging it on their door as no one was home. The current
on the Mackenize River at the Providence boat ramp was pretty stiff (12+ knots) and there was a fair amount of ice streaming
down. It took a couple of hours to load and check every thing. Ollie documented everything for historys sake, we shoved off.
The ice flow crossing was easier than I thought. We were travelling a little faster than the ice and could move around
it. We made the opposite shore, which is the north shore of a large island, turned downstream and were off to Mills Lake.
We paddled till midnight or so, as we had a late start and found ourselves twenty or so miles from where we had started. This
was enough for one day. We spent the next four and a half days with warm weather, headwinds and a lack of current that can
be discouraging to say the least.
Mills Lake, Head of the Line, Jean Marie River and Ft.Simpson cover the first one hundred
and sixty miles of the trip. Once past Head of the Line , where the river begins to narrow and the current increases, you
can encounter a variety of conditions depending on wind direction and water levels. The biggest problem that Vashti and I
found was the lack of flood plain which made camping spots few and far between. Steep banks, thick bush and current speed
at times made camp site selection a matter of there is no where else rather than choice.
|Browning Point two days into the trip
|We were about 3 inches above the water level
Day Five Ft. Simpson was within sight, but due to
three days of north winds the junction of the Liard and Mackenize was a mess of standing waves 1.5 metres high. Not the spot
for us to be paddling even on our best day. We headed up the Liard to ferry across to the Simpson side.
Ferry is a kayaking
term for crossing the flow at an angle, which allows you to move side ways across a fast moving strech of water without moving
up or down stream. We ferried for what seemed the longest time in some Class 3 type water or to put it in laymans terms we
crossed to early. Vashti enjoyed the crossing, so I think she's hooked on this new sport.
We pulled in at the boat ramp
at Ft. Simpson. With kayaks safely stored on shore we went in search of our friend Monika Pandke at the local hosiptal. The
ladies at the Ft.Simpson health centre treated us very well, tending to all our minor wounds, paddling blisters and sunburn.
We spend the night dining on some fine cusine that didn't come from plastic bags. We retired early to Monika's for a night
of showers, laundry and well deserved rest.
Ft. Simpson to Ft. Wrigley. Our Wilderness trip
plan included a stop in every town and hamlet along the river for the sake of safety. We would check in with the RCMP and
give details of our next section of river. Current flow here is good and the paddling went well. We were starting to get our
paddling muscles into shape and our routine down. Life was becoming easier and things were going great.
This section of
river is very nice as you paddle straight towards the mountains. We spend the night at an old homestead, high on a bluff about
16 kilometres this side of the Wrigley road ferry crossing.
A solid day of paddling
Passing the ferry a
couple of hours after breakfast we paddled towards Campsell Bend and this took all day. I am convinced that this is the World's
longest corner, a combination of headwinds, slow current and the sheer size of the Nahanni Mountains we were approaching combine
to give this illusion. We camped on the shore about 24 kilometres downstream from Campsell Bend. In the morning we paddled
by 27 mile island as the locals call it. After a solid day of paddling in good weather, we put in at Ft.Wrigley. We headed
into town about a fifteen minute walk, to discover everything was closed as it was Treaty Day.
Next morning we were at
the local Coop for the ten o'clock opening, looking for sunglasses and a few basics. Fort Wrigley is a very nice place and
we were well treated by all whom we met.
Web we informed that there was good camping to be had on the Blackstone River
and with this goal in mind we were off. The weather was good and the current here is very fast. We stopped for lunch and took
a GPS shot and found that we were almost fifty kilometres downstream. Shocked but happy, we continued and reached the Blackstone
River by early evening.
When travelling with the current you don't always realize how fast you are going until you decide
to put into shore. Many times well sitting on shore you are surprised, to see how fast the water moves by, as you don't feel
this while paddling.
The Blackstone river is great for camping as the road crosses here creating a level, wide open spaces
with lots of breeze. That day at least the breeze was enougnh to hold off the bugs. The water is clear and cold and promises
good fishing should you be so inclined.
We were now well over half way to Tulita. We shoved off early, planning to arrive
with lots of time to explore the town. Four nor five hours of good paddling and we were hauling the yaks ashore. The boat
launch here is a good hike into town, however the local police offered us a ride. This resulted in a complete tour of the
town and all the assistance that we could hope for. We checked out some of the oldest buildings in the north and headed off
for some computer time at the Aurora College campus. We updated the Web Site and made some phone calls before heading back
to the river. Nice paddling and we passed the Great Bear River and Bear Mountain, bound for the Halfway islands. These islands
are very special in that they are the half way point to Norman Wells and are halfway between Hay river and Tuktoyaktuk. Next
week we'll journey to Norman Wells and Inuvik. We spend a night on the river between Tulita and The Wells as the locals say.
Our kayaks were hauled ashore, getting easier to do as we ate the load. We headed for town to locate some friends. Little
did we know that the "Moccassin Telegraph" was way ahead of us and things were in motion.
Harley's Hardrock Saloon, one
of our sponsors had contacted Rick Muyres of the Wells and he was airborne looking for us. As things go we were already on
the dock when Rick took off and so he missed us. Vashti and I were on the road to town when a pick up truck full of suportters,
our host among them, pulled to a stop. Greetings and introductions went all around and we were headed back to the river for
a jet boat ride. Heading downstream without having to paddle was a treat beyond compare after the hours spend so far in the
Shortly after heading out the weather started to close in and we retreated back to town. This turned out to be
a good call as the storm closed this section of river for the next two days. Among friends in the Wells, boats safe and secure,
it was time for some whooping up. Dinner was compliments of Big John McLean and the wild Cowgirl Moe. Fine dining followed
by dancing up a storm in the local saloon. As luck would have it there was live entertainment.
|Slipping away from Ft. Good Hope 12 miles upstream
|of the Arctic Circle. So far so good and weather great
John escaped early, but the rest of us carried on until we were thrown out at closing time. Needless to say a good time
was had by all and our legs got a little workout for the first time in days. The next day the storm was gone and we had to
load up and move on. We would have liked to stay, but the the trip was now on the small half. Our thanks to Rick,John and
Moe. Liz for the computer time and Bob and Sheila and Daryll for transporting us and the kayaks.
Norman Wells is well
worth the trip as it is a friendly spot.
Our first stop after the Wells was with Wilfred MacDonald at Ogilive River. Wilfred
is one of the last two people who live full time on the river and he is well worth the visit. Many thanks for is donation
which was totally unexpected and a truly meaningful gesture. Thanks for the tea and may this find all well with you.
Good Hope was next on our list, about three days paddling away. This is a very scenic area passing by the Mountain River,
San Sous Rapids and the famous Ramparts. We made Fort Good Hope in two days of paddling.
The second day was 12 of 14 hours of paddling. The first day we shore camped under a cliff face a little ways upstream
of the Mountian River. The second day we ran the San Sous Rapids which are just around the bend from the Mountian / MacKenzie
junction. The high water level acted in our favour and by staying on the left bank of the river, we ran a very easy Class
two rapid. You could however spice up your trip and run the rapid in the marked shipping lane,there's a lot of hidden power
there. The current in the lane actually pulls down the bouys and they pop up fast with great amounts of noise. As you approach
the San Sous Rapids you hear them long before you see them, due to the river bend. The noise is caused by the water rushing
by the bouys. They are shaped like the bow of a ship and the bow waves are over three feet high. Stay left stay dry that was
our plan. We carried on until the wind pick up and then headed for shore. Now however the high water was working against us
by eliminating the flood plain and leaving very few places to pull out and camp. We ended up on a muddy shore, facing he possibilty
of perhaps a few days stay.
After a serious disscussion on our location, we decided to push on to Ft. Good Hope, about
25 kilometres away, if the wind dropped at all. The river being shallow most of the way, it builds up waves fast with the
wind blowing against the current. As the wind drops, so do the waves. Unsure of what to expect at the Ramparts we were a little
leery to commit. The Ramparts are about five miles of canyon that allows no place to pull out until you are through. We were
worried that the storm could return and cause us problems in the canyon.
Full Speed Ahead
The wind dropped and we
were off, full speed ahead. Once again the high water was in our favour as we entered the canyon. There was a current, but
not a ripple. We breezed through in light showers and landed at Ft. Good Hope, 2 hours and 20 minutes after we started. This
proved to be just in time to feed the horde of mosquitoes that call the boat ramp home. We headed off in search of Glenda
and Ken and managed to discover that theylived further than we felt like hiking that night. We returned to the boat ramp,
where we metThomas and his son, Loren who offered to drive our yaks to the grass lot at the top of the hill. We had discovered
this site on our walk and were wondering how we could get there and if anyone would mind. Thanks to Thomas and Loren the puzzle
was solved and we were settled for the night. Morning came early and I completed the check in routine with the local force
and with their help was talking to Glenda