Jonathan and Kirti Walpole's 950 km canoe journey across Northwest Territories and Nunavut in July and August of 2014

Day 2

Weather: Clear, sunny, windy, then smokey, calm, buggy, and eventually cloudy with some rain.
Distance: 46 km
Location: Latitude:63.57298, Longitude:-106.82217 at 07/14/2014 20:22:39 PDT
Map link: Click here

We launched at 7 am and quickly found the start of the Hanbury River in a quiet corner of the lake. At first there was just a slight hint of current in shallow water, then the waterway narrowed, rounded a corner and we found ourselves on a small, shallow river with frequent shallow rocky rapids. The action and the intimacy of the river was a wonderful change from the lake paddling we had yesterday. However, it soon became apparent that this really was a very low water year and that some of the rapids may not be runnable. At one stage we had to line and wrestle the canoe down a shallow set of rapids for 1 km or so. Several such sections ensued, and in between we had to be very vigilant about rocks and shallows, constantly keeping our speed in check by back setting. The Pakcanoe handled very well in these conditions, but whenever it ran aground, either with us in it or without, it did not slide over rocks and was quite difficult to drag through the shallow rocky rapids. In particular, it is not easily pulled sideways over shallow rocks like a hardshell is.

We soon entered Heuss Lake, followed by Smart Lake. The wind got up and was blowing quite hard from the side for a few km. Eventually, we had quartering seas and enjoyed the lively waves, trying to milk as much energy as we could. The wind got up to 20 mph and was fairly constant, setting up some nice rolling wave trains with small whitecaps.

We stopped for lunch at an esker where we saw a lone muskox. I carefully approached it, for photos, probably closer than I should have. It jumped up and ran back a bit before facing me. I quickly retreated. So did it. Later we saw it on the other side of the esker. It was quite animated, charging back and forth and rolling around in a big sand pit. It was much more energetic than we expected.

At this stage the weather was clear and sunny, with temperatures around 80. We had a nice lunch on the esker, and it was windy enough to keep the bugs at bay.We launched after lunch and enjoyed a few km of following seas, with fairly large waves. We were on the brink of being surfed a few times, but the Pakcanoe it not quite fast enough (especially when heavily loaded) to break free and surf easily. The energy spent trying to accelerate it up to surfing speed was probably not well spent, but we kept trying nevertheless.

By mid afternoon the south wind blew in a huge bank of smoke from the extensive forest fires to the south of us. Visibility dropped drastically, to 400 meters or less. It became quite difficult to navigate, and air quality was poor. The sun was a barely visible red ball in the middle of an otherwise cloudless sky. The wind dropped and the bugs came out in force. We eventually stopped at 7pm.

Later in the evening there was some thunder and a brief rain shower. The bugs were ferocious in the later part of the day, both on and off the water, and we had to seal up the hoods and face shields of our bugsuits and put our leather gloves on for the last couple of hours of our paddle, even though we were out on a lake.