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

Day 23

Weather: Strong cross wind (20+ mph), then head wind (15 mph), then gentle tailwind. Hot and sunny. Extremely buggy.
Distance: 103 km
Location: Latitude:64.47720, Longitude:-96.47073 at 08/04/2014 19:52:57 PDT
Map link: Click here

We were up at 3am and on the water by 3.45 am. We had a strong cross wind for the first 15 km. The wind was dropping off the hills to our north as we hugged the north shore of Schultz Lake. Eventually we turned south east to round a long peninsula and had quartering seas for 20 km or so. At the end of the peninsula we bumped into our friends again and enjoyed a break with swarms of black flies.

After rounding the peninsula we had a stiff headwind with small whitecaps to contend with for the next 10 km which involved several open crossings. After that the lake narrowed and became the Thelon River. The current picked up and there was a significant rapid before the river turned south east and we had the wind at our backs and the current with us. This wind and current assist is what we had been looking forward to throughout the morning's 50 km struggle.

We paddled down to Aleksektok Rapids where we stopped to scout. We hiked all the way to the bottom of these large rapids which are a km or more long. At this low water level there was a relatively straightforward sneak route on river right, so we decided to run it. This saved a lot of time as we had anticipated doing a long portage around these rapids, based on previous reports.

Below Aleksektok Rapids we enjoyed miles of smooth fast current. The wind was almost calm and the sun was out. The light was fantastic, but the black flies were horrendous. By the time we stopped they were swarming all over us. They were so thick on the tent that they were swarming on top of each other and tumbling down in clumps. It was not possible to get into the tent with out bringing in thousands of them. Even our usual tactic of pitching the tent flat to the ground (poles inside but not installed) running down wind for 200 m and then sprinting back upwind to the tent and having one of us dive in while the other brushed the flies off them and zipped up the tent immediately, didn't work. Thousands got in. We were killing them for an hour after getting in the tent and everything was smeared in black grunge. Our gloves and clothes were filthy. It was really squalid, but finally we got to relax a bit.

We were pleased to have paddled 103 km, with more than half the distance on lakes with wind hinderance, in what felt like an over stuffer dry bag. We may complain about the lack of speed of our PakCanoe, but it can't be that slow if we covered over 100 km in a day. We could easily have continued for another hour or two, but after 15 hours on the water we were tired and even with the black fly insanity with was worth stopping.