Dave and I have begun the trip home (using modes of transportation that are much faster than our canoe). I bet you would like to hear about our last few days on the Mackenzie River and how we arrived in Norman Wells.
For starters, the weather on the river has been getting colder. There were a couple of mornings when we emerged from the tent to see crisp white snow blanketing the ground. The land surrounding the river is beautiful! If the clouds lift for a while, we have been able to see snow-covered mountains on either side of the river.
We had a great visit with a man who has been living in his cabin along the river for 22 years. His nickname is W. As we walked up the riverbank to say “hi”, W. was sitting on his ATV. He told us that he just saw a moose, so he tried to follow it into the woods. We walked up to his cabin, pulled off our muddy boots and warmed ourselves by the wood stove. We sat down to chat with W. over a cup of coffee.
He talked about how winter was coming early this year. He could tell by observing the behavior of animals near his cabin, as well as the weather. It was rare to get snow this early. An early winter is actually an odd thing for W. to experience. He explained that the temperatures have been consistently getting warmer throughout the time he has spent at his cabin. As we talked, a bunch of people came in the door. Several groups of moose hunters stopped by to visit with W. too.
We left W.'s cabin in the late afternoo n. Dave and I were glad that we had a chance to meet so many nice people. We also learned a lot about Norman Wells and the dogsledding route for this winter. We managed to paddle a few miles before sunset. We stopped to set up camp just 14 miles north of Norman Wells. The town was just one day's paddle away!
A strong wind picked up during the night. The tent was flapping and we could hear waves crashing on the beach. So much for getting to Norman Wells in one day! We spent the day in camp, napping, reading, and waiting for the wind to die down.
September 27th was a great day. The wind was calm and the sun came out! Dave and I did a mixture of paddling and lining the canoe the 14 miles to Norman Wells. W. actually passed us in his motorboat. He offered a ride, but at that point we were only 8 miles away and we wanted to go the whole way under our own power.
As we got closer to Norman Wells, we could see several steep islands in the middle of the river. Eventually I realized that these islands didn't have trees on them. Instead they had oil rigs, pumping up and down! These oil rigs are a stark reminder that we will soon be back in a society that is dependent on fossil fuels. In the next few days our carbon footprint will increase greatly as we switch from traveling by canoe to traveling by plane and bus.
During the following days, we were warmly welcomed in Norman Wells. We gave two presentations at the Mackenzie Mountain School and we got to know many teachers and community members. I would like to thank everyone who helped to make our stay great! We can’t wait to return in the winter with our dog team.