Paddling North

Marian and I are “Paddling North” and you are invited! We will be leaving Jasper, Alberta on May 17 and paddling north approximately 3400 kilometres to the Arctic Ocean at Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories and hope to arrive there in mid August. We will travel along four different rivers and we hope you’ll come along for the adventure. We will be accompanied by our Adventure Pig, Delilah. You can follow the expedition here at www.taloeffler.com where we will be posting SPOT updates as well as an audio post daily. Where cellular or wifi coverage exist on the route, we will also try to post some pictures of our adventures, as well. You can also see pictures on my Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts (all are @taloeffler). Take care and catch you from four rivers while we are paddling north!

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Check-in/OK message from SPOT TA

Device Name: TA
Latitude: 60.02218
Longitude: -111.91763
GPS location Date/Time: 06/17/2018 03:15:28 NDT

Message: TA & Marian are paddling to the Arctic Ocean. Check the map to see where they are paddling & exploring today!

Click the link below to see where I am located.
http://fms.ws/xPj_M/60.02218N/111.91763W

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Check-in/OK message from SPOT TA

Device Name: TA
Latitude: 59.38901
Longitude: -111.44902
GPS location Date/Time: 06/16/2018 00:17:27 NDT

Message: TA & Marian are paddling to the Arctic Ocean. Check the map to see where they are paddling & exploring today!

Click the link below to see where I am located.
http://fms.ws/xMYiB/59.38901N/111.44902W

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Check-in/OK message from SPOT TA

Device Name: TA
Latitude: 59.08296
Longitude: -111.40591
GPS location Date/Time: 06/15/2018 00:03:20 NDT

Message: TA & Marian are paddling to the Arctic Ocean. Check the map to see where they are paddling & exploring today!

Click the link below to see where I am located.
http://fms.ws/xJTj9/59.08296N/111.40591W

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Check-in/OK message from SPOT TA

Device Name: TA
Latitude: 58.92554
Longitude: -111.17606
GPS location Date/Time: 06/13/2018 21:15:03 NDT

Message: TA & Marian are paddling to the Arctic Ocean. Check the map to see where they are paddling & exploring today!

Click the link below to see where I am located.
http://fms.ws/xG4ar/58.92554N/111.17606W

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Paddling North: Heading Out Again Tomorrow

Turns out, we weren’t in a big hurry to head out from Fort Chipewyan. We’ve so enjoyed our stay that it seemed a shame to rush off (and a bit more test never goes astray).

Yesterday we visited the Wood Buffalo National Park Office and visitor’s Centre. We also spent some time talking about expedition with Lisa’s Grade Seven class. They asked some great questions. Last night, we attended the Athabasca Delta School awards ceremony and help celebrate the students’ achievements.

Last night the light over Lake Athabasca was delicious and we spent some time drinking it in. The golden strip is the sun highlighting the grass/reeds on the far side of the lake.

We going to start paddling North again tomorrow on the Rivière Des Rochers which will lead us to the intersection with the Peace River and the two rivers become the Slave River which we will take to the Great Slave Lake. Phase Four of Paddling North will be Fort Chip to Fort Smith…

Catch you from the river…not sure how much, if any Internet coverage there will along the river for sharing photos but we’ll do an audio update and Spot update daily as usual.

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Paddling North: Fort Chip

We woke, having not had any interactions with the bear whose prints we found on the Winter road, to a grey day. With a weather report of increasing wind, we packed quickly and headed out. The crossing took about an hour and when we looked out of the bay to the larger part of Lake Athabasca, it looked like the ocean and Fort Chipewyan, looked like many Newfoundland and Labrador outports we’ve paddled into.

We were greeted at the Big Dock by Lisa and the barge we met the other day. We let the barge go in first 🙂

We’ve spent the day catching up with Lisa and Ben, both HKR grads, touring town, and doing town tasks. It’s been good to have a rest for our arms after five good hard days of paddling and after closing Phase Three. Phase Four will see us headed for Fort Smith via Fort Fitzgerald.

Lisa met us with a truck and we moved our gear to her house. A different kind of loading and I rode in back to make sure the boat was okay. I felt like I was in a parade. Laundry. Check. Clean the spice kit. Check. Charge electronics. Check. Prep maps. Check. Sleep deep and well tonight. Hope so!

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Check-in/OK message from SPOT TA

Device Name: TA
Latitude: 58.71256
Longitude: -111.15121
GPS location Date/Time: 06/11/2018 00:30:00 NDT

Message: TA & Marian are paddling to the Arctic Ocean. Check the map to see where they are paddling & exploring today!

Click the link below to see where I am located.
http://fms.ws/x7hNq/58.71256N/111.15121W

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Paddling North: 4 Kilometres Short and Playing It Safe

We are hunkered down in our tent. The winds are sailing round and the shaking tent is making our prayer flags sway. We are across the way from Fort Chipewyan, a wee bit broken hearted, after a huge paddling day trying to get there. We are 4 kilometres shy and camped on the winter road. The sky above us has tumbled some and is a sickening shade of gray but so far, no big strikes. It will be fine with us, the swirling winds have already cemented our decision but it was still hard to stop so close. The risk benefit analysis had too much on the potential loss side if a doozy storm kicked up. So, we are dry, have our best campsite in days (no sand, no bugs, no mud, and cell coverage) :-).

We had a wicked cool lunch spot today. The picture doesn’t do it justice. The end of the log was floating and I got to climb out of the canoe, with lunch in hand, up the tree. It was the only spot we could find as we paddled out Maeawi Creek to Mawawi Lake. As we are in the Athabasca River Delta, things are ever changing and maps just can’t keep up. Fortunately, we had satellite imagery to assist us because the map showed the creek ending at the lake’s edge when in reality, the channel reached out 5 km into the lake. It turned out to be very handy that it did as the wind was kicking up a bit and the extended version of the creek cut the open crossing down considerably.

On the pic above, you can see the location of our lunch log. Pretty cool, we had lunch “in the middle” of the lake. It was a big day…we paddled about 41 km with 20 of them being against the wind and 9 of them being against wind and current. We expected the trip to Fort Chip (live the rhyme) to take 8 days so you can imagine how pleased we are to have almost reached it on day five. We were able to cut off some distance by using the Mawawi option rather than the Embarras or Fletcher Channels.

This was the camp where we perfected our big house which was excellent timing since yesterday’s camp had a fair share of mosquitoes and I was able to cook dinner and breakfast with only a few mosquito guests. The only thing we haven’t solved is how to do our business with company. That’s a challenge!

The birds are singing now-not sure if it is post storm or pre storm songs. The bird song today as we paddled was so amazing. The winds are still gusty so I don’t think we are quite done but I’ll close for now and go watch the weather.

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Check-in/OK message from SPOT TA

Device Name: TA
Latitude: 58.68661
Longitude: -111.20157
GPS location Date/Time: 06/09/2018 23:34:26 NDT

Message: TA & Marian are paddling to the Arctic Ocean. Check the map to see where they are paddling & exploring today!

Click the link below to see where I am located.
http://fms.ws/x59NI/58.68661N/111.20157W

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Check-in/OK message from SPOT TA

Device Name: TA
Latitude: 58.48006
Longitude: -111.48033
GPS location Date/Time: 06/09/2018 00:11:49 NDT

Message: TA & Marian are paddling to the Arctic Ocean. Check the map to see where they are paddling & exploring today!

Click the link below to see where I am located.
http://fms.ws/x2OQV/58.48006N/111.48033W

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Check-in/OK message from SPOT TA

Device Name: TA
Latitude: 58.22425
Longitude: -111.43997
GPS location Date/Time: 06/07/2018 21:00:30 NDT

Message: TA & Marian are paddling to the Arctic Ocean. Check the map to see where they are paddling & exploring today!

Click the link below to see where I am located.
http://fms.ws/w_1vd/58.22425N/111.43997W

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Paddling North: Cobble Barge Camp Day 21

What an evening we are having. The light, as you can see above, is stunning. We arrived at camp, which we are calling “Cobble Barge Camp” just in time to unload the boat, set up the tent, and set up the tarp before a rumbling thunder squall romped through complete with downpour. I was cooking dinner while Marian set up the inside fixings of the tent.

After a yummy dinner of miso soup, fried cabbage and falafel with sweet chilli sauce, we celebrated the 700 km Mark with Aztec Hot Chocolate and a few squares of dark chocolate. We were hungry. We’d paddled 54 km today. I realized we are averaging a marathon a day of paddling. 42 km day in and day out. We are on track and meeting our goal each day thus far.

Tonight, Marian found a lump of oil sands. In a moment of experimentation, she put in our fire. It steamed. It smoked a bit and then it began to bubble. I poked it out of the fire and pretended to be a road builder and use a big rock to flatten it onto another rock. I just paved a mini highway!

I wish you could see and hear the 50 geese floating by. They are honking and grunting and singing as they go by. It was an amazing day watching geese. We must have seen at least 1000 fly by in giant flying V’s of 50 to 100 birds. We could hear them flying up and we would stop paddling and just watch them fly. You could see them change leaders and adjust the V. It was breathtaking.

We have our paddled most human generated sound save for a few powerboats that passed us. We thought another one was passing by out of sight when all of a sudden, a barge came around the corner and into our channel. We paddled quickly out of harm’s way and got set for the wake, it was substantial- the largest rapid we’ve run lately.

Another fab day on the river, our three week anniversary on the trip and we passed the 700 km mark. A good day all around. The bugs have discovered me so I must go in the tent. Good night.

PS Amazed to have a bit of coverage to send this.

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Check-in/OK message from SPOT TA

Device Name: TA
Latitude: 57.86651
Longitude: -111.37952
GPS location Date/Time: 06/07/2018 01:05:00 NDT

Message: TA & Marian are paddling to the Arctic Ocean. Check the map to see where they are paddling & exploring today!

Click the link below to see where I am located.
http://fms.ws/wyQn4/57.86651N/111.37952W

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You have received this message because “TA” has added you to its SPOT contact list and attempted to contact you.

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Paddling North: Back in the Saddle

Lovely evening here. Dinner done early so there is time to pull up a log and drop you a note before the temperature plummets to near freezing and we run for our sleeping bags.

The light this time of day is always buttery and it’s lovely to stop, pause, and take notice. All of our rhythms are slowing once again after attending to our to do lists in Fort McMurray.

The weather was mixed today. Some sun, lots of rain squalls, and even a few downpours. Our hoods went up and down more times than I’ve climbed Signal Hill ( that might be a slight exaggeration :-). We hear another warm spell is coming and we’ll soon be baking once again. Since March, I think I’ve been through four winter, spring, summer sequences. As we often say in NL, if you don’t like the weather wait a minute.

We notice in increase in sand now and we seem to have an even mix of sand and mud. We touched some oil sands today on the river bank today and with a few more kilometres under the boat tomorrow morning, we will say good-bye to lots of human generated sounds. We are eager for our bird and other companions to rejoin us along the river as they were very sparse today.

We added a new river today to our paddling list as we started our day in the Mackay River. Soon after, we entered the Athabasca and turned left and began to paddle north once again. The Athabasca is both bigger and smaller now. More water flowing and a few wider sections but many midstream islands that break up the channel into more intimate river runs. Current is very evident at times and seemingly, none existent at others.

Our world is shades of blue and green with bountiful reflections to attenuate the view. Our extra bits of colour, reds, oranges, yellows add spice and our blue barrels and spray deck tie us together with the view.

It was Shepherd’s Pie with peas, corn, and gravy for dinner. Simple but filling. I tried to replicate Sara’s Mumbai Hot Chocolate with some success. I’ll be working to perfect my field version. A bit of dark chocolate finished the meal and hope it keeps us satiated until morning.

Off to bed. Hope your day was rewarding as well.

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Check-in/OK message from SPOT TA

Device Name: TA
Latitude: 57.44938
Longitude: -111.62280
GPS location Date/Time: 06/05/2018 21:10:40 NDT

Message: TA & Marian are paddling to the Arctic Ocean. Check the map to see where they are paddling & exploring today!

Click the link below to see where I am located.
http://fms.ws/wv7ov/57.44938N/111.62280W

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Off to Phase Three…Fort Chipewyan Here We Come

This map I saw on a interpretation sign in Athabasca lines out our entire route. It’s been used for ages as a transportation corridor. We’re learning more about the groups of folks who’ve lived along these rivers and look forward to meeting people along the way.

We are restocked, showered (to make sure the bugs live us), life maintenance tasks done, and well fed as we head back out. Anthony gave us a great local tour yesterday and we learned more about oil sands. We may see some in the layers surrounding the river. We watched a demonstration about how to remove bitumen from the oil sands using hot water and baking soda. We learned that bitumen has been used to seal the seams in birch bark canoes so we feel like, if we need to patch our canoe, we may have a new option.

Time to go pack the car to go to the put-in. We’re appreciative that it poured all day yesterday to wet and cool down the forest and so we don’t have to pack our boat in such weather today. We’re headed off to a cloudy and cool but clearing day. I’m sure there will be plenty of pouring rain days in our future.

Thanks for coming along. We likely won’t have much coverage during this phase so I’ll do my best to convey what we are seeing in our audio updates. Pics to come in Fort Chip.

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Driving North: Car Portage #1

Howdy from Fort Mac! It’s interesting to finally see the place that’s been so central in so many Newfoundlanders lives over the past two decades. We had a quiet night at our up along “Disappointment Welding” camp and enjoyed watching a beaver and deer this morning as we packed up for the one kilometre paddle to the boat launch.

We took everything out and off of the boat and washed all the mud off the canoe and the bottoms of dry bags. We both enjoyed a shower and then
Sara and Anthony arrived. Sara’s car was gracious enough to swallow us and all of our gear and Anthony helped engineer a solution to modern car lack of tow hooks/tie downs and we got the canoe secured for the three hour trip north.

A quick lunch st Grasslands, where both Marian and I marvelling that food just doesn’t come out of blue barrels, and we were on our way. It was truly wild to be traveling at 100 km an hour instead of 10 km and to have such a wide view of the land and sky after 17 days of the Athabasca River corridor.

We’ve been charging electronics, downloading satellite imagery, and generally trying to tick things of our to do list like laundry and banking. Tomorrow we will buy perishable food resupplies, scout our put in, and decide what if anything doesn’t go further.

When we started in Jasper 18 days ago, we didn’t know if we were paddling one day or ninety. Now, finished two phases of our Paddling North expedition, I look forward to the next 18 and the 18 after that, still of course, paddled one day at a time.

We called tonight’s camp, pitched in Sara and Anthony’s lovely home, Fancy Camp. It sure is. How we appreciate their hospitality and their time spent shuttling us to here. We learned that a recent wildfire recently jumped the river in the section we decided not to paddle. Turns out we wouldn’t have gotten to paddle it anyway…funny how things turn out.

I do already miss hearing the sounds of the river, the honks of the geese, the wind in the leaves but I will sleep a little deeper tonight knowing I won’t have to chase a bear out of the kitchen.

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Day 17 Disappointment Welding

We began the day thinking we would end it having had a shower, some salad, and a beer with a few of the things ticked off of our town list. Instead, we got lots of practice in brainstorming and lateral thinking. Turns out the riverside campground we were expecting has been turned into an awesome skateboard park and splash pad. So, learning this once we arrived in Athabasca, we had to go to Plan B.

For awhile, Plan B was to paddle down to the Route 63 Bridge and try to camp there even though it meant a decent portage in the morning. Then I talked to some jet boaters who thought it might be impossible to take out there (I asked him four different times four different ways and he answer was always the same) so we scrapped Plan B.

Plan C was ferry across the river to a spot that looked like it might be possible to camp but it was directly across from us and if we blew the ferry, we’d be back to Plan B. If that landing didn’t work, we’d be onto Plan D, paddle to Poacher’s Landing 40 km downstream. We’d already nixed Plan D because it was already 3 pm and we didn’t know if there would be cell coverage to adjust our pick up tomorrow.

I’ll save you from Plans E through N and say that Plan O became the winner which was paddle back upstream until we found a place to camp at that we were comfortable with. We hadn’t entertained paddling upstream at all-we had thought about pulling the boat upstream-which we did until the thick mud got too sucky…we’d decided to go with Plan C and wanted to give ourselves a bit more river to do the river wide ferry with, but when the mud was too thick, I suggested paddling up a bit more if we could…we could and we did and we are now camped at the river below the welding shop (with a small green space in between) and are enjoying a rare evening outside the tent/ bug house as a stiff breeze is keeping the bugs at bay.

So, even though the day had a few disappointments, it ended strong with us realizing we are much stronger than we were 17 days and 635 kilometres ago. The highlight of the day was hanging out with 24 pelicans who were hanging out on a log as we drifted by. If you look closely at the pics above, you can hang out with them too!

We’ve called this camp, “Disappointment Welding”, and I’ll take the lesson that working through disappointments welds new connections and thought processes and tomorrow will likely yield the things that today did not.

Temporarily paddling south becomes driving north tomorrow and hopes to be #paddlingNorth again on Tuesday. Thanks for stopping by.

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Check-in/OK message from SPOT TA

Device Name: TA
Latitude: 54.72274
Longitude: -113.29645
GPS location Date/Time: 06/02/2018 22:39:06 NDT

Message: TA & Marian are paddling to the Arctic Ocean. Check the map to see where they are paddling & exploring today!

Click the link below to see where I am located.
http://fms.ws/wnc_t/54.72274N/113.29645W

If the above link does not work, try this link:

You have received this message because “TA” has added you to its SPOT contact list and attempted to contact you.

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Paddling North Day 16: Rest, Planning, and Preparation

We took a rest and prep day today. We loved “Lily Creek” so much that we decided to stay awhile. The picture above shows what a “barrel dive” looks like. We are travelling with six weeks (now four weeks of food) and so had the top thirds of both barrels as working sections. One held breakfast and lunch foods, the other supper foods and staples. Now two weeks in, it was time to dive in and bring two more weeks of food into the working sections of the barrels. We aren’t yet eating enough 🙂 so there isn’t yet tons of room in the barrels but our appetites are growing by the day. So now the good system is all set for the next two weeks. We will resupply perishables in Fort McMurray.

We were awoken last night by a strange sound. We we look outside the tent six white apparitions were floating down the river. At first we couldn’t make sense of the shape. I was relieved when I remembered we were too far south for them to be polar bears. My brain worked hard to pattern match and I realized they were pelicans. We watched them feed in “Lily Creek” for about an hour then went back to sleep. They were still here when we woke in the morning and we watched them feed and preen some more until our tummies stared growling and we spooked them when we got up. They hung out for awhile but eventually floated down river to their next meal. It was magical to have such a close up view of them.

It’s rained off and on all day so we’ve spent time under our kitchen tarp. Here Marian is emerging after washing lunch dishes. We gas rhubarb cobbler for breakfast (Thanks Maaike for the rhubarb) and soup and mashed sweet potatoes for lunch. Supper will be gado gado sauce over veggies with rice and carrot salad. Can you tell we dove the barrels today?

Tomorrow we paddle to Athabasca and organize our gear for a car portage to Fort McMurray. The river section between Athabasca and Fort Mac has 14 large rapids that we are unwilling to tackle as a solo boat so a friend will meet us on June 3rd and move us north. The combination of remoteness, big river, and solo boat didn’t meet our risk tolerance so we are leaving it for another time. We also knew that with that 10 day section in, we would likely run out of time to do our entire planned route. We may still run out of town but this move gives us rest days :-). We hope to be back on the Athabasca River on Tuesday morning. It will have increased in volume but we feel like we’ve become old friends and we will miss the river over the next few days.

This was last night’s supper…a wilderness take on Irish Pub food and seeing it makes me hungry so I’m off to cook tonight’s dinner!

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Paddling North Days 14 and 15

We left our “Splitting the Waters” camp with the scent of wood smoke on the air. A forest fire nearby up along at started overnight and we woke up to haze and smoke. We then decided to skip our rest day and out paddle the smoke. We packed up and soon drifted under the railway bridge pictured above. A second one soon followed and we entered a more wilderness part of the trip.

Our lunch beach had been visited by both wolf and geese. It got a bit squally during our stop so we ate quickly and got back into warm cocoons in our canoe. This section of the river showed evidence of a huge ice jam with huge tracts of trees debarked and felled. The banks were steep and muddy and it took us four tries to find a campsite but the look was worth it and went spent the night with a pesky beaver at “Riverbend” camp.

We woke to fog and mist that made the river disappear. We could only hear it, not see it. As the sun rise and warmed the air, the fog burned off and today was a mix of sun, rain, and spectacular clouds. The current was feisty and we made good progress while enjoying some special moments floating past some huge deer that didn’t spook as we floated by.

Tonight, again, finding camping was tough but we again, found a lovely spot beside a creek that will provide a wonderful lullaby for sleep as well as power for our devices because we could deploy our Water Lily Turbine in the creek. So we called this camp “Lily Creek.”

We’ll head into Athabasca tomorrow or the next day for our next town stop and resupply. We passed the 600 km mark of our trip today and we are settling into paddling North like just fine. Thanks for coming along.

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Check-in/OK message from SPOT TA

Device Name: TA
Latitude: 54.86067
Longitude: -113.43839
GPS location Date/Time: 05/31/2018 21:52:07 NDT

Message: TA & Marian are paddling to the Arctic Ocean. Check the map to see where they are paddling & exploring today!

Click the link below to see where I am located.
http://fms.ws/wi1c8/54.86067N/113.43839W

If the above link does not work, try this link:

You have received this message because “TA” has added you to its SPOT contact list and attempted to contact you.

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Check-in/OK message from SPOT TA

Device Name: TA
Latitude: 55.22488
Longitude: -113.65654
GPS location Date/Time: 05/30/2018 22:57:54 NDT

Message: TA & Marian are paddling to the Arctic Ocean. Check the map to see where they are paddling & exploring today!

Click the link below to see where I am located.
http://fms.ws/wffQR/55.22488N/113.65654W

If the above link does not work, try this link:

You have received this message because “TA” has added you to its SPOT contact list and attempted to contact you.

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Paddling North Days 11-13 Wind, Bugs, and Eating Well

So you can see the theme of the past few days…bugs, wind, and less current. The picture of me in my big jacket above is post loading of the canoe, that we’d parked in a creek the night before because campsites on day 11 were very hard to find. The creek offered the best unloading option but also offered a gigantic leap in the number and peskiness of the middle mosquitoes.

We pitched our bug house so we could escape the “teeth with wings” during cooking and eating. It worked awesomely. The mesh is great for stopping mosquitoes and black flies but is too big for “no see ‘ems”. I’m currently itching in too many places from cooking dinner tonight because of the no see ‘ems. I did have a wonderful kitchen to cook in tonight, however, because of some ice jam damage that dredged up some kitchen counters for me.

Tonight I had a little extra time and energy so we had popcorn for a post paddle snack and toutons ( from scratch with teasers dough) and miso soup with cheese for supper. We are nearing two weeks and we’ve yet to repeat a dinner. The pantry system is working well for us thus far and the barrels are finally starting to get a bit lighter.

That’s the view from dinner. And breakfast. Though it’s likely to be raining in the morning so the sky might be a different colour. You can see the water appears very still. The current has slowed by a significant factor so we have to work much harder of making our goal of 49 kilometres everyday. Today we celebrated reaching the 500 kilometre mark at Chisholm, where we had lunch in a field of dandelions and butterflies.

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