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Thelon River, Northwest Territories & Nunavut (1993)

I love the Barrens--I've only been once, but it was the highlight of the Hudson Bay trip a couple of years ago. The sense that you can walk forever (ignoring the fact that there are many rivers and lakes that should thwart that feeling) is real and wonderful. Bring a good tent!38-1407r.JPG38-1407r.JPG
 
Beautiful images Mason! They tug at the old heart strings. We bought a new tent specifically for our Thelon trip - a Moss Star Dome 2. At the outdoor gear store we saw a picture of it on Everest. It performed as advertised. During hard winds, it would actually hunker down. I kid you not.
 
I found those esker views wonderful. As far as tundra and barren lands go I think I'd have to go there and experience it in person before truly appreciating it ,because it doesn't do it for me...yet.
It took a driving trip out past the trees, and a full day getting acquainted with the flat near treeless land before falling in love with prairie, or at least a piece of it. Never thought that would happen but it did. Driving up through foothills and into the western cordillera was all eye candy, but rolling back down into the big sky flat lands felt really good too. It all felt like home. Different rooms in a house, no telling what we'll think and feel beyond the next door. Maybe some day I'll get the chance to give the tundra a try. Thanks for sharing it Mike.
 
Mr. Pitt,

I really enjoyed reading this report! Kept me up till about 1:30 this morning reading it. Recped had me up until 2:00 am with the 51 day trip last weekend.

Question - reading through these various reports and the accompanying photos I often see you guys camped very close to waters edge - sometimes on gravel bars that seem so be just a bit higher than the water.

I had assumed (apparently incorrectly!) one wouldn't do that because rising water levels could soak your tent, but in at least some cases it is acceptable.

Is this practice based on knowledge of the individual river, upcoming weather reports or a combination of factors?.

Thank you.

PS - Chick and I got a good chuckle of you fishing on the rock on laundry day! Must be a hoot when you do your presentations.
 
Mr. Pitt,

I really enjoyed reading this report! Kept me up till about 1:30 this morning reading it. Recped had me up until 2:00 am with the 51 day trip last weekend.

Question - reading through these various reports and the accompanying photos I often see you guys camped very close to waters edge - sometimes on gravel bars that seem so be just a bit higher than the water.

I had assumed (apparently incorrectly!) one wouldn't do that because rising water levels could soak your tent, but in at least some cases it is acceptable.

Is this practice based on knowledge of the individual river, upcoming weather reports or a combination of factors?.

Thank you.

PS - Chick and I got a good chuckle of you fishing on the rock on laundry day! Must be a hoot when you do your presentations.

Thanks, Keeled Over. You’re right. The audience always reacts when my naked picture flashes up on the screen!

Kathleen and I tend to always camp above the river, as caution against potential rising water. We were camped nearly at the water’s edge in the fishing-while-nude image, but that was on a lake, not a river. I did post a TR of our Great Slave Lake trip, where we stopped early in the day because of strong winds. The only spot was a narrow, low beach adjacent to dense bush. Barely enough room for the tent. We spent a restless night, as the on-shore winds forced the water to eventually flood our vestibule. Close, but tolerable.

In my Anderson River TR, I posted a couple of images where the rising tide from the Arctic Ocean crept up the bank several vertical feet, to eventually drown out our campfire. Tent was higher up the bank, though.

Lots of factors to consider for where to set up the tent, including plain old personal preference. We don’t take any electronics that would give us weather reports. We get what we get!
 
Thanks, Keeled Over. You’re right. The audience always reacts when my naked picture flashes up on the screen!

Kathleen and I tend to always camp above the river, as caution against potential rising water. We were camped nearly at the water’s edge in the fishing-while-nude image, but that was on a lake, not a river. I did post a TR of our Great Slave Lake trip, where we stopped early in the day because of strong winds. The only spot was a narrow, low beach adjacent to dense bush. Barely enough room for the tent. We spent a restless night, as the on-shore winds forced the water to eventually flood our vestibule. Close, but tolerable.

In my Anderson River TR, I posted a couple of images where the rising tide from the Arctic Ocean crept up the bank several vertical feet, to eventually drown out our campfire. Tent was higher up the bank, though.

Lots of factors to consider for where to set up the tent, including plain old personal preference. We don’t take any electronics that would give us weather reports. We get what we get!
Hi Michael-I really enjoyed this trip report and appreciate the time and effort it took to post it. One thing that impressed me over and over was how fortunate you are to have found and married a strong and gutsy woman who will undertake adventures like this. You are also fortunate to have chosen a career (I infer that you are a college professor) which allows the time for these extended trips. When I was working, as what in Canada is known as a Royal Chartered Surveyor, I never had the luxury of more than two weeks off at a time and most years one week! I am looking forward to reading your other TRs and hope that you can continue your canoeing. We are close to the same age - 1947 vintage here- and I am working at maintaining the ability to keep paddling. Thanks again- You received another “like” from the lower 48.
 
Hi Michael-I really enjoyed this trip report and appreciate the time and effort it took to post it. One thing that impressed me over and over was how fortunate you are to have found and married a strong and gutsy woman who will undertake adventures like this. You are also fortunate to have chosen a career (I infer that you are a college professor) which allows the time for these extended trips. When I was working, as what in Canada is known as a Royal Chartered Surveyor, I never had the luxury of more than two weeks off at a time and most years one week! I am looking forward to reading your other TRs and hope that you can continue your canoeing. We are close to the same age - 1947 vintage here- and I am working at maintaining the ability to keep paddling. Thanks again- You received another “like” from the lower 48.
Thanks, Halpc. Glad you enjoyed the trip. Kathleen particularly like being called strong and gutsy. And yes, I was a Faculty Member in Agricultural Sciences, teaching and researching Grassland Ecology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. We all had one month holiday, but no one ever kept track. I began in 1975, and generally worked 6 days a week, 10-12 hours a day. I rarely took any holidays, other than a long weekend or two. There is only one way to succeed in academia, and that is with publications. If you don’t crank out publications, you don’t attract grad students, and you don’t obtain research funding. I kept this regimen up until 1990, until I discovery wilderness tripping in Northern Canada. I started taking long vacations, and my career suffered greatly. I never achieved the status and rank of Full Professor. But then, as one of my colleagues once told me, “Nobody on their death bed ever wishes they had more publications.”

My legs are beginning to go, and I think I have only one more trip left. In January of 2020 we put down a non-refundable deposit for a floatplane flight onto the Barren Grounds in the Northwest Territories, which closed its borders in 2020 and 2021. Maybe next year. We hope so.
 
What a wonderful trip. I had the distinct pleasure and honor of experiencing a more truncated Thelon trip. We flew into a small lake on the Clarke, paddled down the Clarke to the Thelon, and then on down to Beverly where we ended our trip. Still, it was a magnificant trip with lots of wildlife to see and the vast spaces of the barren lands. I want to go back so badly. But, I don't think it is in the cards.
 
rpg51,

Very glad that you enjoyed my TR. The Thelon is a spectacular river. Hope you get to go again. Alex Hall used to begin his guided trips on the Clarke. Did you go with Alex? If yes, how was that? As Kathleen and I get older, we have considered a guided trip, where someone else does all the work. But we are concerned about whether we would be compatible with complete strangers.
 
I knew of Alex and spent time at his web site before our trip when we were researching. I was sad to hear of his passing a few years ago. I have never been on a guided trip. Not interested in that. I am lucky to have a good friend that I trip with. He and I tend to put together of small group of compatible friends, 4-6 people max. But, we are getting older and the arduousness of these trips, combined with the expense, gives us pause of late. Can't find all that many friends who want to sleep on the ground anymore. :) I like to have at least two canoes on these trips so that means we have to find two people from our circle of friends to come along and that is getting harder and harder as we get older.

We did two other lovely trips up in the north. The Horton, (NWT), and the Wind, (YK). We still manage to get at least one jaunt in Maine every year. Maybe I'll try to drum up interest for another trip up that way. I would love to bring my kids up there. But, time and expense do get in the way. I fear its not in the cards. I do have the great memories.
 
I'm getting to this trip report a mere six years late. Michael Pitt came onto this site with his puissant prose during a year that I was away, discontented with the site, canoeing and several other things in life.

I just wanted to identify with this personal paddling preference, which, by the way, is why I would have no desire to paddle the upper Upper Thelon.

Kathleen and I cut our canoeing teeth on rivers. We much prefer rivers, where we can just zip along. We don’t mind portaging around rapids on a river that moves. In fact, I kind of enjoy portaging in these situations. They are just short backpacking trips interrupted by jaunts back to get another load. But, flat water paddling, with no help from a current, combined with multiple portages per day? We will do it, but we might complain.
 
I'm getting to this trip report a mere six years late. Michael Pitt came onto this site with his puissant prose during a year that I was away, discontented with the site, canoeing and several other things in life.

I just wanted to identify with this personal paddling preference, which, by the way, is why I would have no desire to paddle the upper Upper Thelon.
Thanks for improving my vocabulary, Glenn. I had never heard the word “puissant” before. I had to look it up, and learned that it is not any old adjective, but an out and out archaic adjective. Fitting, as some might say that I am archaic. Why were you discontented with the site, lo those many years ago?

Would you paddle the upper Upper Thelon if we called it the Lower Nile? 😀
 
Why were you discontented with the site, lo those many years ago?

The causal chain was mostly in the reverse order. I was discontented with some things in life (and still am), which caused me to lose interest in canoeing, which caused me to lose interest in and wonder why I was bothering with posting on canoe sites. I obviously overcame the latter two issues. You read and commented sympathetically on my "return post" here.

Fitting, as some might say that I am archaic.

Since I'm a year or two more archaic than you, and since we've both publicly stated we're unlikely ever to go on long wilderness trips again, it seems a reasonable way to stimulate some topical conversations by discussing words or descriptions. I at least now know where the Upper Thelon is and where the Yellowknife outfitter runs its Thelon trips.

Would you paddle the upper Upper Thelon if we called it the Lower Nile?

Well, I don't paddle very fast anymore, and I'm currently sort of bogged down portaging every rapid on the middle Upper Thelon in this trip report, but I'm anticipating being driven mad by all those gigantic lakes on the upper and middle Lower Thelon. I might have to call for a helicopter extraction at Beverly Lake. We'll see. I have more Homer, Pitt and E.E. "Doc" Smith to read.
 
I at least now know where the Upper Thelon is and where the Yellowknife outfitter runs its Thelon trips.



Well, I don't paddle very fast anymore, and I'm currently sort of bogged down portaging every rapid on the middle Upper Thelon in this trip report, but I'm anticipating being driven mad by all those gigantic lakes on the upper and middle Lower Thelon. I might have to call for a helicopter extraction at Beverly Lake. We'll see. I have more Homer, Pitt and E.E. "Doc" Smith to read.

Jackpine Paddle does operate out of Yellowknife, but has been in business only since 2019. Just before his death from cancer in 2019, Alex Hall, who operated out of Fort Smith, as Canoe Arctic for 46 years, handed over his business to Jackpine.


The only guide book we had to the Thelon indicated that “the wise canoeist gets out at the lakes,” the first of which is Beverly Lake. It seems you would be wiser than us. Most people who paddle the Thelon put in at the Hanbury Junction, and often take out at Beverly. No difficult rapids. Probably no portages. Much fewer paddlers go all the way from Lynx Lake to Baker Lake. When we gave our itinerary to Loon Air in Fort Smith, we asked them to pick us up two days after our anticipated arrival in Baker Lake. The owner looked at us sternly and said, “There’s something you don’t know about what you’re about to do. You don’t know if you’ll get to Baker Lake, let alone when. We’ve never taken anyone in to do the whole trip, and we’ve never taken in just one canoe. If I haven’t heard from you by a week after you’re due, I’ll call the RCMP.


We pretty much ignored his implied advice to change our plans.

Finally you should not be grouping me with Homer and E. E. Smith. For one thing, I’m still alive. For a second thing, they were writers. I’m just a diarist.
 
I’m just a diarist.

Ahh, more words to contemplate. So were:

Lewis and Clark
Robert Falcon Scott
Leonardo da Vinci
Mark Twain
Samuel Pepys
James Boswell
Anne Frank
Virginia Woolf
Anaïs Nin
Lewis Carroll
and even the incomplete and partially erroneous Charles Darwin
 
Ahh, more words to contemplate. So were:

Lewis and Clark
Robert Falcon Scott
Leonardo da Vinci
Mark Twain
Samuel Pepys
James Boswell
Anne Frank
Virginia Woolf
Anaïs Nin
Lewis Carroll
and even the incomplete and partially erroneous Charles Darwin
Mark Twain is one of my favorite AUTHORS. He didn’t simply write about what he saw and did during the day, as a diarist does.

And of all the famous authors/diarists you listed, you offer oblique editorial comment only on Charles Darwin. Are you trying to goad me into saying something about evolution, which would be an inappropriate topic, just to get me banned from canoetripping.com? Well, I won’t fall for that!

Oops. I just did.😰
 
Michael, you are right that some of these diarists turned their diaries into works of authorship—just as some canoe diarists have turned their trip diaries into puissant works of literature, especially with the use of sophisticated rhetorical devices such as present tense conversations, interleaved memories, and professionally scientific details about flora and fauna. Of course, they're all dead, as you point out.

You are also right that the prissy administrator of this site will not allow discussions of incomplete and partially erroneous hypotheses.

So, we all have to go back to the Thelon now or finish re-reading Homer and Doc Smith. Or make a stripper.
 
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