I have spent the last few days on the road thinking about how to write this blog post as summing up 26 days of isolation and communing with the Canadian North is no small task. Perhaps I will never succeed in truly doing justice to the experience. Somehow I think that is OK, because I believe that like many other experiences before, and adventures still to come it is something we won’t soon forget! That said here is an attempt at describing the river and what our adventure was like. Photos are on the bottom!
The Horton river is approximately 600km and is entirely above the Arctic Circle with no communities along its length. The river flows through a semi-forested area, through 3 beautiful canyons, and finished above tree line on the tundra in the barren lands. Ancient bedrock, crumbly sandstone, sand, and tundra hummocks were our bedroom and kitchen. We paddled by hillsides where the permafrost is melting and the “drip, drip” would sometimes turn into “boom” as large chunks of the earth fell into the water. We dodged the smelly wind as we paddled through the smoke from the smoking hills. In the canyons we lined and portaged (~200m) around massive standing waves, ledges, and holes. We finished the trip on the Arctic Ocean sharing the beach with some curious seals.
The first 450 km of the river were absolutely clear and pristine (the last 150 or so had lots more sediment and sand). The arctic char, grayling and lake trout would regularly dash under the boat and it seemed as if a well timed grasp would result in a fishy dinner. The semi-arid region meant we encountered minimal rain and the 24 hour sunlight allowed for some late evening suntanning. As the river neared the Arctic Ocean the winds picked up and we both enjoyed the feeling of our muscles growing when it was a headwind, the relaxation of a tailwind, and the fun game of: “is that sand or pepper I am eating?”
Because the entire length of the river is so remote we had no shortage of animal encounters. On day 2 we saw a family of 6 Muskox which solidified for both of us that we weren’t in Kansas anymore. We regularly shared the beach, campsites, and river with Caribou. We watched one wolf hunting ducks, and another chase a caribou across a gravel bar. The ground squirrels constantly chirped at us letting us know we were not welcome on their beach! And the birds….wow. Gulls dive bombing us (nothing our grey owl gattling gun couldn’t fix), peregrine and gyr falcons soaring overhead and expressing their displeasure with our proximety to their nests, bald and golden eagles keeping their eyes on us and the many variety of ducks with their entertaining quarks, quacks, and whistles were just some of the feathers friends we encountered. There were some bugs… and 3 bears too (more on these later).
Our days consisted of the duties of living: getting enough firewood to make coffee, breakfast and dinner, packing and unpacking the boat, setting up and taking down the tent (and fixing the damn poles), paddling for 20-40 km, putting on and taking off the clothes according to the weather, and sleeping. To shake things up a bit we also had a river side bath or two, went for hikes, played crib, and read. This is simple living at it’s finest. We had 2 “officially sanctioned” games we played every day: ‘What time do you think it is’, and ‘What should we have for dinner tonight.’ Matt regularily tried to play: “Let’s swap pillows:” This didn’t get sanctioned because I brought a pillow and he didn’t. We are still unsure how a game gets sanctioned, but I know for a fact the pillow one did not pass the test!!!!
We are both missing the river and the enviornment a bunch, and can’t wait for the next time we are back in the wilderness. That said, we are both happy to be back in civilization for many reasons: warm running water, fresh fruits and veggies, warm running water, porcelin, warm running water, unlimited hand cream, warm running water, food that isn’t stored in a ziplock, warm running water, unlimited toilet paper, warm running water, centralized heating/air conditioning, warm running water, laundry machines, and warm running water. All of these reasons do not trump the best one: the wonderful people we have in our lives that we get to spend time with this week before climbing on a plane for our next adventures.
So, that is the Horton in a nutshell.. I will find another site to post some more photos, but here are a few in the meantime. Enjoy