Let us probe the silent places, let us seek what luck betide us;
Let us journey to a lonely land I know.
There's a whisper on the night-wind, there's a star agleam to guide us,
And the Wild is calling, calling . . . let us go.

Robert Service — The Call of the Wild
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Day 3 - Ekwi River Hike

Day 3 Saturday, July 14. Slept through the entire night without getting up: 11p to 7:30a. Breakfast at 8am and then we hiked out of Ram Head west on the Canol towards the Ekwi. About a half-hour out of camp we stopped in a massive rock slide and looked through the rubble for fossils. Found a shell and a trilobite. Meandered on and after about an hour and a half of picture taking and poking along we came upon an abandoned Canol pumping station above the Ekwi river. Most of these buildings are much more collapsed that when we were here in 2009. We wandered through the debris trying to imagine living in this army camp in the 1940s. Sandy found a stack of old Canol Time Sheets from the 1940's. Lots of graffitti from other Canol travelers from years past on the walls that are still standing. Lots of porcupine scat in the buildings. It began to rain, so we found a building that had not yet completely fallen down with a small area that kept us out of the rain while we ate lunch.

After lunch the sun came out and dried out the brush. We continued on down the trail towards the river, but it soon became apparent that the trail would parallel the river for several more miles before it crossed the river. Since it was already 3pm, we decided to turn around and head back to the ranch. We are carrying both bear bangers and a 12 gauge pump shotgun for grizzly bear defense. On the hike back to Ram Head, Steve held a bear banger training session. Everyone got to fire a bear banger (or two, or three!) into a creek to simulate how to handle a bear incident. Everyone seemed to enjoy the practice. In hind sight, this training would prove to be prescient. But more on that later. After filtering some more water we headed back to Ram Head. Steve has a new, gravity-fed Platypus GravityWorks water filter. This water filter is one of the best new gadgets we brought. It will filter four litres of fresh water in about four minutes without any hand-pumping. In the past, we would normally spend anywhere from one to two hours a day pumping water. This new system may really improve our quality of life in camp.

We made it back to Ram Head with just enough time to clean up before another delicious dinner of roast beef, corn, salad, fresh bread, spuds and jello for dessert. We are really appreciating the wonderful table Debbie sets and we are going to start missing these meals very soon. After dinner, Steve and I hiked out about twenty minutes to put up his trail camera. This is a digital camera encased in a weather-proof container that straps to a tree or other object. The shutter is activated by movement. Steve has gotten some great photos in the past of wolverines, martins, wolf, buffalo and black bear. We are hoping to get some closeup shots of a grizzly or wolf. We will leave the camera set up the entire time we are out in the field.

Back in camp, it's time to plan our time line. The plan is for Steve and Bill to chopper into the backcountry with Stan first thing in the morning and choose a remote site high enough to view caribou and Dall saheep, with available water and some level ground for camp. Phil and Sandy will follow on a second leg. We are calling this camp Caribou Cry camp as it is perched in the moutains above the Caribou Cry River drainage. We plan to spend four days and nights at Caribou Cry camp (Sunday through Wednesday) and then get picked up by helicopter early Thursday morning for a ride into Emerald lake at the base of Keele peak.

We are each responsible for our own food, so we need to plan for sufficient food for our first four days, with a small reserve in case we can't be picked up on time due to weather or mechanical issues. At the same time, we have to limit the amount we haul so it will fit into our bear vaults since we are unlikely to have trees in our first camp to hang food in. Each one of us is carrying a bear vault. I'll be taking five days of food, plus an extra lunch, and one gallon of fuel. The remainder of my food cache I'll leave at Ram Head and the chopper will bring it in on the Thursday pickup (we hope). Mixed weather this evening with showers and rainbows. After a conference with Stan we have a hard plan:

  • Sun 7/15 - early morning flight into Caribou Cry camp
  • Wed 7/18 - call Ram Head in the evening on the Sat Phone to confirm pickup
  • Thur 7/19 - early morning pickup, weather permitting, and sling into Keele peak
  • Tues 7/25 - call Ram Head in the evening and confirm next day pickup
  • Wed 7/26 - afternoon pickup and ride back to Ram Head
  • Thur 7/27 - early morning flight back to Norman Wells. 3pm commercial flight home to Yellowknife.
  • By the time we have sorted our supplies and checked our gear it is late and time for sleep. Tomorrow is a big day.

    DerelictArmyTruck.jpg
    Derelict buildings, wanigans, trucks and other equipment littered the pumping station site above the Ekwi.
    photographer: Sandra Moore
    SteveInCampHall.jpg
    Steve in a derelict building in the pumping station camp.
    photographer: Bill Moore
    LunchAtPumpingStation.jpg
    We found an area in the camp that hadn't yet collapsed and had lunch.
    photographer: Steve Moore
    Day3ReturnToCamp.jpg
    Taken from the Canol Trail entering Ram Head Camp.
    photographer: Otto Shutter

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