The sky was filled with clouds that didn't seem too threatening, but it was a start similar to yesterday, so that offered little comfort. Our boots were far from dry, so we just left them on to wade through the stream soon after the pump station. On the other side was the camp of the natives from Ross River we met yesterday on the road and later at the pump station. No one was stirring which was good, because I don't like talking to people immediately after side-stepping their feces and used toilet paper.
It began raining again. The road condition began to deteriorate slightly and it got harder to avoid the standing water. The three miles down to the Intga River were nice walking but took almost two hours. The highlight was a sow and two cubs we saw walking on the other side of the valley. It's a good thing we had LooksWithEyesInEars (a.k.a., Dave) to spot all the wildlife for us. At the river crossing was a small cabin maintained by Oldsquaw Lodge. We had decided not to come here last night because we were uncertain if its condition, but it was in good condition and would have been an excellent camp (albeit without a stove).
We crossed the Intga River in our boots and started up its valley. The walking was great and the rain let up for the most part. Conditions were finally favorable for us to inhale the magnificence of the Mackenzie Mountains. We passed a truck graveyard and wound our way up to Caribou Pass. The pass itself is quite long and broad and makes you appreciate what a smart route the Canol took through this area. At the top of the pass we met two researchers from Edmonton. One was the son of the Kershaw bicyclists that we saw fading into the snow yesterday. We had a nice talk about their research and the Canol in general.
The Intga River valley may have been just as spectacular, but the descent's perspective, the lighter workload and the improved weather made the descent into the Ekwi River's wide open valley even more awe-inspiring. We shed our coats for the first time since the first few miles of the trip and soon took a break at the other cabin maintained by Oldsquaw Lodge, which is a couple hundred yards off the Canol.
With 16 miles under our belts, we were beginning to feel it. I just melted into the cabin floor situating food, maps, first aid and ditty as to require as little movement as possible. My left big toe had become infected so I fixed it up as best I could. There weren't any significant water crossings for awhile, so I tried a different sock combination using dry socks. The descent into the valley was enjoyable, but apparently my feet didn't like that sock combination because my toe became even more infected and I developed a blister on my heel. Both began healing only after the trip ended.
Our schedule called for better than 17 miles per day and we were behind, so we let our feet do some significant walking. The long daylight gave us the ability to walk a lot of hours…and we did. We ate dinner at a stream, then hiked on so that our camp wouldn't be as likely to attract bears. Very tired, we walked on until we found a campsite. A truism we found for the majority of the Canol was that it was usually difficult to find a place to camp. The ground was never quite level, and the permafrost and native plants made a smooth spot even more difficult to find, especially when you tried to stay a few yards away from the roadbed.
We did find a spot toward the river across a small meadow at 9:30. The rain started again as we drifted off to sleep. A long day, but we were in good shape mile-wise. The rain posed a big question mark for me. Our only chance to leave would come up tomorrow and the prospect of walking in the rain for two weeks wasn't pleasant. Hmmm.
The tent is wet…