Utility pole below shrouded Fortress Peak


Day 4, August 12
Ekwi River (MP 184) to Godlin River (MP 162)
22 Miles, 8:15a to 9:00p

A light rain continued through the night and the clouds were heavy all morning. We soon encountered the first of many river crossings. We lost the road a few times, but always stayed as far left as possible and would eventually find it again. Many crossings were swift and deep enough so that strength of the current combined with the visual motion of the water could easily set you off balance.

When the crossing was more difficult, I would try to minimize the balancing challenges by looking at the shore as much as possible. I always kept the rocks at hand in my peripheral vision, but when I had to examine my way more closely I avoided looking at the rushing water between me and the shore by quickly looking downward. Not only did this avoid much of the perceptual "pull", but it also made me explicitly focus on my balance and footing. I also tried to face upstream as much as possible, usually at a 45-degree angle to the shore. This gave me a firm back foot and the ability to control my hiking stick with two hands if necessary. The stick (an absolute requirement for many crossings) also enabled me to have two points of contact at all times.

After the rash of crossings, the road condition improved and we hiked easily through yellow aspen forests below Fortress Peak (I must admit it was aptly named…by us!). Our first indication that utility lines were installed along the Canol was last night when we nearly tripped over an old telephone wire, but now we were finally getting some standing utility poles. The sight of these poles below a cloud-shrouded Fortress Peak cut a clear picture of the odd relationship between the Canol and the Mackenzie Mountains.

Immediately after the toughest crossing of day, we climbed out of the Ekwi River valley and over to Godlin Lakes and the Godlin River valley. The going was easy to Pump Station 5, which is trashed, but has sparse accommodations in a Quonset hut. After crossing some rock fields we made it to Stan and Debbie Simpson's Ram Head Outfitters. The sun was making an appearance, so we dried our stuff out and packed our three-day resupply stored there while we chatted with the family. Some of the chatting focused on the two hunters who stumbled in earlier in the day and the grizzly that attacked them yesterday. Apparently the guide had a shotgun and killed the sow leaving two cubs and a yearling alone. Although it is terribly sad those cubs were now motherless and with small chance for survival, the danger that was now so salient dominated our thoughts. We had been traveling in areas with known bear populations and would continue to do so in the Godlin River valley. Our anti-bear arsenal was comprised of an air horn, pepper spray and healthy dose of common sense. Before leaving, we gave Stan 250 dollars (Canadian) to fly a seven-day food drop to Pump Station #4 at milepost 108.

After leaving Godlin Lakes, we crossed the slow moving, pleasant Godlin River. The boots had dried out just enough to warrant wearing our sandals. The sunset played off the sides of the valley and made the mood of the evening hike upbeat. We tortured each other by singing bad 70's songs. Although Dave views the 70's as a great big wasteland littered entirely with bad music, I pointed out that Rush, one of the greatest bands of all time, made the greatest three album sequence in the mid-70's. I can't remember if he agreed or not.

We camped on sponge! Mild dew for the tent…


Day 3

Day 5