Peace River (AB) to Hudson Hope (BC) then the Yukon / October 2 - 26, 2016
Sunday, October 2 to Wednesday, October 26, 2016
We had a very good and relaxing stay in Peace River. Thank you again to the Best Canadian Motor Inn (BCM Inn) for their hospitality and their excellent service.
It was not until Monday, October 3rd that we left Peace River under a foggy and cool morning. Konrad from the Peace River Record Gazette came to meet us as we were preparing to leave (click here to read the article). We were happy to return to our paddles. We knew that the last 380 km separating us from Hudson Hope (BC) would not be easy. But we were motivated to complete the Peace River.
On that first morning, we had to rope the canoe, shortly after we left the beach, near the hotel. The current was strong and the edge of the river very shallow. The water was still very silty. We could not see more than an inch below the surface of the water. Rocks and stones lining the shoreline were beautiful and colourful. I remember one in particular that was beige with purple dots.
That day, we managed to cover 26 km. We stopped around 6 p.m. at the ferry crossing located near Early Garden. The scenery was beautiful and hilly. There are fewer trees, allowing us to appreciate the rolling hills of herbs. We set up camp in the grass a little higher on a hill next to the ferry dock. Shortly after, it was dark. The cold settled in and we finished our dinner under the light of our headlamps.
On the night of October 3 to 4, we had visitors. A first for us. Mice disturbed our sleep and ran on our tent during the night. These hyperactive and very determined mice even made two holes in the tent. • It is only in the morning that we noticed the damage. Since the beginning of our adventures, we have had close encounters with bears, wolves, moose, cougar, alligators, sharks, wild boar, etc. Nothing ever happened and our equipment had never been damaged by wildlife. So, we were really surprised what the mice have done and we figure we will have to be more careful with them.
On 4 October, we stayed put due to the rain. We repaired the tent and relaxed.
Wednesday, October 5, we were back on the water and covered 27 km. The temperature oscillated between -1C and + 5C. The sky was heavy and grey. The tent was frosted when we woke up and we had to get back to our winter camping habits.
The current is strong at some places on the river and still amazes us. Our paddles took a major hit. They were already well damaged after all this upstream paddling and the tortures we inflicted on them during the last 15.000 km and three years of paddling. For a little bit more than a month, I have paddled with the spare paddle. Mine was too damaged and has been repaired more than once. The day of October 5 was the deathblow for our paddles. New paddles had been shipped to Hudson Hope (BC) from Grey Owl Paddles (Raven model). We thought that we would be able to get to Hudson Hope with our old paddles, then exchange them, but it seems that fate had decided otherwise. In the middle of the river that night, sitting in our camping chairs by the fire, we were wondering what we were going to do. We still had at least two weeks of paddling before we could get to Hudson Hope. We were faced with a critical situation at this time. When we came into the tent and looked at our messages on our inReach, we were comforted. Our friends Mike and Christelle were on their way from Saskatchewan to the Yukon. They offered us their support if we needed it. We wrote them and explained our situation.
We have a good star looking after us. Christelle and Mike's message arrived just at the right time. The next day, they told us they were on their way to pick us up. We would meet at the ferry crossing. What a relief! How generous of them! They would give us a ride to Hudson Hope to get our new paddles.
We left our island at 1 p.m. This allowed us to dry our equipment and warm ourselves. It was -6C when we woke up. Everything was frozen! We turned back and went down the river, paddling with the flow. It took us only 1:45 to cover the 27 km we had made the day before in 8 hours (despite a strong headwind). It was crazy how fast we were going! At one point, we turned on the GPS to validate our speed. We were going 17 km/h. Phew! Quite a change! It was still cold and we had everything that we could put on our backs to keep us warm.
We arrived, along with Mike and Christelle, at the ferry. The reunion was exciting, we were so happy to see them! To top it off, we were greeted with champagne!
The next day, we loaded their truck with our equipment and put the canoe on the roof. Then, we moved to Dunedin (AB) where we camped. The paddles were not supposed to get to Hudson Hope for a few days. Mike and Christelle were not in a hurry to return to the Yukon either. They could not return before mid-October.
On Saturday October 8, we headed to Hudson Hope. Mike and Christelle took us to visit the wooden sculptures of Chetwynd. Then we went to the first smaller dam on the Peace River. The colours were beautiful! The white of the snow brought out the yellow colour of the leaves and the grey-brown colour of the rocks.
We ended that day at Hudson Hope, in the Sportsman's Inn. We got a great price and a warm welcome from the owner and manager. We spent 3 nights there and we were not unhappy. Temperatures dropped drastically and there were snow showers! During our stay, we went to visit the Bennett Dam and we also met Chris and Gerri from Dirty Bird Soap Empire. This charming couple brought us soaps. We spent a good time with them discussing the nomadic life and their desire to live "off the grid". Again, thank you both for the great opportunity and fine soaps.
On Tuesday October 11, our package had not yet arrived and we had to make a decision. Mike and Christelle offered for us to come to the Yukon with them. Winter was already established in the Peace River Valley; the Bennett Dam reservoir is reputed to be ruthless. Mike has lived in the area many years and told us about the dangers of snow dump. Here, several feet of snow can fall in a few days. Besides, more than 40 cm was expected by the end of the week. We gladly accepted the offer from our friends. We had a heavy heart to think that the canoe season was over, but very happy to have this great opportunity. We made arrangement to have the paddles sent to the Yukon. Then we made our way along the famous Alaskan Highway. We stopped the first night to camp at Pink Mountains. There was already lots of snow there and the lake was frozen.
The next day we went to the Liard River Hot Springs. We also camped there. The next morning, just after breakfast, we went to enjoy the natural hot springs. This is a great place worth visiting. In the afternoon we moved to a place known by Mike and Christelle where it is possible to camp on the edge of the Liard River. What a beautiful spot! The water is clear and blue! There is white sand and interesting rock formations. We also surprised a buffalo napping.
It was only the next morning that we had a big surprise! Pierre had a face to face with a bison. It was just on the other side of the tent and tarp. Pierre was going in his direction before he saw it. A second bison followed the first one closely. Pierre managed to capture a photo (where you can see the corner of the tarp ... it shows how close the bison was). They advanced into the wood without hurry. These massive, and imposing animals, were not afraid of us. They turned back and came close to the truck before galloping towards the river. It was truly crazy! An unforgettable moment!
On the road, there is a large area where the bison graze. There are hundreds of them! It was very impressive. I wanted to see bison ... I have been well served! Mike told us that a lot of car accidents are caused by the bison on this section of the highway.
We saw the mountains grow as we advanced. We said a lot of "Oh," "ah" and "wow". Then we got to the Yukon and Watson Lake. It was Friday October 14. We spent the night at Mike and Christelle's place and changed tires for the winter season. Then, we went back to camp until Monday October 17 in the Yukon wilderness. We stopped in a great location near the Rancheria River. It snowed all weekend, but was a lovely peaceful weekend. The forest is beautiful! There are caribou that roam here. We even saw otters on the ice on the other side of the river.
On Monday afternoon, we settled at Mike and Chantelle's home. We have a room for ourselves and are very comfortable. Pierre and Mike went hunting the following Tuesday in the Nahanni Range. They came back with partridges and beautiful pictures. The Nahanni Range is a place to see! We also met Jamie and Christopher who work at the hospital where Mike works.
We spent a lovely week in Watson Lake. A huge thank you to Mike and Christelle. It's a wonderful opportunity they have offered us. They are very kind and generous people.
We are looking forward to keeping you posted about our adventures and discoveries of the next coming weeks.