Solo Canoe Trip . Noatak River . 8/94 . Day 2

Photo, © Scott West '94

Wind shelter for a tent is hard to come bay around here. The Willows here are more like bushes than trees. Five feet tall but thirty years old. I wait for the rain to stop and the wind to dry my tent before I pack it.

Semi cloudy, 50 degrees, wind is light. Every once in a while I think I am hearing voices on the wind. Could it be those guys behind me? In trouble? I climb to the top of a small bluff, but nothing.

There is something so pleasurable about entering the current in a canoe that physically does not take place in a raft or boat. You're low to the water, the bow being 17 feet from the stern, reaches the fast water first and is pulled into it, increasing in speed. But it feels is if the bow moves faster than the stern, with the canoe being stretched out. And this passes like a ripple to the stern. Like the Enterprise entering warp speed.

The Old Town Tripper is one of the premier wilderness tripping canoes. 17'2"x37" wide at the middle, it can haul 1100 lbs, I and my gear weigh in at 400lbs. It can get wrapped around a rock in mid current, and bounce back to its original shape.

Also, with its superb shape, its a pleasure to paddle, even for a soloist. However, it's made for two, with seats front and back. To solo you really need to be close to center (18 inches behind center) so I ordered a solo seat from Old Town that snaps into the mid section. Now I have excellent control, easy paddling, and quick turning, at least, until the wind picks up.

Bear tracks! What a rush. They are old, all beat up by caribou tracks. There is no smell of rotting meat, so I dont think I am near a kill. Boot tracks too. A yellow bush plane fly's overhead and lands at Pingo lake.

Try to do a few more miles today. If I average 14 miles a day, that would divide the trip up evenly, but trying to stick to that would not be possible. I'll paddle to the next good campsite I tell myself. About an hour later I settle for another gravel bar with willows and sand. Good enough, been used before. An old fire pit. You can tell where the tent was by the boot prints.
Rain dents in the sand and caribou tracks indicate that its been a few days. A large group. No trash. That's one amazing thing about this place, no trash. Most of the gravel bars and flat tundra ledge show signs of campsites, yet everybody packs it all out. You don't see that at any other National Park. It makes me very aware of everything I do. Every torn corner of a food wrapped that attempts an escape must be chased down.