Solo Canoe Trip . Noatak River . 8/94 . Day 3

It rained 12 hours last night then cleared up nicely to partial clouds. Big rolling cotton balls. I time myself to see how fast I can break camp. 45 minutes. Pathetically long. I should be ashamed of myself.
A warm breakfast and the last of the homemade bread. Oh, if only you where a bigger loaf, I shall miss thee. I do not chew the last piece, I dissolve it. The wind is good today, so far. I push off and become one with the current.

Each incoming stream has such personality. It would be easy to know which stream somebody else was describing, without using a map, when they refer to it as the dark tea colored one, the quit one, or the noisy green thing.

Like the canyons, each one beckons you, and I cant help feeling that they are like the Siren's in Homer's Odyssey. That is, if I follow their song, I will be dashed upon the rocks. Each place you go, each step you take, seems to have some little danger. Even the grass here is tricky.

I make about then miles before the wind bitch slaps me.

I've waited about an hour and a half on the gravel bar for the wind to calm down. Back at the Igning river I spotted a few tents. There was nobody visible, and I did not stop. That group is passing me now. They are in rafts, five people in each, piled so high with gear, its above their heads as they sit. The first raft passes, all men, I waive, no return. The second raft is all women, they pull over.

They are a luxury tour group doing the first 50 miles from Pingo Lake to Lake Matcharak. Everybody but the two guides are in their 50's, and from Juneau AK. They keep asking me if I'm all alone and give me sad puppy dog looks when I repeat yes.
They struggle onward against the wind. I re-enter the water a while later.

Ran into Scott again. His brother is awake this time. They are camped out on top of a tall outcrop (looks kinda like a sea stack, but its all sand and tree roots). It's a tricky pull out.
We exchange pleasantries and compare wildlife sightings. They have had better luck than myself. Four baby foxes playing on a sand bar. Nice. We travel together for a while. Maybe some of their luck will rub off on me.

A small group of caribou cross ahead of us. We stop at a clear incoming stream to filter water, rest and ceremoniously partake of Crown Royal, followed by facial twitches and odd sounds.
I mount my video camera to the canoe facing back toward myself. We travel on and I let it record for 45 minutes when the tape runs out.

Photo, © Scott West '94

Camped together due to camaraderie and a serious lack of suitable sites in this area. Low to the water, far from rivers edge, no wind breaks, on an island gravel bar where the Ipnelivik enters the Noatak, this is the best to choose from. There is rain falling in all the surrounding canyons.

It takes about four to six hours for the rain thats falling there to reach us. We talk for a few hours and have dinner. I charge my camera battery with a solar charger. I notice they have a small container tied off in the water. "What's in there? Cheese! That would have gone great with my home made bread". Silence, while we all contemplate what might have been.

As we talk we wish there was more of the night, at least a few stars, perhaps the meteor shower that takes place this month. We really want a Aurora Borealis. A deep red one. The kind that comes low to the ground, and use to scare the native population, they said it could take you away.
That wont be possible till later in the month. The sun does not dip low enough yet. It just makes this big oval arc across the sky, dropping just below the horizon as it heads north but popping up again within four hours. A sunflower growing here would get itself all twisted up.

Windy rainy night. I awake every few hours to check the water level. It rose ten inches over night. I didnt know it yet, but this was the beginning of the flood.