Waking up at Rock River Campground
Even with last night’s rain, the truck was smothered in oily mud from the previous day’s drive. I knocked off as much as I could, not so much for cosmetics as for functionality. In the wheel hubs, the mud packed in so thickly it was pulling the plastic shield off the truck and in other places it hung like huge ice balls after a blizzard…. but unlike snow it was hardened and dense like cement.
Into the North West Territories
Home of the BEST License Plate EVER!
A short distance out of Rock River Campground we pass into the NWT. We’re heading into an area that was made by the Laurentide Ice Sheet. This area had ice sheets that were hundreds and thousands of feet thick and surrounded what was called East Beringia…. The home of giant elk and bison and the great Wooly Mammoths. I had a secret fantasy of finding a mammoth molar, oh well. We will also be crossing the continental divide for the third time.
Our first stop: Tundra
We drove through about 20 miles of Tundra until I found a spot that looked just right for hiking.
One of the effects of permafrost are these odd little ‘ponds.’ They are crystal clear and mostly free of debris. I think the moss acts as a natural filter. The tundra is a mix of lichens, mosses, dwarfed birch and Tamarack, berries and grass tumocks interspersed with rocky outcrops and ‘ponds.’
Although it makes for poor photography, this is the distance I prefer to be from a bear! It was probably a 1 mile away. Solution to the sighting? We just hiked in the opposite direction.
This is the exact reason that walking in this area is so appealing. It’s not great for seeing Caribou though. They’ll see us long before we see them and in that case, we’ll never see them.
One of my hopes was to find an antler. During several Kayak trips in Alaska I was lucky enough to find some. During Phil and my trip down the Noitak River (on the North Slope) I found an entire rack. It was in the river with the top part of the skull attached. It probably came from an unfortunate Caribou who didn’t make it across the rough river. In any case it was Huge; probably around 5 feet in circumference. I wasn’t about to leave it behind so I made Phil strap it to the bow of our double kayak. I was quite impressed with my trophy until we capsized in a ‘sweeper’ and the antlers nearly drowned Phil. The boat was sucked into the roots and debris on the banks of the rapids and pulled underwater. I pulled out of the kayak but as Phil pulled out, the antlers caught his pants and pulled him down with the boat. It took all my strength to pull myself out of the water as the current pulled me into the roots along the bank. As soon as I regained my composure I started shouting for Phil. I saw him down stream, standing on the bank, holding a paddle and stripped naked. By some miracle the boat resurfaced about a 1/4 mile away and we were able to collect most of our dry bags. We still had ten days of travel by boat. Had we had to walk, it would have been quite miserable. In any case, I lost my antlers.