Adventure #06

Blackstone River, Yukon

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The plan was to paddle the 140km down the Blackstone and than line the canoes up the Ogilvie River about 50km to get back to the Dempster Highway.

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On August 24th this year, we headed out to the Blackstone River in the Northern Yukon for a 10 day trip. The plan was to paddle the 140km down the Blackstone and than line the canoes up the Ogilvie River about 50km to get back to the Dempster Highway. In late August, the rivers are usually so low that you have to drag your boats in certain areas. Well this year was different; we left in the pouring rain and quickly realised that the Blackstone was high, not to say in flood. We were hoping to hunt, but with the water level a moose quickly became out of question as having the extra weight would become too dangerous, but we were still hoping for a sheep. On the second day, we had a nice afternoon, but the river still flooding, some of the corners were more challenging than expected, and caught Guillaume and Michah off guard. They tipped and pinned their canoe against a clump of wood in the middle of the river. After a little bit of work, we managed to pull the boat out and all the gear and got going again with everyone being a little shaken up from the event.

After another night of rain, we got to our camp on day three fairly early and had time to dry everything up. This was going to be our last chance, at 8pm a wall of clouds and rain hit us. This storm was intense, the rain was so heavy we couldn't even hear ourselves talk in the tent anymore. It poured like that for 5 hours, than the next morning, we woke up in the snow. The river was now higher, and the temperature was never going to rise above 5 degrees for the rest of our trip. Realising that going up the Ogilvie in flood was going to be impossible, I started looking at our options to have help taking us out. We got connected with Jim Fink, an experienced bush pilot who has worked in the region for over 15 years. After a warning from him that the weather was not going to get better for days, we knew the situation could become bad. On the 6th day, we decided to head out very carefully to the confluence paddling in the snow and rain. Once we arrived, Jim happened to be flying over us. He dropped off a radio from the plane to communicate with us. After a short discussion, he landed on a small gravel bar across the river and offered us an easy way out. He took the 5 of us and Taïga one by one out and brought us all to his outfitting camp where a hot dinner was waiting for us.

We ended up doing no hunting, as we spent all our time drying and staying warm, but it sure was a hell of an experience. Jim told us he had never seen anything like it in over 15 years. By the time we got out, there was already over a foot of snow in the mountains with a lot more to come. Now we will need to head back out there during the winter with snowmobiles to take our canoes out, as we had to leave them behind. Just another adventure in the planning!

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