- Paddling days to date: 82
- Weather-bound days to date: 29
- Rest and resupplying days to date: 33
- Total trip days to date: 144
- Estimated distance traveled this season: about 2000 km
- Gear Pam threatened to throw in the fire:
- MSR Fury tent – the tiny vestibule opening and the cumbersome setup and takedown made for some frustrating days (especially in the rain). I disliked this tent so much that I ordered a new tent and had it couriered to Prince George.
- Favorite pieces of gear:
- Granite Gear Canoe Packs – they are tough and functional
- Kokatat Expedition Dry Suits – kept us warm and dry during the relentless
- precipitation of the fall season. We call them our suits of imperviousness.
- Sierra Designs Tengu 2 tent – fast & east to setup, excellent vestibule/doghouse
- Most trusted resources: Hockins family from Prince George & Jack Boudreau’s books
- Number of times Geoff burned his finger while cooking over fire resulting in swearing: 2
We had a great paddle on the Nechako River – exciting to be traveling with the current. Each day there were numerous swifts and rapids, but nothing we had to portage around. Taq doesn’t seem to be bothered at all by whitewater.
We are very fortunate to not have had any problems with bears, touch wood. We saw plenty of bear tracks, claw scars on trees and even some claw marks in the plastic covering over the straw bales (as pictured above.) Although we will never know for sure, we think having a 100 lb smelly malamute around has been a deterrent.
The first 66 km on the Fraser River were very difficult because the current was strong and the inside bends (where the current was slower) were often shallow. We would ferry across the river to the inside bend (often losing ground), then paddle up to the gravel bar and line the canoe around the bend.
Lining is where the canoe is angled out into the current while the person holding the bow rope pulls it upstream and the person holding the stern rope maintains the angle into the current. This was a delicate dance requiring us to work together to steer the canoe around rocks, downed trees and other obstacles. I took the above picture while holding the bow rope and picking through rocks while walking backwards – I need a lightweight tripod!
Reaching Prince George on the Nechako River was a major milestone for us. The first picture was taken as we were leaving Gary & Sharon Hockin’s house on the Nechako. Our downstream travel was about to end, and the upstream battle up the Fraser about to begin.
Another milestone was seeing the mountains come into full view as we rounded one of the many bends on the Fraser River.
2 km before the base of the canyon, it began snowing heavily. We had to stop and camp because we could no longer see the river ahead. After two days, four inches of wet, heavy snow had accumulated.
Many locals warned us to be careful approaching the Grand Canyon of the Fraser. One person, in particular, said it was suicide to paddle a canoe there. Knowing that many boats have successfully navigated the canyon in the past century and that the water level is fairly low, we decided to proceed with caution and assess the situation for ourselves. In the end, we paddled up the Lower Canyon section and portaged the upper canyon. The only casualty was Geoff’s favorite Lolk ash paddle that has carried him thousands of miles. It split at the top of the Lower Canyon.
While we slowly worked our way upstream, Taq studied the shoreline. He’d run up and down the banks whenever Geoff and I stopped for tea and chocolate breaks. Life is pretty good for Taq.
The Fraser River is not dammed, therefore, the water level is constantly fluctuating. Geoff and I calculated that we got some form of precipitation at least 6 out of every 7 days. It was a wet fall season!!!! Some days the sand and gravel bars would be visible and we could camp on them. However, after a big rainfall they would disappear and we would have to find a campsite in the woods.
The common thread in all of the pictures is the presence of the tarp. A big thanks to Cliff Jacobson for the design recommendation and inspiration.
Local Media Coverage:
- Ben Guerard drove us from Calgary all the way to Cheslatta Falls for us to begin paddling again.
- David and Joyce Silver were in the middle of home renovations when we paddled up to their beautiful log home in Vanderhoof. Despite being very busy, they stopped what they were doing and put on the kettle. We had a great evening with them.
- On Thanksgiving Sunday, two fishermen, Don Reynolds and his son-in-law Brent, shared two cold beers with us at the confluence of Telachak Creek and the Nechako River.
- After a chance meeting on the Nechako River, Gary and Sharon Hockin welcomed us into their home and family. We can’t possibly thank them enough for everything they have done over the many days we stayed with them while resupplying twice in Prince George. We ate numerous delicious meals, they drove us around town to run errands and resupply, gave Taq bones, made calls to find information, they even picked us up and dropped us off at Upper Fraser! They made us feel comfortable and welcome, a part of their family.
- Mike and Carolyn Souliotis are good friends of Gary and Sharon. We shared a few meals with them (Sharon loves to cook) and had a wonderful time listening to funny stories and getting to know them as well. They also picked us up and dropped us off at Upper Fraser in the pouring rain
- Randall Heidt at the Prince George Citizen was kind enough to hold a package from my parents containing our much-needed dry suits.
- It took a few days to get past all of the pulp mills on the Fraser. As a result, we were rationing our water until we felt comfortable drinking from the Fraser (we always boil or filter regardless). We were running low on water and I had used up all the ink in both pens for the journal. Near Shelley, we saw a house up on the bank and decided to ask them if we could fill our nalgenes and buy a pen. Jenny Baerg and her four children were a lot of fun and very enthusiastic.
- The many days of rain soaks into all our gear. We are thankful that Gudrun Pattison left his cabin open to people in need. We were able to dry out and rest in a cozy cabin on the Fraser. We left it clean and gathered lots of dry birch for the next person passing through.
- Susan and Larry Faulkner of Upper Fraser welcomed us into their home out of a downpour while we awaited pickup for resupply in Prince George. We got to meet many local people while they stopped by to pick up their mail. Susan talked to friends upstream and arranged for us to meet them as we paddled by.
- The staff at Grama’s Inn were very friendly and accommodating. It is a great place for Taq and is walking distance to stores in Prince George.
- Rick Brine of the Northwest Brigade Paddling Club and Backwater Paddling Store gave us some contact names for information and much needed dry suit zipper wax!
- Faellen and Stephen Brandner invited us over for a visit in Upper Fraser. We learned a lot about the area over a few nice glasses of wine. They told us about friends upstream we should visit near Penny.
- Grace Apps arranged for us to visit Jim & Viv Tolley at Longworth. She had been talking to Susan Faulkner on the phone and said she’d arrange to have a red flag displayed on the bank, so we knew we were in the right place.
- Jim & Viv Tolley of Longworth, BC cooked us a great meal and allowed us to hang our smelly, wet clothes next to their massive woodstove. Wonderful hospitality. They called Grace & Les Apps and James to come for a visit as well. We had a very nice time.
- Matt & Jenna Buch of Penny, BC (whom we met through Faellen & Steve) plucked us off the road as we were walking through Penny and immediately invited us to stay with them. We got to admire their newly renovated home while sampling delicious homemade wine.
- Clarence & Olga Boudreau have written a book called A Penny for Your Thoughts, it is a history of the town of Penny, BC. We had a lovely visit over lunch with them at their home the day we pulled off the water for the winter.
- We bought Jack Boudreau’s books, Sternwheelers and Canyon Cats: Whitewater Freighting on the Upper Fraser and Mountains, Campfires, & Memories while in Prince George. It was full of stories about the Fraser River (the Grand Canyon in particular) that gave the trip an unexpected, and very interesting dimension.
- A big thanks to Pak Wong for driving all the way from Provost, AB to pick us up from Penny. It’s great to be home for a while.