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July 10

I had woken up several times during the night, happy to be warm in my sleeping bag, and happy to stay there a little while longer. Early in the morning, the wind had died down and although it was still heavily overcast, it seemed that the gllom of the mist had mostly disappeared.
The clouds did not move; the water was still and I could not get myself to get up.
I finally did get up when I noticed the first sun rays on the opposite shore. It was around 7.00am, cold and wet, but it promised to be a nice day again.
Breakfast was an enormous bowl of oatmeal with raisins and for lunch I had planned an equally big meal of lentil soup.
After the usual struggle with the mud, I managed to float the kayak and enter it without a dunking. Once a little away from the shoreline and out of the protection of the trees I started to feel the cold of the wind on my arms and chest. I tried to paddle faster to warm up quicker but the warmth only came when the sun had risen higher and cleared the trees. It was a real wintery sun; weak and pale and it was struggling to keep piercing the clouds which were slowly covering the sky again.
The sun, however, won out and by midday it was a very pleasant day to be on the water. A few hours later I would be grateful for the head wind because the sun was again at full strength.
The critical junction in today's paddle was the split between the East Arm and the Middle Channel of the Mackenzie. I consulted my GPS very frequently because I had omitted to enter sufficient reference points while doing my preparations.

Once I was a couple of miles inside the East Arm, the river became "manageable", meaning that it took on the form of a river to which I am more used. The breadth dimished to between 400 and 600ft. I could paddle in the middle of the river and still see quite clearly what was happening on the banks: nothing!

My hamstring continued to cause problems and within the first hour I had to get out three times and stretch it.
On the second occasion, I had just gotten back into the kayak when I saw a movement on the far bank. It was black against the dark grey mud and barely distinguishable but it was an animal. With my binoculars I was able to identify it as a bear. The bear was running along the shoreline, sometimes running up the bank, turning, running to the water and generally in a playful mood. When I got closer I could see that it was a young grizzlie. Bigger than a cub but not fully grown. It was playing on the shore like any young animal can do; going where its fancy took it without seemingly a care in the world. The way it was running was quite amusing. Its hind legs were going in all directions, just like it did not have full control over them.
I was paddling fast to keep up with it and managed to get closer, little by little. I was still at least 400ft away when it suddenly stopped, half turned, stood on its hind legs and sniffed the air. Although it looked in my direction, I did not have the feeling that I had been noticed. I was floating noiselessly and got as close as about 150ft before it did notice me. It stopped mid run, looked at me, darted halfway up the muddy bank, looked again to make sure and after that look, it ambled to the tree line and without an other look disappeared into the forest.
This encounter made my day! This was the first animal I had seen in four weeks, aside from the porcupine, and I had been able to observe it playing around for may be 5 - 10 minutes.

The East Arm was not full of birds, but there were substantially more than further south. They were still very shy but at least I could get close enough to some to identify them: loon; bald eagle; golden eagle and trumpeter swans were those that I could clearly see. Others still stayed way out of range, but at least there were many more of them. The river seemed to have "life" on it while further south it seemed to be devoid of wildlife.

By early evening I was tired and hot. I had passed many cabins, none of them occupied, it seemed.
I had been told to expect many fishcamps in this section of the river but was disappointed again; only one was in evidence and that one seemed to be deserted.
I was looking for a sandbar to camp on when I noticed a series of cabins on the shore, one with a little dock. I paddled over, moored to the dock and went to find the owners. Nobody there, although there were at least 10 different cabins; one very new and in apparently very good condition.
I did not bother to investigate very much; I did not bother to look inside any one; I just wanted to camp.

I fought a losing battle with the mosquitos which made me get the tent up in record time. Everthing else after that took place on the dock, away from the vegetation and with a breeze blowing on the river I was fairly comfortable.
By 8.00pm I was in my sleeping bag.

 

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