Shipp & Mo's Thelon River Expedition

We See a Muskox on Our Way to Muskox Hill.
We saw this Musox from the river and tried to sneak up on it.  We didn't get very close.  Just after I took this picture, it galloped away through the willows
Muskox Hill

We were surprised to hear two hours of moderate rain during the night.  It had stopped when we got up around 6:00.  We ate quick breakfasts (oatmeal and granola) and were underway by 7:30.  We kept discussing what the weather was going to dothere were many clouds with blue peeking through.  Eventually it cleared off and the wind became a tail wind.
The river here flowed east for a long stretch.  The first part had large groves of spruce trees; the river had cut through hills and rock cliffs rose above us in several places.  Rough legged hawks make their nests in these kinds of places and two or three times they swooped above us, yelling.  Sometimes the nests were obvious but others we never located.  We also saw several golden eagles in this stretch.  We saw large flocks of Canada geese (the smaller artic race) that had either been born this spring or had molted and consequently couldn't fly.  They would flap and splash downriver and then leave the water and run into the bushes.
We also saw a gray wolf (naturally I was in the stern) that was sitting on a low bluff looking intently across the river.  We floated and watched for several minutes.  It was breathtaking to see the wolf acting completely naturally.  It paid no attention to us.  A little later was debated if a large brownish-black object was a rock or a muskox.  When it moved, the debate ended.  It left the bank where it had been feeding on willow and went over a low hill.  We beached the canoe and walked up the hill to see if we could surprise it and get a picture.  But 25,000 years of evolution led it to look back over the edge of the hill to see if we were coming.  The bull then went upstream and disappeared into some willows.  We split up hoping to get a good picture but the muskox galloped off upstream and we never got very close.
We then left the hills and the fast current and moved into a flatter area where the trees almost disappeared and the river started to braid.  We saw more geese here and also a golden eagle that swooped down on geese when they left the brush to return to the water.  The geese seemed too big for the eagle to attach; but it kept attacking but was never successful.  The geese made a huge racket with much flapping but all we saw made it safely into the water where the eagle left them alone.
thousands of years without any disturbance by man.

We camped here to get out of the wind we had been battling all day; but that put in a terrible swarm of mosquitoes and black flies.
We had planned to hike to Muskox Hill, a pingo near the river.  But after we set up camp we decided that it was too far since we had been wind bound for a day.  We also knew that hiking over the tundra was not as easy as it looked.  We set up our tent in the lee of a hill, thinking that it would be good to be out of the wind.  But that meant that clouds of mosquitoes surrounded us.  We made coffee and climbed the hill.  The wind kept the mosquitoes away and we had a great view of Muskox Hill and the river.  We also met "Little Buddy", an Arctic Ground Squirrel who came out of his burrow and came right up to us.  Apparently his hibernation from October to April had starved him for company because we saw him several times.  There were many areas where bears had ripped up the burrows.
We saw a fresh set of bear tracks along the shorea female with at least one cub.  When we cooked and ate in the shelter, black flies appeared and we had a terrible time keeping them at bay.  I cooked Back Country Kettle Chili, rice and pan bread, which was great.  The bugs were so terrible that we quickly got into the tent.  We heard geese honking through the night.  They seemed to circle up in the middle of the river with most of them facing out.  We have seen so many different behaviors from them that it is no wonder that they are so common.  They have evolved many different strategies for living in this huge land.

Bear tracks mingle with goose along the shore near our camp.
by Shipp
by Mo
by Mo
by Shipp
On a smaller scale "Little Buddy," an Arctic Ground Squirrel lived in a burrow on the higher ground above our camp.
Camp coordinates: 13 W 061195, 713210
Why did we stop at Lookout Point after only 3 hrs. of paddling?
First Thelon Page
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