Shipp & Mo's Thelon River Expedition

Waiting For A Ride Home
Doug refuels from the many jerry cans he has brought.  It's a 4 hour flight back to Ft. Smith.
Pick Up Day

The east wind increased over night and we had to add more guy lines to the tent and then anchored them to rocks.  It was so rocky that we couldn't drive in many tent stakes.  We were in no hurry to get up and didn't emerge into the wind and cold until about 8:00. 
Shortly before that I thought I heard voices and looked out and saw two canoes with two people tucked into spray skirts paddling at a good rate downstream.  They were close to the opposite shore, in the lee of a high ridge.  I wondered if they were also getting picked up today at Hoare Point or if they were going all the way to Baker Lake.  It would not be a good day to paddle east across huge Beverly Lake.  These were the first people we had seen since the pilot left us at the Radford  River two weeks before.  Soon they were out of sight down the river.
We went down to the river to make coffee in the shelter.  But the shelter was gone.  All food and cooking gear was undisturbed.  Mo arrived and agreed that the shelter was gone.  He thought it had blown into the river and would be found somewhere downstream and headed off in that direction.  I thought the wind had blown it back from the river and up the hill we were camped on.  Soon I spotted it well up the hill in some bushes, looking like it was set up there.  I was only wearing my sneakers.  It took a while to get to the shelter because I kept detouring around wet pockets in the tundra.  We dismantled it.  The only damage was a few minor tears to the pole sleeves.
By this time the wind was so strong that we couldn't set it back up.  We decided to cook in the tent.  We carefully used one stove in the center of the tent without problems and made coffee and added hot water to granola.  It seemed ever colder now.  We packed up everything but the tent and just lay on the bare floor of the tent.  We had a first shower pool on when the plane would arrive.  It was scheduled for noon.  I "bet" on 12:30.  Mo said 1:00.  I was wearing just about everything I brought: long underwear, fleece jacket, nylon parka, wool gloves, knit hat.
We heard the plane at 12:36 (I won!).  We watched the plane circle, land and then taxi right up to the sand beach where we had been cooking.  We rushed to take the tent down but then waited around for about an hour while Doug, the owner of Big River Air, poured fuel into the plane's tanks from several jerry cans that he brought.  We asked what his plan was for the canoe.  Would he leave it at the Radford River fuel dump?  Doug quoted an old saying, "Stupidity is repeating a mistake and expecting a different result."  He was going to tie it on and fly it back to Ft. Smith.  He said with a wink, "I would never overload an airplane."  So much for the 600 lbs. weight limit.

We passed over the area where all topographic features ran northwest/southeast.  These lakes look like bulldozers have scooped them out, but it's the work of glaciers.
Soon we were flying just below the low clouds and looking down at Hoare Point (no sign of the canoes we had seen).  We turned southwest and we saw parts of the river that we had just canoed the day before.  We passed over the area where everything runs northwest/southeast.  From the air it looks like a huge industrial project.  We passed close to Lookout Point where we had camped six days before.
Doug told of being up this way a few days before.  Some people had called him on their satellite phone (theirs worked!) after a grizzly had clawed them while they were in their tent.  He had flown them out immediately.  One of the people had needed medical attention back in Ft. Smith. 

South of the tree line there are still many places to canoe.
by Shipp
by Shipp
by Shipp
The weather improved and soon we landed at the Float Plane Base.  We paid Doug and called a taxi to get us to that first shower.  Mo ended up getting the first one because I immediately called where I had rented the satellite phone.  After a few calls from the parking lot, rentcell reluctantly agreed that I could not, in fact, be heard.  But as of today, September 22, 2002, I have not received any refund of my $500 deposit.  Look elsewhere for a satellite phone!
The trip home was uneventful except for the confiscation of my Coleman Peak 1 stove.  An Air Canada agent claimed he could smell gas, even though I had drained it and soaked up all the gas with toilet paper.  He took it away and claimed  he would give it to his nephew.  He also said that he did this all summer.  Look for it on Ebay.  Mo's stove had a separate fuel bottle which he was able to drain.  So my stove was added to the long list of non-working technology that I brought home: GPS, tape recorder, satellite phone, map measurer, Mo's watch strap.  I never used my flashlight on the trip but discovered that the bulb had burned out when I got home.

Click here to read my Final Thoughts
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