We cooked breakfast and lingered over coffee and packed up at a deliberate pace. I paddled in the stern today; we decided to switch everyday until there was a reason not to. A nice tail wind pushed us downstream and we just floated along. In what seemed like a short time we arrived at the confluence of the Hanbury and Thelon. We could see the tail end of the rapids below Thelon canyon.
But our greatest impression was of the immensity of the river. It was wide but with a noticeable current. It would only get bigger as we paddled down the 180 miles to our pickup point. The terrain became more open and we started seeing long curvy eskers covered with caribou tracks in the sand.
Our first stop was Warden's Grove where the first warden of the Thelon Wildlife Sanctuary had built a cabin in 1928. We did not have the exact location but paddled along the left hand bank and looked for some sign of a cabin. All of a sudden the view seemed very familiar and I got out Pelly's book and confirmed that his photo labeled "Warden's Grove" was exactly what we were looking at. We paddled a little further and saw some bare, upside-down "V" rafters. We beached the canoe and were careful to tie the two painters to rocks. We walked up toward the cabin and found that there were actually three cabins plus a latrine.
Pelly's book gives the complete history of the place. Another good read is Christopher Norment's In the North of our Lives, which tells how his group wintered over at Warden's Grove, was interrupted by the crash of the Russian Cosmos satellite and paddled all the way to Hudson Bay the next spring. We compared some old photos in Pelly's book to the present cabins. Some of the same trees appear to be there and, of course, there is much aging of the cabins. Grizzly bear hair on the doorway explained the mess inside. The aluminum pallet on which supplies for an archeological dig were dropped out of a C-130 seemed very out of place but obviously much used. The cabins seemed ready to welcome new residents who were willing to repair doors and roofs and scrape rust off some old tools. But we pushed on and found a raised meat cache near the river, made by cutting the tops off two trees and adding a metal-drum-protected platform.
We agreed that it was a perfect site: sheltered by the spruce trees, beautiful view of the eskers and river, a spring.
Warden's Grove, The Gap, Grassy Island
A wooden Gargoyle adorns one of the cabins.
Mo photographs the newest cabin.
The beautiful view from the cabins.
We paddled on to the Gap, a place where the Thelon (Mother Thelon as we started to call the river and the spirit of the place) had cut through a long ridge. While we lunched, we speculated about the 3 empty raptor nests we saw in the cliff across the river. Another hour of paddling brought us to Grassy Island (actually willow covered). We camped across from it up on a high bank. It was a lovely campsite with a beautiful view of the ridge and The Gap with the river flowing in a curve toward our site. It was not obvious that this was such a good camping place; but there were modern fire rings that showed it was actually a popular place.
Counting our stops we had traveled about 6.5 hours and covered about 16 miles. Approximate campsite coordinates: 13 V 0532700 7072300.
Mo with Grassy Island and The Gap in the background