Glen and I awake at first light after a cold and fitful sleep. Although it is raining we decide that the trek back to camp will be warmer than lying one more shivering moment on the cold ground.. We were glad to be on the move back to the relative warmth of our tent at Brintnell Creek, where we can have a long afternoon nap.
It is raining that slow and persistent rain that foreshadows a day long pour and before long we are drenched from top to bottom. We stopped briefly to eat the last of the jerky and the vegetable chips. The trail was closer to the creek on the way down and we get much better at picking out the main trails from the false ones. We conclude that we must have deviated a little from the main trail on the way up, likely because the trail next to the creek is mostly under water and fellow hikers have chosen a route further away from the creek.
At one point Glen tells me I have stepped on something in the trail. Something dead and gray.We stoop down to investigate. We are unsure what it is, but one thing is for sure it is a rodent. It was about 4-5 inches long, gray or black in colour with feet that looked like those of a rat. We take note of the details about the creature in hopes of identifying it later.
In a few hours we have descended the hill from Glacier Lake and have returned to our canoe still beached beside the creek where we left it. Without delay we load our packs and get into the canoe to paddle back down the creek to the river and our camp.
Our creature turned out to be a Meadow Vole, commonly known as a field mouse. These rodents are abundant in the area and are sought out as food by hawks, foxes and other predators.
A Little R' n R
Reaching the campsite at about noon, we have a very quick bite to eat and a cup of tea. We are very tired from the short, cold night and the 5 hour trek down the hill. Very soon we are in the tent and sound asleep during what turns out to be a warm and sunny afternoon.
Glen asked, "Do you hear voices?" Out of my returning consciousness I responded that I hadn't. I open the the flap of the vestibule and see that no one is there. Glen insists, "I heard voices near the water."
Getting out of the tent I declare, "There is no one here Glen, you must have been dreaming."
Glen and I both wonder to the shore in our long underwear and teeshirts that pass for pajamas out here to be met by an older and younger man in large hats like those the Australians wear. "I was right", Glen nudges me, "there were voices."
We learn that our visitors are from Belgium and that it is their intention to climb to the Cirque. Glen and I give them information about the trail and they still seem determined to make the effort. They tell us that they have been on the Nahanni twice now, once two years ago they paddled down the Flat River to where it meets the Nahanni, and on from there to the Laird river. We are very impressed by their sense of adventure and their ability to mount two such demanding expeditions. Glen and I wish them well and later in the afternoon we see them again, along with four other comrades, paddling up the river past our campsite, to the trail that leads up to the Cirque.
The rest of the afternoon was spent idling with a campfire, buckets of tea, a great supper of Thai chicken and rice and a cherry crumble dessert. There is plenty of nothing to do today, and we revel in it. We feel strong in the knowledge that we have survived an unscheduled camp out deep in the boreal forest.