Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Brintnell Creek - July 28, 2007

Camp Craft

As a youngster I was a boy scout and I learned a number of skills needed to survive in the woods. In those days it was acceptable to practice "full impact" camping. Early scouting books showed how to build a variety of pieces of camp furniture such as a kitchen (complete with shelves), a privy, suitable seating, campfire tripods and bridges. All required freshly cut young saplings, plenty of cord and the knowledge of a few good knots. The structures built were semi-permanent and designed to remain in place for other campers to enjoy and to build onto. Thankfully, the trend of the past few decades has been toward "no impact" camping, practiced by most but not all outdoors people. I have been on a few campsites where inconsiderate campers have left garbage, trails of used toilet paper, plastic wrappers and abandoned shelters.

Glen and I need a place where we can sit out of the sun and rain for the next few days until our friends return. We intend to build a structure that is temporary, uses driftwood and that can be easily taken down when we leave. We locate a large uprooted tree to serve as a bench and several long poles in the driftwood piles around the camp. Using the lashing techniques acquired through scouting we soon build a lean-to using a ground cover as fly tarp.

There are other chores that need to be done and after breakfast we set about to organize the site. One job that I tackle involves the tent. At the planning stage of the trip I told Glen that I had an expedition style tent that would be ideal for the trip. It has a large vestibule area for storing gear out of the rain and it weighs less than the tent Glen would have brought. This made it a hands-down choice.

One thing that I should have done before the trip was to check the tent for water tightness. After the first rain on the river, we learned that it was not. The one solution to this problem was to cover the tent entirely with a fly that is normally used as a rain shelter. This created two problems, the first that we didn't have an extra fly to use as an eating and sitting area; the second that we needed about an hour to set up our tent at each new campsite.

It was clear after a couple of days on the river that my reliable tent was going to choose the biggest trip of its lifetime to resign. Yesterday the zipper began to bind and to leave large sections of the mosquito netting open to the free entry of all bugs within the vicinity of the vestibule. There was usually about a million of them, including five different species of mosquito that inhabit the Nahanni area. A necessary chore, therefore, was the reparation of zipper by sewing it shut for a section of its length where it was not closing. That left a small section where we could crawl in and close it behind us, inconvenient but workable.

I also spent some time making a duct-tape lens cover for my under water camera bag and repairing my glasses that had fallen into the fire this morning at breakfast. I had lost one lens and now needed to work a solution, using wire, that would allow me to wear the clip-on shades. By the time I had these things done and the maps organized it was early evening and time to prepare dinner. A perfect day of idling.

The French

In the afternoon we meet another group of travelers on the river. Like the Belgians they are interested in how to get to the Cirque. We give them the same advice we gave the Belgians yesterday and they are appreciative. We learn that they are from Montreal and from France. They ask if they can beach their canoe at the site and then are on their way up the river. There are six of them in two canoes.


In the early evening after dinner Glen tries his hand at fishing. Some of the species of fish that are likely include, Dolly Varden, Arctic Grayling, Pike and Mountain Whitefish. We imagined a breakfast feed of fresh fish, and thought our location was ideal. After about half an hour Glen returned to camp having snagged his line. We decided to retrieve the line in the morning when we could better see where the lure had lodged. So much for a Dolly Varden fried in butter over a morning fire.

We retired to the tent after we had braved the bugs long enough in the fading glow of the campfire. We expected the others to return tomorrow , so our mood was generally upbeat. We compose of song for our friends' return based on the tune to "Michael Row the Boat Ashore". Glen has a terrific sense of humour and we tell stories and laugh for some time before falling asleep.

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