Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Elk River: Getting There

Planning and executing a trip into remote areas takes a considerable amount of work to address the logistics of transport, equipment needs, and scheduling. Having completed this work on previous trips, for example the Nahanni River in 2007, I am grateful to Nestor Lewyckyj for his role in arranging the outfitting of canoes and air transport with the "legendary" Tundra Tom. (I have listed a number of recommendations at the end of this blog for those considering this trip concerning logistics).

My travel companions, Nestor Lewyckyj, Taras Gula and Roman Poluha have known each other since childhood and have trekked together on other occasions. One of the dynamics that played out on the trip was my need to adjust to a cohesive group with whom I did not share prior history. That being said, I felt welcomed from the outset and my travelling partners were generally agreeable and easy to get along with. The fact that we had all participated in the scouting movement provided a reference point for the ethics associated with camping and group cooperation.

We had arranged that I meet with the others in Winnipeg on July 10th and from there we would drive the 1800 kilometres to Stony Rapids, Saskatchewan. The guys picked me up at the Winnipeg airport at about noon on the 10th and we arrived at our destination in the mid afternoon of the 11th. It is interesting to note that the original end point for our journey was to be Points North Landing, SK some 200 km. south of Stony Rapids, but due to contractual difficulties between Tundra Tom and Tindi Air our plans were changed at the last minute. Our new carrier was to be Transwest Air. This change meant that we would have to drive an additional 200 km, taking us nearly 7 hours, over an extremely rough road, that a regular sedan would not have survived.

The trip from Winnipeg provided myself and my travel-mates an opportunity to get to know each other. We took turns being driver, co-pilot and backseat sleepers as we drove continuously for the thirty-something hours. This road trip became an adventure in its own right as we witnessed changes in the terrain, wildlife sightings and a forest fire in progress. The road trip was, in fact, a continuation of a much longer journey that Nestor, Taras and Roman had begun in Montreal on July 8th. Needless to say, we were all glad to have arrived at the Whitewater Inn and receive the hospitality of our hosts, Tim and Pearl.

Once we were settled in at the Whitewater Inn we learned that our flight onto the Elk River would be delayed a day due to unforeseen damage to the pontoon of the Twin Otter that would carry us. While somewhat concerning, given that it would mean one less day on the river, this delay allowed us to organize our gear and to rest after the road trip. We took the opportunity to explore the waterfront at Stony Rapids and take in the local scene. Given that Stony Rapids and the neighbouring community of Black Lake are dry and the fact that we had failed to buy beer or wine en route, were consigned to drinking Roman's whiskey in our rooms!

For access to my still pictures of the trip visit Elk River And Thelon Rivers pictures.

Recommendations Re: logistics
  • Points North and Stony Rapids are excellent locations from which to launch your expedition into this region of the Northwest Territories, as they are served by an excellent air carrier in Transwest Air
  • The difficulty in road travel to Stony Rapids can be avoided by taking a Transwest flight from Saskatoon, SK to Points North, SK
  • Churchill River Canoe Outfitters can provide canoes and gear out of both Points North and Stony Rapids

Next: Brief History and the Trip begins
(click to continue)

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