Our last day in the Nahanni National Park Reserve started early and unfolded in ways I could not have imagined. It was supposed to be a day of paddling and photographing Glacier Lake and its towering mountains.
Our new friends from San Diego came for morning coffee and anything else we had to offer as their supplies were getting low and they had the climb to the Cirque in front of them. In mountaineering fashion, I took a picture of Craig and promised to forward it to his wife. (In the end, I called her to update her on Craig’s journey and to insure her that he seemed fine as he dissolved into a dot on the scree.)
Before breakfast, I loaded myself into the bow of the canoe that is available on the lake for visitors to use. Mike paddles me towards the reeds and the water falls. This is after Bonnie tries to make a “Tim Horton delivery” on the end of a paddle and I end up spilling it into my lap. I watch hot coffee run in a fine stream to the bottom of the canoe and endeavour to mop up as much as possible with my pant leg, before it runs to the stern and plays havoc with Mike’s camera equipment.
By the time we return from our early morning photo shoot, Bonnie, has created superlative whole grain pancakes with sunflower seeds and chopped fruit on the side. Yum!
The American party heads out to make their climb up the scree slopes to the Fairy Meadow. A helicopter from Inconnu Lodge arrives to start taking the Swiss party and their equipment up to the same place, but the easy way. I guess they are saving themselves for the Unclimbables.
When the transfers from the Beaver that has landed on the shore of Lake Harrison Smith are complete, Mike wades through the icy mountain stream that separates us from the helicopter and talks with Warren, the pilot.
The question becomes can we make a Visa Deal in the wilderness. Warren will take us in shifts to the Fairy Meadow! Who knew…here in the wilderness, Visa would or could come to the rescue. I suggest we film an ad! Clearly, Visa will take you anywhere!
Our little yellow bug takes us a hair’s distance from the sheer cliff faces that tower over Lake Harrison Smith. Then it sets us down amidst mountain streams, scooting marmots and wild flowers. Warren eats his lunch and I wander through a Lilliputian world of erratics and sheer, monumental, vertical cliffs. OMG!
On the descent I am up front with Warren. Via my headphones, I check that I have latched my door correctly. Seems important. We dive like a mosquito to the valley and set down on the creek side gravel.
As the next group, including the pilot of the Beaver rise into the sky, I pitch in to work on the dismantling of our camp. The helicopter seems to circle several times and then drops down to the San Diego group who, from my vantage point, look like ants on the mountain side. Apparently, someone was slightly injured and Warren air lifted the group to the Fairy Meadow.
Ros and I paddle the canoes back to the campsite and when others return we help each other to take our gear to the loading site.
We lift off to the areas a helicopter cannot access. The Ragged Range spreads out below us and the ice fields are visible in the distance. From here, I feel like one could really put out a hand and touch the face of God.
We land on the MacKenzie River and load a vehicle to get our kit back to the community campground in Fort Simpson. Our time in the Nahanni is over but the memories will remain. The long trip home starts at 6:30 tomorrow morning. It is a process unto itself to disengage from such a stunning journey.
Note: Special thanks to Mike Beedell and Bonnie Kumer from O Canada Expeditions and to my fellow travellers.(http://www.mikebeedellphoto.ca/o-canada-expeditions/)
1. Diary of a Lake edited by John Harris and Vivien Lougheed
2. Dangerous River, R.M. Patterson