Northern Fairchild Peninsula to Pikes Portage
Distance: 26km – [cumulative total 440km]
InReach: Day 22 Visited Reliance – last RCMP post to do winter patrols by dog sled Now camped start Pikes Portage Walked 1st 2km & saw 3 muskox All OK J&K
Camp: 62.702°N 108.984°W
We made it, we have reached the psychological starting point of Pikes Portage. We are camped just above the beach at Pikes and it feels as if the trip can officially begin because after three long weeks we are finally off Great Slave Lake. The camp site is beautiful, open parkland of spruce and birch trees with a ground covering of mosses, lichens and flat shrubs. It is on a hillside behind a wide sandy beach and is on a series of raised sandy beaches with a huge outcrop forming a high cliff along side.
It rained hard last night so awoke to dampness, no wind and mist covering the lake. The mist formed into a ‘mist bow’, similar to a rainbow but because of the tiny nature of of the moisture drops lacking any colour. We retraced some of yesterdays distance paddling down the peninsula in bright sunshine along the spectacular cliffs, we had perfect conditions, with crystal clear glassy water and a slight tail wind.
We reached ‘new’ Reliance by late morning. After the old Hudson Bay post of Old Fort Reliance closed the Royal Canadian Mounted Police established a detachment at the site of Reliance in 1927 in order to monitor barren land trapping. In addition to the RCMP post, the settlement had a store, a weather station and was home to a number of families as well as a stopping off point for trappers and the local Dene people. In 1965 the RCMP left and the government withdrew services. The property was purchased by the Finlayson family and they have maintained the buildings turning them into a catch and release fishing lodge. The only other resident was a wolf hunter.
We were shown over Reliance by Fred the manager for the past twenty years, he was very generous in giving us an hour of his time and a great tour, he was very proud of what they were doing in keeping the character of a old northern settlement. The actual lodge building is a superb example of a classical log cabin style lodge, made of massive logs that had originated in British Columbia and floated to Reliance via many rivers and lakes. It was built around a huge local stone fireplace in the centre of the building. The old RCMP buildings are still in use, the old goal is now a store room and all the old cabins are joined by walkways lined with rocks painted white by the former residents of the goal. Reliance RCMP post was the last post in Canada to use dog teams to patrol a huge part of the NWT and Nunavut. In addition to preserving many of the 1930’s buildings the Finlayson family have collected many of the old artefacts now in a small museum and have mounted an historic photo collection in the main lodge. Whilst at Reliance I got to use the most luxurious ‘long drop’ toilet I have ever seen. It had a log house appearance with a double seat, carpet on the floor and an electric light, very flash.
From Reliance we paddled across Chapman Bay to Pikes Portage. On arrival we set up camp and John removed the spray cover from the canoe ready for portaging. We spent the afternoon walking about half way across the portage, it was good walking the path being open and dry though very steep, people generally take two days to portage this 4.5 stage of Pikes between Great Slave and Harry Lakes and looking at the topography it will push us to the limit to do it in two days. John is very aware that this canoe is heavier than “big red” making it difficult for him to carry it long distances. The problem concerning us was the lack of water on the portage as we will need to camp part way. However we have found a swampy creek about the middle. Walking for awhile before the creek was made challenging as it was swampy and was badly cut up by three large musk ox walking on the track ahead of us. A second sighting of Musk Ox , what a treat. We got back to camp late and tired as it was hot and very buggy, not looking forward to the carry tomorrow as hot conditions again forecast. In bed late after a pilot biscuit meal.