Nahanni

August 31, 2009  •  Leave a Comment

"Good morning, have you seen my tent?"

These were the first words I heard on day 5 of our Nahanni raft trip. The wind was howling all night and I had awoken at 6:00 to the sounds of scuffing and scraping outside my tent. I emerged with spray and bangers at the ready, half expecting to see a bear rolling my barrel around. After looking for a while, I finally spotted a tent on its side in the brush far beyond my site on the gravel bar. I then turned my focus to one of my companions stumbling towards me with a hilariously confused expression written all over his face.

"I went to the bathroom and now I've returned and my tent has disappeared," he goes on to explain.

Trying to conceal my amusement at the prospect of a tent simply disappearing, I offered, "Perhaps it is that one in the bushes over there?" He was visibly relieved and I helped retrieve the tent and pack it away. Even more amusing was that he did not seem to recognize any of the ways in which he was responsible for allowing his tent to blow away. It was on a gravel bar at the mouth of a canyon, set up broadside to the wind, poorly pegged out, and nothing was being used to weigh it down. Damn tent. Must be something wrong with it.

It is a credit to Nahanni River Adventures / Canadian River Expeditions that someone like this, who has never so much as camped before, can spend a week on a remote river in relative comfort. The meals were, in a word, excessive. Lamb on a river? Greek night? French toast with sausages served while soaking in Krauses hot springs? It was like spending a week at your grandmas house, being force fed at every turn. I was fortunate to be able to go on this trip and was impressed by the foresight, organization, and systems my guiding friends use to make the experience a memorable one for their guests. Not to mention their patience, work ethic, and physical strength. Towards the end of the trip, one of the guests commented that he looked forward to going home and reclaiming his masculinity after watching how hard the girls had been working all week.

Mackenzie River Nahanni Plateau Aerial Spectacular Mason's Rock Nahanni River, NT Bend in the River

Contemplations The Gate The Gate Kraus' Hot Springs Qi

There were several memorable moments. The first was an exciting landing above Virginia Falls in a Twin Otter. Then paddling a ridiculously overloaded canoe to and from the portage dock in the dark of night, with the roar of the falls getting closer with each stroke. Later that night, I took off with a load down the portage trail and my first view of the falls was a solitary one, with heavy mist settling in the dark canyon.

The moment at The Gate when the skies finally started clearing after days of rain was amazing, and soaking in Krause's hot springs over breakfast was a great way to start a day. The Chasm of Chills was a thrill and fun way to cool off. I enjoyed watching black bears swim across the wide river, and spotting some Dall's sheep on the cliffs. The Northern Lights were no less than spectacular at times.

And then there were those moments where I found myself questioning the obvious discord between civilization and nature. Do we tarnish the experience by mixing the comforts of home with the wildness of nature? Are the canyons diminished and the mountains less impressive by our attempts to make the trip accessible for all?

From a selfish perspective, I'm inclined to say yes. However, the benefit to those who otherwise would never experience the wilderness like this cannot be ignored or minimized. These people who may not know how to set up a tent or build a campfire will return home with a new appreciation for the natural world. Hopefully their experiences will inform a new personal conservation ethic next time they go to flush the toilet or turn on the air conditioning.

This recently expanded National Park is a beautiful gateway to an understanding of the north, an ambassador for conservation, and an enjoyable experience for all.

Nahanni


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