Today a young family of four, plus two friends, begins a 55-day journey through some of Canada's most remote landscapes. Dan Clark, Alice Young Clark, their children Koby and Ava Fei (7 and 5 years old, respectively), and their friends Bruce Bembridge and Marilyn Toulouse will paddle from Yellowknife, along Great Slave Lake and pass through the proposed Thaydene Nene National Park on the historic Pike’s Portage route. The expedition – supported in part by The Royal Canadian Geographical Society – will stretch over 1,050 kilometres and will include portages, upstream travel, exposed lakes and whitewater rivers. Here, Dan Clark writes about pre-trip excitement and the allure of summer adventures.
There is magic in the long days of summer, when a restless energy stirs us to get outside and soak up the sun. Be it paddling, pedalling, climbing or hiking, summer is a time for many of us to shake off our cobwebs and feel good about ourselves doing the stuff we like to do most. Summer just feels good.
As you head toward the “Land of the Midnight Sun,” the intensity of summer increases and so do the possibilities. I was hooked after my first northern trip, and now my family and I are en-route for another summer north of 60.
We have packed everything we will need for the summer into our ageing Honda Civic and lashed our canoe to the roof. It is quite a sight! The boat is a solid four feet longer than our car.
We are poised to step into the unknown from Yellowknife, NT on July 2 and will not see another traffic light, TV, or cell phone until the end of August. We will paddle across the east arm of the Great Slave Lake (whenever the wind allows - it could be 4 am or 11 pm). Then we will follow an ancient portage route from the Boreal forest into the tundra. And the remaining 650 km will be a mix of rivers and lakes mostly above tree-line with a few more portages thrown in.
The thought of seeing caribou and musk-ox on the tundra has fuelled our imaginations. It will be adventure, freedom, and simplicity all thrown together into our most memorable eight weeks of our year. You can follow our progress through the summer using this map.
The last time we were in a similar situation was 18 months ago in the Patagonian twilight of the Austral summer. I remember the saltiness of the air, the low angle of the midnight sun, and the sound of the wind. On that December day our family was set to begin an eight month cycling trip north to Bolivia, travelling by bike in a landscape and culture new to us. As a parent who had dragged my family as close to Antarctica as we could get, I was nervous. I questioned everything about the venture that I had spent months planning. I questioned my sanity. But the familiar long days of summer buoyed my spirits, and gave me the extra energy to pedal into the unknown. I am glad we did, because in those long summer days we discovered the freedom of a bike and an open itinerary and a wonderful family of cyclists from around the globe who are living their dreams. A film about the trip is viewable online.
Summer is the time to sleep less and do more. It is the time to tackle the adventure that you have always dreamed of, to spend more time outside, to go somewhere far away, or to camp in your back yard. Feel the energy of the season and you will be amazed at what you can accomplish, and be rewarded by your discoveries.