Bannock and Char
Saturday, August 14
The next day is Saturday (August 14). The planes are scheduled to pick us up first thing Sunday morning, so we plan to head back to the landing area today. The weather is cool, windy, and cloudy, but not rainy. Not bad, overall. We pack up and start heading towards the landing strip. We choose, this time, to actually hike in the sand bars that form the braids of the Koroc river. I do not wear my hiking boots but rather just wear my 'water sandals' . The going is actually pretty good and the water is never more than knee deep. It [the water] doesn't even feel that cold anymore.... Perhaps I'm toughening up to the cold northern temperatures! This route is better than the overland route we chose when coming in at the beginning of the trip.
We see large black bear on south shore of Koroc. At first he/she doesn't notice us, and I warily watch it approach with one hand on my bear spray. At one point, the bear's head comes up quickly, and with a couple of sniffs at the air, detects us. The bear is suddenly spooked, turns tail, and gallops away up a steep ridge.
Parks Quebec encampment
Eventually we squish our way to the landing strip and to where our north team comrades are already camped. Lots of bugs, as usual, except when the wind blows briskly.
From where we are camped, I can see the (to our eyes) big Quebec Parks encampment that has been set up at end of Koroc landing strip. Big white coated canvas tents, a multitude of regular tents, fuel drums, generators, a group latrine... whoa - practically a town!
Electric power and everything!
I wander down to the landing strip and examine the cache of extra gear and stuff I left at there at the start of the trip- all looks ok. Also we see where the Parks Canada folks have dropped off Dan and Sue's gear.
Parks Quebec cooking tent
We are invited into the cooking tent of the Quebec Parks encampment and are greeted to an amazing northern-style scene. We meet the inuit manager of the camp (Charlie) and three other inuit ladies who apparently form the cooking squad. There is a full-size kitchen stove in the tent! And a freezer just outside. And a full sink. And tons of food; and it smells good! The eldest of the ladies is making an excellent-smelling Shepherd's pie for the Quebec Parks folks. We are treated very nicely and offered a flatbread called 'Banick' and some tea. I find the whole thing an interesting cultural experience.
While I am taking a short rest break in the tent (away from the mosquitoes!!!), I can hear as a Parks Quebec botanist chats with our group outside. He is going passionately on about the endangered and rare arctic trees that are struggling to cling to life in this area, and how even dead-looking branches are home to life. Hmm...I think back to the roaring fire yesterday and the flames, avariciously consuming the frail arctic tree wood. I think maybe John is pulling the front of his weather-beaten cowboy hat just a little lower right now!
Three cooking ladies
Luc recounts to me all of his extensive climbing and hiking and exploring on the north side. He has been a busy guy and has been leading the north team members on interesting and tiring hikes.
Later on in the day, Christophe (the pilot) and Charlie (the camp manager) come up and ask us about fishing. Apparently the've heard we have a fishing rod (well, actually, John's fishing rod) and want to go fishing. John is not around so we raid his tent to find the rod. Then they are off with Luc and a few others who haven't yet been on the chopper to a remote lake that apparently is teeming with Arctic char. Haven't been around so much helicopter activity in my life! Isn't it great when the local helicopter pilot wanders into camp and asks if you want to fly off somewhere and fish?
45 minutes later the chopper returns.... And out hops Luc, beaming. Apparently he has caught the biggest fish of the outing. A very nice Arctic Char. He seems so proud. The fish is quickly brought into the cooking tent at the Quebec Parks camp and the elderly cook lady cleans and fries it up with onions, then invites some of us in to eat it. Very delicious! What service!
We have been trying to get in contact with Sylvain (our flight manager) at Air Inuit to verify weather and our twin otter flights out of this valley tomorrow AM. We finally get word through the helicopter pilot that yes, they are still scheduled for tomorrow. We eventually get a-hold of Sylvain himself on the SAT phone and he tells us to call him at 9am tomorrow with a weather conditions report to verify.
I'm looking forward to the flight out tomorrow. The last few days of our stay up here have been kind of quiet, and so I'm happy to head home now. Indeed, there isn't much going on after dinner, so we are all off to bed early (8pm-ish). We're hoping that the weather doesn't make it difficult for us to get the planes into us.