A chill wind is blowing. Happy birthday TrishTuesday, September 04, 2012 by: Carol Martin
Thanks to the generous support of Joe's Sports and Quattra, local celebrity environmentalist and Sault Ste. Marie Walk of Fame inductee Gary McGuffin is checking in from spots along the way on the latest expedition with the Wilderness River Expedition Art Foundation.
This year's expedition will paddle and explore the Noatak River in Alaska.
SooToday.com visitors are invited to share questions for McGuffin in the comment section below.
Here is the latest on-the-spot update from McGuffin.
Thursday, August 30, Happy birthday Trish Smith
Trish Smith is from Wyoming.
Very far from Wyoming.
To be precise, she is celebrating her birthday about 10 miles up the Noatak River from the Iñupiat village of Noatak, Alaska.
The experience is almost literally blowing her away as she paddles with five other hearty, adventurous artists over 350 miles across almost uninhabited Alaskan wilderness in folding canoes.
Gary McGuffin touched base with us to tell us that the group was hoping to make the village today but 40- 50 mile-per-hour wind gusts are holding them back and making travel on the river somewhat dangerous.
"The wind is blowing at about 35 to 40 miles-per-hour continuous," he said. "We actually had to get up in the middle of the night to drop our big kitchen tent right down then, early this morning, move it off into the trees for its protection from the wind."
The smaller sleeping tents were left out in the brunt of the storm rather than move them, said McGuffin.
"We were using our canoes, food barrels and what ever we can as a wind break rather than move them," he said.
Along with the change in the weather, the scenery has changed as well.
"The river has really opened up now," said McGuffin. "We're starting to see black spruce and poplar. Some of the black spruce continue two to four miles up into the foothills and the mountains are well off in the distance now."
He described the river as starting to braid, or branch out into multiple channels then combine again into one in some places.
The group gave up on the idea of making it to the village of Noatak on Thursday but hoped to make it there by Friday.
They want to replenish a few food supplies to take them through to Kotzebue and the end of their trip.
The salmon are beginning to spawn and more grizzly bears have been showing up along the river banks to fish for the spawning salmon, said McGuffin.
"We saw four bald eagles yesterday and a family of osprey hunting together," he said. "With those braids of river it's really shallow so that's where they can feed on the salmon."
The salmon are a huge ecological factor in the support of a lot of the abundant wildlife in and around the Noatak River, he added.
Sunday August 26
Sunday was a down day for the expedition, said McGuffin.
At the entrance to Noatak Canyon the group took a layover day to paint and photograph the breath-taking scenery and to take some time to recover.
On Saturday, Linda Becky came down with hypothermia after being drenched with icy sleet on Saturday.
"We were able to remedy that and she's just fine," said McGuffin. "She's had a good night's sleep and is recuperating today."
One of the canoes also suffered in the rough weather on Saturday, he said.
"Rob [Mullen] and Linda managed to put a hole in their canoe, yesterday," said McGuffin. "The canoe started to fill with water so we pulled in a little bit early, got it dried up and patched it."
But it wasn't all bad.
"The sleet was really coming down and, as we went to pull into shore for a lunch break, we were looking at these three big blonde-coloured rocks on shore but we really couldn't see well with all that sleet in our faces and our eyes," said McGuffin. "All of a sudden the three big rocks stood up and ran away. It turned out that they were a big sow grizzly bear and her two cubs. They must have been sitting right at shore watching the spawning char that had come up along the side of the river."
The bears waiting in ambush for fish in the driving sleet had not seen the three canoes until they were almost upon them.
"Luckily the right thing happened and they scurried off into the woods and we carried on and made lunch on the other side of the river before carrying on a few more miles for the day," McGuffin said. "I think, the whole time that was happening, there was a muskox about a half mile down the river just standing on the bank watching the whole thing unfilled. He must have had a pretty good chuckle over it."
Earlier SooToday.com coverage of this story
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