off again, we agreed to stop and set camp by the remains of Pumphouse #6 which lay on the far side of the Mackenzie Barrens.
Two hours later the trail dropped down a small coulee, and we stumbled upon a set of sprawling set of ruined buildings and equipment. A large barn-like building dominated one side of open compound, the pumping station that once housed powerful diesel engines and enormous pumps. Several dilapidated jeeps sat on blocks outside, their windshields cracked, engines removed. A circle of rusting oil drums had been set up as a corral by hunters from a nearby lodge who frequented the region on horseback. To one side lay the collapsed remains of a massive oil storage tank and the relics from an old power generation plant. Spread on the periphery, in varying states of growing disrepair, stood a mess hall, several dormitories, and a repair garage for vehicles. One hut appeared well preserved, and had been recently weather-proofed with plywood. Inside bunk-bed cots filled one corner, and a small wood stove was already primed with kindling. The peeling walls were covered with an array of graffiti, some inscriptions dating from the early 60’s. Ferg and I set our packs down, and wandered out to photograph the buildings in the late afternoon light.
Almost an hour after we arrived, Michael struggled into camp. After sitting quietly by the fire for a few moments, he announced that he had decided not to hike the Canol with us after all. Instead he would do a few short trips in the area and return to his car within a week. Ferg and I worried that we had been too tough on him during our discussion that morning. Maybe he just needed some encouragement and support. But as tins of tomatoes, a bag of fresh onions, a pound of butter, and a heavy rifle emerged from his pack, we knew it was better he stayed behind. There was no way with that weight he could be carrying enough food to sustain himself for eighteen days. Without animosity we said our goodbyes before going to sleep. Michael still slept soundly as Ferg and I tiptoed from the cabin and set off alone the next morning.
As day after day flowed by, Ferg and I fell into a natural rhythm of travel. When we were not walking, there was always work to be done, and we quickly developed an unspoken routine. At the first sound of