With the rivers so high all across the north, we suspected we might face a long and grueling swim at the Twitya. We carried two inflatable tubes, the colourful type toddlers splash about with around their waists, which we planned to lash to our packs for extra floatation. We were still undecided as to whether we should try to swim furiously and push the packs ahead of us, or drag them behind us on a tether. This would be decided on the banks of the river.
For two days after leaving Stan’s lodge, thoughts of the crossing occupied our minds as we followed the Godlin River north. On the third morning we began to climb towards a low pass in the rounded hills of the Sayunei Range. In the valley beyond lay the Twitya; we would reach it by noon. The winding road led past graveyards of abandoned trucks and immense stockpiles of rusting oil drums. Small ponds dotted the damp land, where mating pairs of bufflehead silently floated on the still black waters. A few of the quagmires obliterating the trail, and after a particularly long, mucky detour, we stopped for a rest.
As Ferg and I laboriously chewed on sinewy chunks of homemade jerky, a repetitive whistling caught our attention. We were craning our necks to search for the source of the strange sound when suddenly a hiker crested a rise on the trail ahead. He carried an ominous looking black shotgun leveled straight ahead, and a whistle clenched between his teeth was tooting with every step. Three more hikers followed behind. The group had flown in from Yellowknife to spend ten days exploring the middle section of the Canol, and they certainly took bear defense seriously. Everyone smiled and shook hands, but what a surprise it was to meet anyone here in the middle of nowhere. We compared notes on what we had seen so far, and then as the Yellowknife crew prepared to continue, they passed on an astounding piece of news. They had found a raft on the banks of the Twitya, used it to cross the river, and left if on this side!
Although we were immensely pleased to learn of the raft, Ferg and I also perversely suffered twinges of regret that we would not have to face the challenge of crossing the river on our own terms. Of course we could still try to swim the Twitya, but we felt it was well advised to take advantage of this unexpected break rather than tempt fate with masochistic and machismo urges. There would be more challenges ahead.