North Thompson River Trip report – Thanksgiving 2016
By John Gardiner
Distance: Little Fort to Heffley Creek, 83 kilometers in 3 days.
Date: 2016 Thanksgiving weekend Oct 8 9 10
Trip leader: James Wakeling
5 Boats: Isaac, Chloe and Finn in the “kids” boat – a 17′ 6″ Hellman Prospector, Frank and Darlene in 16’8″ Clipper Yukon, James and Jenny 16′ Old Town Appalachian, Daryl and Zach in 21 foot white water kayak (sure looked like a two hole sea kayak to me) and Suzanna and John in a 16′ Evergreen Prospector.
Day 0 Friday evening, shuttle set up, one car left in Heffley Creek, everyone drives to Little Fort and stays in motels.
Day 1 Saturday, 9:30 am launch at the Little Fort ferry.
We only completed 12 kilometers–stopping well short of our target destination because of a miserable cold rain and persistent headwind. In spite of proper gear everyone was getting cold. Some were showing the earliest signs of hypothermia and the weather was supposed to improve the next day so the excellent decision was made by James to make camp on a huge sandbar upstream of Barriere. This was an ethical trip with a toilet tent and the packing out of ALL waste, but the toilet tent’s first use was as a cold rain refuge—most of us packed into it to warm up! Having the teenagers along came in handy. One of them, Zach, managed to get a nice fire going on the Saturday afternoon/evening despite the constant rain using the wax from Babybel cheese and dryer lint! In the evening, we finally got to see a lightweight aluminum Dutch-oven in action—Jenny used hers to make a chocolate-cranberry pudding with whipped cream on top. Now that’s how to boost morale on a cold wet day! We also learned how our water bottles by day could be converted into hot water bottles by night–brilliant.
Day 2 Sunday 9:30am launch, much better weather. Back on schedule with 43 kilometers paddled that day.
For the most part the river was moving along at a nice pace so we could relax and take in the views: rolling hills still dotted with black sticks from the 2003 McClure Forest Fire when 65,285 acres burned. While the devastation gave one a moment for pause it had its own beauty.
Fish Trap rapids just north of McClure ferry was a straight forward and fun class 1+ romp. We got one wave over one side and the kids reported burying the bow of their boat, but I suspect they were enjoying something other than our very conservative line. We had lunch at our intended 1st night campsite and pressed on to make the intended 2nd night campsite. After the long paddle, James still had energy left to fly his big kite on the beach! We had a nice evening fire on the beach with sparklers to celebrate Thanksgiving.
Day 3 Monday 9:30 am start. Nice fall weather. Two big dogs and pup visited us in the morning, not very happy to have us visiting their turf. 28 kilometers paddled.
We paddled downstream through the picturesque hills to the Heffley Rapids. These are a series of enjoyable class I+ gravel drops stretched out over about 0.5 kilometers. The early afternoon takeout was at the end of a residential street in the village of Heffley Creek. It was small, bouldered, steep, and very easy to miss. The shuttle went without a hitch.
We don’t have a lot of canoe tripping experience so our canoe was not exactly packed flush with the gunnels! We had the extra challenge of being the lowest volume canoe of the trip. We were amazed how people pulled out cook tents and tables and chairs, kites, etc. while we had no room for such “luxuries”. Nevertheless, we learning many packing tips and what we could have left behind. By the last day we had reduced our load by one dry bag–a small success to celebrate.
Our new Beaver Canoe Club 40th Anniversary tuques got thoroughly tested this weekend since we had them on pretty much 24/7. Despite the challenging weather, we had a very enjoyable trip thanks to the great leadership and enthusiasm from James, Jenny and the rest of the crew. Thanks to James and everyone on the trip for their patience in answering our many “So why do you do it that way?” questions!