Getting the most out of your adventure weekend in the bush can be an exciting but daunting task.
There’s weather, wildlife and an assortment of unknown conditions to prepare for and getting lost in the bush up here can have serious consequences.
The average weekend warrior might be full ambition, but depending on where you’re going and what you’re doing, serious thought is required to avoid spoiling what could be a once in a lifetime experience.
Yellowknifer caught up with three local adventure expedition experts to go over the best ways to be prepared and how to get the most out of your outdoor adventures this summer.
Myles Carter, an outfitter with one of the oldest family-run fishing lodges in the North — Nonacho Lake Fishing Adventures — has been fishing and guiding fisherman for the better part of his adult life.
A key step anyone should take before getting out on the water is to check your fishing equipment.
“You’re going to want to make sure your fishing gear is in order so you’re not out on the lake and a broken eyelet frays your fishing line,” said Carter.
Carter said it’s important to call ahead if you’re going out on the lake with an adventure fishing outfitter to find out what species of fish you’ll be chasing. That will dictate which lures and gear will be required.
“Some will require trolling, some will require jigging so you will need suitable lures and gear and that all may not be provided by some fishing outfitters,” said Carter. “Don’t get in the habit of bringing unnecessary gear, which will add weight and make your trip cumbersome. Know what you’ll need and bring that.”
Carter also said it’s important to plan where you’re going to be fishing on the lake you choose.
“Some guys want to fish trout, others want to fish pike and rather than arguing about where you and your group want to spend the day, plan the night before so everyone is on the same page,” said Carter.
This also means getting familiar with maps of the lake to orient yourselves with the best fishing locations, but to also keep you and your friends safe.
“A lot of people won’t start looking at maps until they’re already lost, at which point it won’t be the most help to you,” said Carter.
“Start reading the maps before you set out, to get a lay of the land. Don’t focus too much on which tiny island is which, but orient yourself with large landmarks like large bays and peninsulas.”
Carter said this is especially important considering the unavailability of cell service in remote areas.
“A lot of southern guests are surprised by the lack of cell service,” he said. “People end up relying on it a lot day to day for things like GPS, but it’s important to prepare to not have it.”
Andrew Moore, founder of Yellowknife Adventure Fishing, has an extensive background in fishing and camping since moving to the North in 2008.
As a part of his charter fishing business, Moore will take guests on fishing expeditions that involve camping.
“The biggest thing when camping out here is to find someone with expertise and ask them a lot of questions,” said Moore. “Never just jump right into the outdoors, take baby steps. Find out where the safe spots are, what time of year is best for your ability and generally get the knowledge you need so you’re not biting off more than you can chew.”
For Moore, a surefire way to have a fun and safe camping trip is to prepare. Any number of things can go wrong from bad weather, wayward animals, injuries, fires and communications issues.
“Weather can roll in pretty quickly around here so always pay attention,” said Moore. “If you get out onto a remote spot on the lake and the weather is really blowing your boat around, get to shore and hunker down. You should always bring enough supplies when you go out to last several days longer than your expected trip.”
When it comes to picking a spot to camp, Moore said animals like black bears can be a concern so always walk around the site and check for tracks or droppings.
“It’s also important to keep your food scraps and cooler away from your tents so hungry animals are not coming right up to you in the night,” said Moore.
“You’ll also want to bring some bear mace or bear-bangers just in case. It’s very important you know how to use them so you aren’t fumbling around in a panic should you get visited by a bear.”
Moore said one of the biggest mistakes he sees amateur campers make is either over-preparing and being weighed down by unnecessary gear or under-preparing and being faced with a dangerous situation.
“Camping up here is unlike camping anywhere else I’ve been,” said Moore. “You are really off the grid up here, it’s real wilderness. You can get out to places that are completely isolated and that’s part of the reason why it’s so special.”
No matter where you go, you’ll be in half decent shape as long as you have tarps, nylon cord and fire starters.
Cathy Allooloo, of Northern Narwal Adventures, has been teaching paddling in Canada since 1981 and even made the national white-water team.
Starting her career in Alberta, Allooloo said waterways in the Northwest Territories provide unique challenges that can overwhelm the faint of heart or novices.
“Rivers in Alberta are continuously high volume with a low grade,” she said. “Being up here in the Canadian shield, there are a lot of quickly changing features. There are a lot of pools and drops. These are challenging to manoeuvre.”
Due to the nature of the courses found here, Allooloo suggested not going alone unless you’re an expert because there is safety in numbers. She also strongly recommended having very detailed plans, a copy of which should be left with what is known as an anchor person.
“An anchor person is someone you can absolutely trust and is responsible for calling search and rescue if you don’t show up on time,” said Allooloo. “With them you should leave a plan of who is in your party, the route you are taking, possible camping spot and precise time and day you are expected to return.”
She also recommended matching the destination with experience and physical fitness.
“Kayaking through a quick river or canoeing on a large open lake like Great Slave can be physically exhausting and enjoyable if you aren’t physically ready. You shouldn’t paddle any farther away from shore than you’re willing to swim either,” she advised. “And always, always wear your personal flotation device. A boat canoe can tip and sink in a matter of seconds and putting a life-jacket on while in a panic is extremely difficult.”
Although Allooloo said the consequences of being unprepared can be dire, an organized excursion in the North can be very rewarding.
“There are very few places as as pristine and beautiful as here. A well-planned trip with your friends can be well worth the effort.”