Towards the end of the trip, as we came closer to the Arctic Ocean, we encountered the burning
hills. These hills literally smoked from the combustion of lignite in the ground. It was something we
encountered frequently in the last few days of the trip.
The river had many big bends--ox bows--where we would paddle for six miles to come back to only a
few hundred miles from where we were. In the last week the river also flowed in a direction somewhat
parallel to the coast, so we edged to the Arctic Ocean very slowly. Three days before we finally
arrived at the Arctic Ocean we walked over the ridge of mountains to get our first look at the Arctic
Ocean. The next day we walked to the ocean.
On July 30, we made it to the end of the river. That day we encountered terrific head winds and rain
but we made it to the gravel bar at the end of the river where the airplane was supposed to pick us
up. We had paddled 373 miles on the most northern river on the continent.
When we arrived at the gravel bar, I asked the guide if this was the correct place and he assured me
that it was. The next morning we packed and awaited the 9 a.m. arrival of our plane which was
supposed to land on the grave bar that consisted of rocks the size of baseballs. First there was fog
and no plane. Finally, the satellite phone worked and the guide informed us it would be a 6 p.m.
pickup. About 6:30 p.m. we heard the plane. It flew over three times and then landed at a gravel bar
up the river. We jumped into our canoes and paddled a mile up river against the current to be
informed by the pilots that we were on the wrong gravel bar and they were uncertain that it was solid
enough to land the plane. We packed our three canoes, luggage, and then stuffed ourselves into the
plane for a trip back to Inuvik.
It was a trip of a lifetime.
As we entered into our third week on the Horton, the river became wider and the trees disappeared.
One of the nicest things about the trip was the total lack of civilization. We never saw a single
dwelling or a single sign of an extinguished campfire. The only people we saw during the whole three
weeks were a couple from Austria that we met for a total of five minutes. We only heard jets go over
twice and never saw jet trails.
Our guide and his son were so excited to arrive at the Arctic Ocean that they stripped down and
made a mad dash into the ocean, only to retreat just as fast as they dove in.