On March 27th 2009 my friend Jim Lewis and I arrived at confluence 63N 108W, it was –20 C, clear and calm. The confluence is on land, 1km from water, more precisely east of Artillery Lake. The area to the north, east and south of the confluence is generally barren lands with no visible trees for miles, with the exception of a few low lying willows the only visible vegetation that we observed was lichen in areas that the caribou had pawed away the snow, to get at the vitamin rich food source. While at the confluence we observed a small heard of caribou, grazing on the lichen. To the west is Artillery Lake; on the west shore of Artillery Lake is where the tree line stops. Several days later we had the pleasure of observing ten thousand plus caribou grazing and slowly migrating towards their calving grounds around Beverly Lake. During the course of our trip we had the opportunity to see dozens of muskox, several small packs of arctic wolves, always patrolling a small caribou herd, three wolverine, moose, arctic hare, and hundreds of ptarmigan, to name only a few of the wonderful animals that we had the privilege of encountering. We had left Edmonton Alberta, with my truck and trailer carrying our snowmobiles, skimmers and all the supplies that we would need for a trip to Wardens Grove in the Thelon Game Sanctuary.
This is our 19th arctic snowmobile expedition. On this trip we drove to Ft. Resolution NWT unloaded our snowmobiles and gear and on March 23rd we left Ft. Resolution for the beginning of our journey to the Thelon Game Sanctuary. On the late evening of March 24th we arrived at Reliance where we spent a couple of days with our friend Roger Catling and his two children, the only full time residents of Reliance NWT and 110 km from the nearest community of Lutselke. We have several times in the past 15 years spent time with Roger on our way into the central/eastern arctic, while on one of our may expeditions that took us to places such as, the Thelon Game Sanctuary four times, Baker Lake once and Lynx Lake twice. We also traveled into the western arctic, to places such as Coppermine, Holman Island, Hershel Island, and many others.
After photographing confluence 63N 108W we continued on towards Wardens Grove, arriving there on the evening of March 28th. We set up a main base camp where we would spend several days traveling from there to many areas within the Thelon Game Sanctuary, places such as Hornby Point. John Hornby died of starvation along with his nephew Edgar Christian and a friend Harold Adlard in 1927. There are several books written about the tragedy, most of them based in part from the diaries written and left in the furnace by Edgar Christian.
We also visited the cairn at Helen Falls situated on the Hanbury River, and read several of the 100 plus notes left there by canoeists, some well known people, such as former Prime Ministers Pierre Trudeau, and John Turner; as well as the Duke and Duchess of York (a.k.a. Andrew and Fergie). On March 31st, 2009 Jim and I left our own note in the cairn and I believe that we were the first snowmobilers to do so. I know for certain that on that day we were the most important people there.
We also explored the area around Wardens Grove. In this area, and for several kilometres up and down the Thelon River, although well into the barren lands, an oasis had sprung up. There is a substantial amount of vegetation, including trees such as spruce, pine, poplar, tamarack, and several other species. The two original buildings, for use by the first wardens of the Thelon Game Sanctuary, one for storage and the other to live in, built by Billy Hoare and Jack Knox in 1928, are now unusable due to deterioration. The other cabin built for predator control in 1961 by trapper Fred Riddle, could be used in case of emergency, however it is deteriorating due to a hole in the roof. Before leaving Wardens Grove Jim and I left our own cairn/cache in the hollow of an old dry stump. When standing in the doorway of the Warden Grove cabin it is on a compass bearing of 113 deg. and 201 meters away from the cabin. The co-ordinates are N 63 41 403 W 104 26 954 Anyone going by there should feel free to leave a note in the watertight cache that we left behind. If you locate our cache and leave a note, it would be nice to hear of your experience; our email addresses are in the cache. On April 3rd we reluctantly left that beautiful place and headed for home. We arrived back in Edmonton on the evening of April 7th. Plans are already in the making to visit more confluences within the next couple of years, in the Thelon Valley, and we hope to find that someone has left a note in our cache at Wardens Grove.