Out in the field!

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July 24th 2011
Published: July 25th 2011
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I think they like blue!I think they like blue!I think they like blue!

Photo of my knee
After over a month of working in front of a computer on a big report, I finally had the chance to go out in the field. That was soooooo nice! The idea was to explore some areas of the future park on which we are currently working, to see what the potential was for hiking. In other words, 2 colleagues and I had the amazing opportunity to be dropped off by float plane somewhere on the shore of the George River, and from there we had to walk to a small mountain called Pyramide Mountain, from where we were going to be picked up a few days later.

Waw! Can't beat it. I love that feeling of traveling with all what we need on our backs, walking in areas where maybe only some Inuit and Naskapis traveled a long time ago, and looking at maps to try to find the best way to get from point A to point B. I had 2 excellent hiking partners, and we had a really good time sharing stories, ideas, meals, and even a tooth brush (the reason for this will be explained soon...).

There were many challenges: bushy vegetation to cross or avoid altogether, lots of wet or very wet areas (Stephane called it juicy), slippery boulder fields, creek to cross on dangerously slimy rocks, etc.

But the most memorable was certainly the bugs. Oh my God. I had seen bugs before, lots of them, but I don't think I ever had to hike wearing a bug shirt. It was insanely incredible. It was bad enough that sometimes my camera didn't realize I was trying to take a picture of the landscape, and it would take a picture of the cloud of mosquitoes.

The first night, we killed so many bugs just from getting into the tent (and believe me, we did it very fast!), that the tent floor was literally covered with dead flies. We hiked almost the whole time with bug shirts, and even if I really didn't want to use DEET, at some point it was just impossible to survive without it. And I won't talk about the joy of having to go pee.

We were extremely lucky in terms of campsites, it was almost too good to be true, each night when we were done hiking, a perfect campsite just appeared. Small levelled gravel patches, beautiful views and proximity of water. On our second night, we cooked a really nice thai curry and we were all eating facing the valley (no other option unless you wanted to eat the black flies-mosquito special), and talking when I turned around and realized that we had attracted a really nice looking black bear with our smelly food. He was just sitting there behind us, not very far at all and probably very tempted to share our supper. Maybe he even knew we had a special chocolate cake for dessert...

He eventually crossed the little creek and slowly left, stopping to scratch his chin on the way (poor animals, I don't know how they can handle the bugs). After supper we packed everything that could fit in our bear canisters and dropped all the food and smelly things near the creek. We all slept great.

In the morning though, when I walked down the valley to get my tooth brush, I realized that everything that wasn't in our bear canisters was gone... The toothbrushes (except Pierre's since he kept his in his tent), the coffee, Stephane's mosquitoes repellent, some garbage and a jar of peanut butter. I felt really sorry that we polluted the place (even though there was no sign of any garbage anywhere in sight), and that this bear now associated humans and food. At the same time I am not sure he really enjoyed eating DEET, coffee and toothpaste, but still, we all realized that this is serious bear country and we should have had 3 bear canisters to secure all our food. Both canisters that we had showed serious scratch marks but it looks like they were both effective.

On our last day we hiked on top of Pyramide Mountain, the view was amazing, and from there we radioed the outfitter who picked us up. We stayed in his camp that night. We were supposed to do a second hike in another area of the future park, but the weather turned really ugly and the float plane could not pick us up. Finally after 3 nights in camp, the plane came but we still couldn't go to the area where we had hoped to hike. The pilot managed to land on the river again, and we took off in some pretty strong winds, but made it safely back to Kuujjuaq. We were all very sad to leave Pyramide Mountain Camp and its really nice owner, but keep fantastic memories of this too short expedition.

Additional photos below
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Small creek, not easy to crossSmall creek, not easy to cross
Small creek, not easy to cross

Especially with a bug shirt. Really annoying when you need to see where you put your feet!

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