The Peel watershed packraft trip: an upcoming talk

It’s about time to make an announcement! On Sunday February 24 I’ll give a visual presentation about my last summer trip, 40 days solo hiking and packrafting in the Peel watershed in Canada’s Yukon Territory. This presentation will take place on the Reismarkt travel firm in Bruges, organized by Wegwijzer. During one hour I will tell stories about my encounters with grizzly bears (yes there have been a few) and other wildlife, about the ridge walks in the Wernecke mountains and the Taïga ranges, about the dangerous passages through Aberdeen and the Peel canyons on the Peel river, about all the cold nights waiting for the northern lights and about the problematic head winds on the lower Peel for days in a row and so on, all this while showing lots of photos and video material. In case you might have missed, you can already see a small selection of photos from the trip in the earlier post Protect the Peel and first pics.

My own presentation at the firm will be preceded by an “introduction to packrafting”, a short presentation given by Willem Vandoorne and myself. We will bring our packrafts and inflate them on the firm so anyone who’s interested and not yet into packrafting can even touch the toys.

Now I have to confess that I have not found the time yet to write more about my Yukon trip here on my blog but I hope to finally make that change in the upcoming weeks.

For now you can watch this short movie I already made about the trip, showing some short impressions while on the move. Enjoy the movie and maybe see you next month in Bruges!

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Down Aberdeen canyon.

Protect the Peel & first pics

Three weeks have passed by now since my return from my six week hiking and packrafting trip in Arctic Canada and I’m ready to show you a first small selection of the many pictures I took on my way through this vast wilderness area of the Peel river watershed.

Before I will come to tell you more about the experiences of the trip itself, I would like to draw your attention in this post to a serious threat. The Peel river watershed is today burdened under pressure by the mining, oil and gas industries to be opened for exploration. Do you know what this means? This vast untouched wilderness area, home to a wide variation of wildlife and the cultural homeland of four First Nations, might become seriously damaged by man’s ever growing hunger for natural resources. Cutting pipelines for oil and gas, dirty gravel roads for heavy truck traffic, mine pits left behind as devastating scars in the landscape,… this will become reality if we let the industry execute their plans.

Today there is a petition going on to preserve this valuable wilderness. If this petition gets many followers, the Yukon government would take measures to protect (at least part of) the area. I want you to please read the whole further situation on the Protect the Peel website and to sign the statement of support. Let’s hope I’ve not been one of the last persons who could travel through this region without being disturbed by human activity.

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Ridge camping with the trailstar in the Wernecke mountains.

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Mountain caribou in the Wernecke mountains.

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Ridge walking in the Wernecke mountains.

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A bull moose bathed in Hart lake.

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A striped ground squirrel in the thickets near Hart lake.

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The dark peaks of the Wernecke Mountains towering above Hart river.

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Hart river and the untouched Wernecke Mountains.

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A North American porcupine at the banks of Hart river.

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The endless limestone peaks of the Taïga ranges from the summit of Mount Kinney.

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An arctic ground squirrel in the Taïga ranges, fattened up by early autumn.

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Ridge camping in the Taïga ranges.

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Dall sheep with young in the Taïga ranges.

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A bald eagle on the lookout above Hart river.

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An atmospheric evening in the Taiga ranges above Hart river.

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Hart river leaving the Taïga ranges.

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Hart river rapids before its entrance in the Peel river.

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Up to Class IV rapids are encountered on the Peel river before the river enters the canyons.

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Portaging the Peel river rapids.

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A Peregrine falcon at the entrance of Aberdeen canyon.

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Evening down the quiet middle section of Aberdeen Canyon.

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Down deadly Aberdeen Canyon with its many unpredictable whirlpools after I almost capsized in an earlier rapid.

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The wide braided Peel river and the Richardson Mountains at the horizon.

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The unpredictable Peel canyon.

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Urinating moose with calf (and yes, I still drank from the river after this point).

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A beaver in the Peel river.

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The lower Peel river on a windy autumn evening.

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Birch bark and stem along the camping spot on a zero day with 6 beaufort headwinds along the lower Peel river.

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A North American red squirrel in a tree in the Mackenzie delta. This must be one of the most northerly living red squirrels in North America.

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The Mackenzie delta and the snow covered Richardson mountains at the horizon.

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Whitened mountain ridges of the Richardson Mountains, photographed from the Air North flight between Inuvik and Dawson.

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Hart river valley and the Taïga ranges after an early autumn snowstorm, photographed from the Air North flight between Inuvik and Dawson.

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Blackstone river (bottom) and Hart river (central) flowing through the Taïga ranges after an early autumn snowstorm, photographed from the Air North flight between Inuvik and Dawson.

A windy day along the Lower Peel

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My footprint beside the wolf.

Hi dear readers!

There hasn’t been much activity anymore on my blog since the summer. However, this doesn’t mean I have been sitting still in the last few months. During last May I hiked large part of the Hautes Fagnes trail, a non-official trail invented and composed entirely by myself, winding through the most interesting hiking area of Belgium (in my opinion) and that I want to introduce to the hiking audience. Due to some knee and foot pains that came up during that hike I prematurely terminated the trip. I’ve now the intention to hike the remaining part in a few weeks and post an informative report about that trail with lots of pictures. I’ve also done several day packraft training trips throughout July (most of them were not so interesting to talk about here) to become in shape for the big summer trip.

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A black bear its footprints.

The rest of July and early August were dominated by the final preparations for this big summer trip, a long trip of 6 weeks in northern Canada, hiking in the Wernecke and Ogilvie Mountains and floating the Hart and Peel river in my packraft. The pictures in this post all show what I encountered on one of the last days along the Lower Peel river while strong head winds forced me to hike along the river instead of paddling through the wind waves while being blown upstream. I wanted to announce the trip here on my blog before leaving but some events in my personal live kept me from writing about the trip plans till the very last minutes. So my blog has been a bit dead over the last weeks, but now here’s the proof I’m still alive!

The Canada trip has been great with lots of unimaginable scenery, a wide variation of wildlife, multiple grizzly bear encounters, and some beautiful canyons on the rivers with also very dangerous whitewater though, all together a very informative experience. You can expect a long trip report later this year. For now I feel I have to make some more hiking or packrafting soon since sitting home and at work for too long makes me longing to go into the outdoors again as soon as possible. So until later!

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… and this is what you stumble upon every few minutes while hiking on the clay beach along the Lower Peel river.

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