Thursday, August 09, 2007

1001 Natural Wonders (Breaking Ranks for the Second Edition)

I was going to go in the order the book had these things listed, but the news yesterday that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is going to more than double the size of Nahanni National Park Reserve bumped this one up the line. It's now over 10,000 square kilometers, although the recommendations that it needs 30,000 extra protected and the temporary protection of 18,000 makes the move look someone small. However, I'm not one to look a gift park in the mouth, and this is certainly a good start.

The Nahanni is an amazing river, coupled with a magnificent waterfall and a canyon that, at some points, is deeper than the Grand Canyon. When we flew in we took a 1950s era Beaver airplane (complete with repaired bullet holes in the wings from when it flew somewhere in North Africa during a civil war) and landed on Rabbitkettle Lake. There we portaged to the river and then put together the canoes, which were 29-foot Voyageur-style canoes that had to be bolted and caulked together before launching.

The first day was 12 hours of paddling, due to the weather holding us back from flying in on time. My arms have never been so sore. The next few days were a wonder of early mornings with the sun shining into my tent at 3:30, orchids in the bush, mosquitoes by the trillion (including a brilliantly funny scene where one of our number headed into the woods to take a dump, running back screaming for us to launch the canoes and he would catch up, with his pants still down at knee level, swatting at his ass and skin beginning to pale from the blood loss), tufa mounds, bears and other wildlife alongside the river, and let's not forget running the rapids.

This is a place that deserves to be on the list, more so for those lucky enough to be able to do the river, rather than just flying in to have a boo at the falls. There are places I've seen in my life that I'll always remember: the Nahanni ranks right near the top.

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PS That ain't me in the picture. It's John, one of our guides. I'd be the guy behind the camera, natch.

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