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Cross-continent canoeists stop in Yellowknife
Paddlers started out in Louisiana in January, expect to end trip in Kugluktuk, Nunavut next month

John McFadden
Northern News Services
Thursday, August 6, 2015

Six American canoeists have been taking a much need break in Yellowknife before continuing their epic, 8,000-kilometre journey that is expected to end in Kugluktuk, Nunavut on the Arctic Ocean in about a month's time.

NNSL photo/graphic

Luke Kimmes, left, John Keaveny, Jarrod Moore, Dan Flynn, Adam Trigg and Winchell Delano arrive at the Old Town boat launch on Sunday night. The six American canoeists stopped in the city during their 8,000 kilometre-plus canoe trip from Louisiana to Kugluktuk, Nunavut. - photo courtesy of Patti Delano

The six friends put their canoes into the waters of the Mississippi River in Louisiana just after New Years and have been paddling ever since. They have already been through 10 U.S. states, three provinces and have one more territory to go after the NWT.

They all have extensive canoeing and outdoor experience. Some members of the group work for a wilderness therapy camp in Utah where they try to help troubled youth turn their lives around through outdoor adventure.

Winchell Delano, 31, said that he has been in Yellowknife before, back in 2009, but he came by vehicle. Nothing quite prepared him and his fellow travellers for their arrival Sunday night in Old Town.

"It was cool to paddle by all the houseboats and there were (float) planes taking off, so it felt like there was a lot of commotion," Delano said. "My parents were there to welcome us. We stayed at Fred Henne (Territorial Park) the first night and now we have a couple of nights at the Explorer Hotel. We're happy to be where we are right now. We thought we'd get here a couple of weeks later so it feels awesome to be this on track."

Delano conceded that they are tired but it is a good tired and their spirits have been buoyed by the fact they can see the end of the trip in sight.

"On paper it sounds like a lot of work, but it's more of a labour of love. It's wearing on people's bodies but spirits are high," he said. "At the beginning of the trip it was hard to explain to people where we were going, now it's hard to explain to people where we've come from, so it's sort of flipped on its head."

Delano said that he knows that there is no rest for the weary and they have to concentrate on the more than 1,000 kilometres they still have to go.

"Everybody knows that the weather is only going to get worse between here and Kugluktuk, instead of when we started when the weather only got better," Delano said. "There's a lot of excitement about wrapping it up."

The group left Fort Smith last week and paddled the Slave River to near Fort Resolution and then entered Great Slave Lake. It took them about 24 paddling-hours to cross the big lake, he said. They only travelled at night because it was to windy to canoe by day, Delano said. Essentially what they do is paddle in a zig-zag from shore to island to island, back to shore then back to an island. He said that the lake is too big to allow themselves to get where they can't see the shoreline.

The trip has come with a lot of portages, which Delano said can be some of the tougher sections, but he said the hardest part of the entire trip was when they ran into a snowstorm on Lake Winnipeg in May.

The route out of Yellowknife hasn't yet been finalized, Delano said.

"We can go up the Yellowknife River or we can paddle to Rae-Edzo and up the Marion and Emile Rivers," Delano said. "Our only concern is water. We're going to talk to some folks about going up the Yellowknife River in this low-water August."

Delano said they get asked all the time why they are doing this and he is quick to point out that there are no fundraising efforts involved.

"It bothers me that everything these days has to have a cause or a reason. You seem to need to be raising awareness for some endangered panda to go enjoy the outdoors," Delano said. "This is adventure for the sake of adventure. It's not why - it's why not?"

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