Ready for some South Nahanni photos? Here's a glimpse of the fantastic opportunities for exploring we enjoyed on a 2009 helihiking trip with Solitude Excursions. All photos are credited to David Midkiff, my husband.
Once you arrive in Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories, your next step toward helihiking is a Wolverine Air flight to base camp. Here's a view of the Mackenzie River, from the bush plane.
You know you're in a special place already! Check out that sheer vertical as you leave the river behind!
After a lot of time gawking out the windows of the bush plane at the fantastic mountains and rivers, you arrive in base camp. Sunny & Werner are there to welcome you. We came in late in the afternoon, just in time for dinner. The pilot stayed, too - that's a great endorsement for the food!
The next day, it's helicopter time! Here's the aerial view on our way to the Ragged Range....
While the pilot is busy navigating, you will be busy trying to capture the immensity of the Ragged Range. Be sure your camera has plenty of battery power, you don't want to waste a minute of your air time.
Eventually, all good helicopter flights have to come to an end, and you will touch down in what I think of as a "mountain bowl": icy clear water running through the middle, grasses and mossy spots on either side, mounds and piles of rocks, mountains towering above you, lots of valleys and moraines, maybe even a few glacier snouts, to explore. In short, heaven. Your only dilemma: which way to go first!
Here's another part of the South Nahanni: the Ram Plateau. The awe of this place lies in the vistas, carved by the cumulative forces of time and weathering.
We ran into a bull moose up here - both of us greatly surprised. We found ourselves hiking at 10 PM, and not even feeling tired, because there was so much to drink in and absorb. The ground was boggy and buggy, but hid delicate wild flowers I had never seen before. Our guide carried a field guide and binoculars, making long distance viewing of a mountain goat in an impossibly sheer spot just as easy as identifying unknown flowers and shrubs.
Closer to base camp, there's Fossil Canyon to explore. And yes, this hike delivers on its name. The helicopter spares you an arduous vertical climb. All you have to do is slowly, carefully work your way off the top of the mountain after the helicopter deposits you there. You end up in the cleft where a stream has worn a deep groove between two mountainsides. All day long, it's smooth sailing, working your way downward as you pick up fossils.
And let's not forget wildlife. I had never seen caribou before. They are very quirky animals - fidgety, shy, but super curious. They strongly remind me of adolescents at a school dance: watching each other, keyed up and antsy.
Caribou have strongly built bodies on spindly legs, with beautifully marked faces. We were able to stand still and watch a small group come near us: not quite afraid, probably because we didn't look or smell like wolves, but not entirely comfortable around us, either. I got some great video of this young female wanting desperately to come close while obeying her instincts about staying a certain distance from us. I will never forget the look in her eyes - a classic battle of "should I or shouldn't I".
There were sheep and goats to observe, too. And I do mean observe. The animals showed little concern over our presence, probably because we were quiet and slow in our movements.
And then there were the animals we DIDN'T see, but remained aware of their presence through tracks and signs: grizzly and wolf.
Picking and choosing photos for this mini gallery was a bittersweet process: so many great days of hiking captured on film, such a far away place.
Feel free to contact me (use CONTACT link above) if you are considering this type of trip. I can answer questions about what to pack, what to expect, and how to make the most out of every day in these spectacular wild places.
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