August 8 -11
We left for Sambaa Deh in late morning, after making sure our fuel was topped up, as there are no services between Hay River and Fort Simpson, including cell service. I think we both felt a bit nervous as we travelled the 280 kilometres of lonely gravel road with nothing but bush on either side, with the occasional turnout with garbage receptacles and the odd washroom. We went long stretches without seeing another vehicle. The only constant was ravens and dragonflies, both of which are plentiful up here.
Sambaa Deh Territorial Park is located beside the Trout River, with access to two sets of waterfalls, one upstream and one downstream from the park. On our first day, we took the 25 minute hike along a bush trail to Coral Falls:
We spent the afternoon relaxing at the campsite.
The next day we decided to hike downstream to the Sambaa Deh Falls:
After returning upstream, we were quite hot (the weather here has been in the mid to upper 30’s since we arrived two weeks ago, with only a couple of periods of rain.) It’s OK though; it’s a dry heat. The river is very fast-flowing and turbulent, so swimming in it was out of the question. However, there were a number of side pools out of the main current where the water was quite warm:
We spent a very pleasant couple of hours there. Since we had pretty much exhausted the possibilities of the area, we made the decision not to spend the planned third night there, but to push on to Fort Simpson, a couple of hours up the road. We left around 1:00 the next day, but not until we had returned to the river for a last soak:
The last 150 kilometres to Fort Simpson went by quickly, helped by the fact that the last 100 kilometres is paved. Fort Simpson itself is built on an island at the confluence of the Liard and Mackenzie rivers, so we took the Liard River Ferry across:
The village itself is quite small and provides services to the oil, gas and mining industries. We stopped at the information centre (which doubles as the City Hall) and got the lay of the land, such as it is. We refueled, got a few groceries, then drove the short distance to the campgrounds. Although we were a day early, our reserved site was available. I tried to refill our fresh water tank at the potable water tap, but discovered quickly that it had a flow rate of about a gallon a day, so had to drive back out to the info centre to refill there. Once that was done, we discovered that we were right across the road from the IceBreaker Lounge/Panda Restaurant and took it as a sign from the camping gods. We were the only customers there (the big crowds must come in later). We had some very nice Chinese food and watched the Blue Jays game.
After returning to the campsite, we made the acquaintance of Father Joe, the local priest, who is camping in the park until his new church and rectory is finished in a few weeks. We sat and chatted with him for an hour (turns out he is a big Bishop Remi de Roo fan, for those who understand the reference). We told him of our encounter with “Brother John” in Fort Smith; he hadn’t heard of him, but is going to ask around about him. During our conversation, a Park Warden came by to warn us about a black bear that was roaming around; we actually caught sight of it a few hundred feet away. A mother bear and her two cubs have apparently been hanging around here for about two weeks.
Since have power here, we were able to turn on the air conditioner to cool the van down, so we slept quite comfortably.
The next morning, we got talking to a lady named Maryanne, who is travelling by herself, and gave us some useful information about Fort Providence and Yellowknife, our next two destinations. She mentioned that she had seen one of the bear cubs while walking her dog earlier in the morning, a lovely Labradoodle rescue, whose first act was to kill her cat. It then became a serial killer, dispatching the neighbour’s cat next. (I don’t know about y’all, but 30 seconds after the first catrocide, that psychopathic pooch would have been in the car for its last ride to that Big Kennel in the Sky.) Apparently it really likes other dogs, but some dogs don’t like him. Go figure.
Later in the evening, Father Joe dropped by for a while, and asked us if we would consider coming to a Mass that he celebrates at the Long Term Care home in town. We told him we would be happy to come, so it will be interesting to see how it turns out.