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Home Story Nahanni: The Ultimate Summer Staycation

Nahanni: The Ultimate Summer staycation

From mountains and boreal forests to the Arctic tundra and whitewater rapids, the North has no shortage of adventures waiting for you. Even those who’ve lived here their whole lives have a hard time seeing it all, which makes an NWT staycation the perfect opportunity to experience everything that makes this territory so unique.

That’s what Kaitlyn Vician did last summer. She and 13 of her closest friends embraced the uncertainty of 2020 with an epic NWT staycation, paddling and hiking their way through the Nahanni National Park Reserve.

The once-in-a-lifetime trip by this tight-knit group of Northerners—many of whom have known each other since kindergarten—was actually planned prior to most travel options outside the territory being shut down. But those restrictions worked out just fine for Vician and her besties to get out and explore their own backyard.

“How could you live here your whole life and not do a paddling trip in the Nahanni?” asks the born-and-raised Yellowknifer.

Preparation began with a whitewater training course in Hay River and Kakisa, organized by Jackpine Paddle. Though she’s practically grown up in canoes, Vician didn’t have much whitewater experience and says the training came in handy once they were on their own.

“I would 100 per cent recommend doing a whitewater course if you’ve never done whitewater before,” she says with a laugh.

The group started their journey in Fort Simpson, having rented gear from Black Feather Adventures, and staying at the Mackenzie Rest Inn before flying into the national park reserve with South Nahanni Airways. Half of the group, though, actually started a couple of weeks earlier, eager to take on the more challenging rapids of Broken Skull River.

“It was so amazing and everything we hoped it would be,” says Aimee Guile, an experienced paddler who was on that first leg of the expedition. “We were right on the edge of our comfort zone.”

Vician and her other friends joined with Guile’s group at Rabbitkettle Lake, as they took on the South Nahanni River. The group camped by the awe-inspiring Virginia Falls, hiked up Sunblood Mountain, scaled The Gate (to the Lord of the Rings soundtrack, of course) and wandered around the water pools behind Lafferty’s Creek.

Standing next to the clear blue waves of Glacier Lake, in the shadow of the Cirque of the Unclimbables, brought such joy, says Guile, at a time when everything in the world felt up in the air.

“In those moments, all you can feel is happiness.”

Spending three weeks in nature with your closest friends, that’s always going to be memorable. But doing so in your own home territory makes it even more special.

“It’s easy to use your vacation to go somewhere else, but really there’s so much in our backyards here to explore and to experience,” says Guile. “You could paddle a different river every year for who knows how long and never have the same experience twice… There’s no reason to leave. We’re pretty lucky here.”

Of course you don’t have to spend a month-long trip paddling through the Nahanni to enjoy its breathtaking scenery. There are day trips to Virginia Falls and flightseeing tours from above from folks like Air Tindi and Simpson Air.

Regardless of how you get out and see it, now is the perfect time to explore the land around you with the people you love. There’s no better way to spend a summer.

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