Old Man Winter has finally arrived in earnest here in the Hockley Valley. Our daily walks with our husky, Ranger require an extra layer plus hat and gloves now the cold weather has really settled in our region. Today, for the first time ever, we spotted two coyotes running right across our yard in broad daylight – holy moly! During the current lockdown, we continue to find simple pleasures – yesterday we cleaned the living room and had a zoom date with friends. Today, we organized the recycling and did an early morning grocery shop in town.

We are homesick for the north. The rhythm of our lives for decades has included an annual 4-month hiatus to the north. The communities of Norman Wells, Yellowknife, Fort Simpson and Whitehorse have become an integral part of the fabric of our lives. We miss the beauty of the wilderness, canoeing remote rivers with our inspiring guests, and spending time with friends in these remote communities.

We want to provide an update with regards to the pandemic and how this will affect our canoeing operations in 2021. The three northern territories have already begun their vaccine roll-out and by the end of April expect to have reached 75% herd-immunity across the north. This is an essential first step in protecting vulnerable populations living in the communities where we operate.

The Yukon and Northwest Territories governments are currently meeting with tourism agencies and operators to explore steps to allow remote hunting, fishing and canoeing excursions to occur in 2021 with approved safe-travel protocols in place. These protocols might include pre-trip quarantines, rapid covid tests, temperature checks and the creation of travel-bubbles with fishing or canoe groups. Our Medical Director, Dr. Aaron Orkin will be in direct consultations with government officials in the north to review and collaborate on developing safe-travel protocols that would allow our canoe trips to proceed this summer.

With the covid landscape changing so rapidly on the heels of the second wave and just prior to the national vaccine roll-out, we expect the northern tourism exemption goalposts will continue to change until April or even early May. You can imagine how this adds to the complexity of trip-planning, food-purchasing and hiring of our seasonal guide-staff for example. We remain optimistic that we will be able to operate with a special exemption even though we do not expect quarantine restrictions to be relaxed for general tourism until next fall.

During the next couple of months, we will continue to monitor this changing landscape and will share significant developments with you as they arise. We are determined to explore ways to operate our 2021 expedition season while protecting our northern communities and our intrepid canoe-trippers who are eagerly awaiting their summer adventure.

Stay well and enjoy this fine winter day,

Lin Ward & Al Pace