Canada's North West

   Dave Hilchie has owned a Piper J3 Cub for many years and from his summer cabin on Watson Lake he flies thoughout Canada's vast Northland. Lucky for the rest of us Dave usually takes his camera along. This page will feature photos and text of several of Dave's trips, a journal if you will, of places and sights most of us will not likely visit:
Nahanni Park   Yukon 2007   Yukon 2010.   Dave Hilchie had an interesting 2010. Check out his Norseman adventure.    And if you are looking for other interesting info and photos, check out Legends of the North, and a new addition, Yukon 2011.

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Latest update is October 13, 2011

   Nahanni National Park Reserve in the Northwest Territories of Canada, approximately 500 kilometres (311 miles) west of Yellowknife, protects a portion of the Mackenzie Mountains Natural Region. The centrepiece of the park is the South Nahanni River. Four great canyons, called First, Second, Third and Fourth Canyon, line this spectacular whitewater river. The name Nahanni comes from the indigenous Dene language and can be translated as 'people over there far away.'    Source: Wikipedia

Summer 2007 - J3 Flight to Nahanni Park

(Text by Dave Hilchie) ...did this trip on Thursday and these are positively the last pictures of the season. Glacier Lake was where Bill Eppler and Joe Mulholland spent the winter trapping in 1935/38. Their cabin was found burned to the ground and they were never seen again, one of the Nahanni mysteries. The consensus now is that they drowned in the Nahanni trying to raft out after breakup the spring of 1936.(See R.M. Patterson's book "Dangerous River" for details.)

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  Heading North up the Hyland River valley.

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  View across the valley.

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  Hyland River tributary creek flowing out of Ceaser Lake.

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  Mountains bordering the west side of the Flat River valley. Ragged Range of the Nahanni visible on the horizon.View across the valley.

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  The Ragged Range. Now truly in the Nahanni.

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  Circling down over Glacier Lake.

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  On the water - east end of Glacier Lake. Mt. Harrison Smith at the end. A long distance to taxi. Landed on the east end due to glassy water at the west.

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  This is within the proposed Nahanni Park boundary extension and when finalized, no more aircraft access permitted.

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  Wonder when the last Piper Cub flew in here? Ashore for lunch. Clouds starting to move in from the west.

(Ed. Note: This photograph is my personal favourite. As I said to Dave in an email, this is "calendar quality".

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  View south climbing out from Glacier Lake. Nahanni River below and Rabbit Kettle Lake to the west of it. This is within the existing Park boundary.

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  Weather coming in from the west. Looking northwest up the famous Rabbit Kettle River towards it's source near the Yukon border. Turbulent.

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  Hole-in-the-wall lake on north side of the pass. No landings permitted. It's always turbulent in here. Pass and lake named by George Dalziel who hiked through here in early 1930's - unmapped at the time.

   Ed. Note: I asked Dave how he navigated from Watson Lake to the Nahanni and back. I like his response:

   Re Glacier Lake: I flew a direct route up there by GPS (my small hand held) but that means climbing to 10 thou or so and hence I came back the more usual route for Watson Lake traffic, which is down the Nahanni to Hole-in-the-Wall pass, through the pass to the Flat river, across the Flat to the pass over Lucky Lake and then down the Coal River valley to near Stuart Lake. From thence over the Green River pass to the Hyland River valley and then across the hills north of Watson to the lake. You can see the whole route on the Fort Simpson VFR nav chart.
   Glacier is at approximately 6210'N/12733'W. One can see how relatively close it is to the Nahanni Range Road (Yukon #10) and why John Harris and Vivien Loughheed kept trying to hike through by that route.

All Photos by David Hilchie

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The Yukon - 2007

      Dave Hilchie's Piper Cub at Watson Lake, Yukon Territory

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Although Dave Hilchie (see the YUL page) is retired and living on Vancouver Island, he still summers at his cabin on Watson Lake. 60°05'N/128°45'W certainly qualifies as being North. Being on a lake and having your own Piper Cub on floats - it doesn't get much better!

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"Watson Lake is about five miles long and at 2300 feet above sea level, so will accommodate anything flying today comfortably and I have done circuits in Jackfish Bay at the end of the lake which is about a half mile long. But on a hot summer day with no wind the Cub is fairly close to the trees climbing out. The bay is set in a bit of a bowl with rising terrain on three sides.
  Summers here are always a crap shoot but two poor ones consecutively is disappointing. It's got me thinking of selling my Cub, after almost thirty years, especially as I just invested in a set of "lifetime" lift struts and forks for the old girl, so I don't have to do the tedious AD every two years. However, every time I see her tied to the dock, bobbing like a little yellow duckling, I always remind myself that no toy I've ever owned has given me so much pleasure."

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The Yukon - 2010

      2010 More Pictures from Dave Hilchie's Piper Cub in the Yukon Territory

  Moored on the shore of Quartz Lake, Yukon Territory

  Moored on the shore of Stewart Lake, Yukon Territory

  Stewart Lake

  Frances River Valley

  Sambo Lake

  Sambo Lake

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2010 - On Flying a Piper J3

    ... What I've always needed with that Cub is about ten gallons more fuel capacity for a reasonably comfortable cross country range in such sparsely settled area. I can lean it out to burn about 4.5 gal/hr under ideal conditions but its not prudent to rely on that in flight planning. Those little Continentals are prone to carb ice for example and if I have to put on carb heat, the consumption goes up to 5 gal/hr. So I use that for flight planning and given the existing 20 gal total fuel capacity (1 ten gal fuselage tank and a ten gal wing tank) that gives me 3 hrs plus 1 reserve, which at a still air ground speed of 83 mph at 2300 rpm is only about 250 miles - 320 miles and the tank float is bouncing on the bottom.
    And since you can't rely on getting fuel at a lot of destinations, that's only a 125 to 150 mile trip before one needs to be pretty certain about the next source of fuel. To get to Glacier Lake, which is approx. 150 miles (depending on routing) I carried a five gal Jerry Can tied down on the front seat (you fly the Cub from the back). I didn't need it last trip, but it was comforting to have. The GPS does make a heck of a difference with its continuous display of ground speed, even though there are usually lots of landmarks to check groundspeed with in the Western Cordillera.(ed.note:Mountain ranges, contiguous intermontane basins, and plateaus are included in the geographical context and in reference to the Western Cordillera. {I had to look it up...]).
    Wind is the real spoiler in that country because when it gets much above the ten mph level - quite apart from the effect on range - it creates so much turbulence amoung all those mountains that flying low wing-loaded airplanes becomes torture. Still, if a person fixates on all the things that can go wrong in life, it tends to promote paralysis... (ed. note: I like the last line.)

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Norseman Adventure - 2010

From Alberta, East to the annual Norseman gathering in Red Lake Ontario, and back again.

    Dave's Hilchie's summer adventure:
    It was a busy summer for me as in July we flew back to the Red Lake Norseman Festival from Bassano Alberta, with Colin Oliver in his Mk VI Norseman, and continued on to Oshkosh afterwards, camping there at the seaplane base, Very interesting. We stopped at Shoal Lake, Manitoba for fuel going and coming and also at Elbow, Sask. (Diefenbaker Lake). It was sure green crossing the prairies because of your wet summer. Thirty hours of Norseman flying overall and 1000 gal of avgas!
    Colin actually has two of them (Norseman)! He also owns the classic Mark V that Austin Airways operated for decades, CF-BSC, and is currently having it re-built by Gordon Hughes in Ignace Ontario, the Norseman guru. That was Gordon's Mark IV CF-DTL. It was operated by DOT in the 1940's, hence the DOT registration, and was based in Winnipeg, flown often by Fred Bone, an early DOT Inspector. Some of the real old-timers might have flown in it on DOT business.

  Bassano, Albera

  Elbow, Saskatchewan

  Dodging thunderstorms somewhere over Saskatchewan

  Shoal Lake, Manitoba

  International Falls, Minnesota

  One of the thunderstorms being dodged over Saskatchewan

  JEC at Gordon Hughes' lake, Ignace, Ontario

  Picture taken at Gordon Hughes' base near Ignace, Ontario, in July 2010

    All Photos by David Hilchie

The Norseman

    "The Noorduyn Norseman is a Canadian single-engine bush plane designed to operate from unimproved surfaces. Norseman aircraft are known to have been registered and/or operated in 68 countries throughout the world and also have been based and flown on the Arctic and Antarctic continents. The Norseman was the plane that Glenn Miller was flying in when it disappeared somewhere over the English Channel.
    Designed by Robert B.C. Noorduyn, the Noorduyn Norseman was produced from 1935 to 1959, originally by Noorduyn Aircraft Ltd. and later by the Canada Car and Foundry company. Noorduyn's vision of a bush plane revolved around a few basic criteria: it should be an aircraft with which a Canadian operator utilizing existing talents, equipment and facilities could make money, it should be a high wing monoplane to facilitate loading and unloading of passengers and cargo at seaplane docks and airports and, finally, it should be an all-around superior aircraft to those in use in Canada.
    The first Norseman was flight tested on floats 14 November 1935 and was sold and delivered to Dominion Skyways Ltd. on 18 January 1936. Almost immediately, the Norseman proved itself to be a rugged reliable workhorse but the production run may have ended at a few hundred examples if not for the advent of the Second World War. A total of 903 Norseman aircraft (Mk. I - Mk. V) were produced and delivered to various commercial customers.

    (from Phil Gies, webmaster)  If you are from Canada's North, then you have seen and heard Canada's quintessential bushplane, the Noorduyn Norseman. This workhorse of the North would carry freight and passengers to many of the more remote and inhospitable places over the entire planet. I have a special affinity for the Norseman; my Dad worked for McIsaac (later Midwest) Diamond Drilling out of Flin Flon in the 1950's and had many trips to drilling sites scattered in the boreal forests covering Northern Manitoba. I recall a story he used to tell of trying to take off from Schist Lake on a float equipped Norseman at full gross take-off weight. Seems it took pilot Harvey Evans 3 attempts to finally take off. My father said he was starting to get a little concerned. So was my Dad... When I began my ATC career I worked at Cartierville airport (CYCV) which was the home of Noorduyn. You could still see one of the Noorduyn buildings when I was there in 1967-68. Although I never had a ride in a Norseman, Dave Hilchie certainly did! Here are a couple of Norseman photos from my collection

  Northern Ontario, likely in the Red Lake area, circa 1966.
    photo, Joe Danyluk collection

  Norseman on lease to Parsons Airways, Flin Flon in 1957

  Could be Schist Lake, Flin Flon's water airport, or perhaps Thicket Portage MB. That's my Dad walking past a Beaver. Spring, and time to exchange the skis for floats. Circa 1955-57
    photos, Phil Gies collection

Noorduyn Norseman - one of the best Norseman sites on the internet, dedicated to this legendary Canadian bushplane 

Norseman - another excellent Norseman site. I like it because the authors have compiled extensive history on many of the planes. Great reading, especially if you're from the north  

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The Yukon - 2011

      2011 Latest pictures from Dave Hilchie's Piper Cub in the Yukon Territory

  CF-EGF moored on the Thomas (sometimes) Anderson) River

  Porter Lake, right on the Yukon/British Columbia border, you can land in BC and taxi across to the Yukon.

  Friend Tom lives North of Watson Lake

  This small cabin is the original Martin Broder cabin, built in the 20's and restored by Kai.

  At his newer cabin, Kai and Tom working before winter comes.

  mooring on Thomas River


  September 8, Watson Lake sunset


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And of course, legends of the North

The Headless Valley      It's a fancy place that oldtimers dream about... Some said the "valley was full of gold and some said it was hot as hell owing to the warm springs... It had a wicked name too, for at least a dozen folks went in and never came out... Indians said it was the home of devils...
     In these tantalizing words the late Lord Tweedsmuir (John Buchan), novelist and onetime Governor General of Canada, pictured the "Headless Valley" on the remote South Nahanni River. Behind Buchan's lines lay 40 years of mystery, yet little has been done to explore the fantastic legends that came from the 200-mile gorge in the limestone mountains, 300 miles east of Whitehorse, Yukon.
     Source: Time Magazine
Dave Hilchie and many others recommends reading R.M. Patterson's book "Dangerous River" about the Nahanni.

The Mad Trapper Of Rat River      In February of 2005, Corporal R.G. McDowell (Rtd) passed away at the age of 94. His passing severed the final link to the famous manhunt for Albert Johnson which took place in the Western Arctic during the winter of 1931/32. The story is commonly known as; "THE MAD TRAPPER OF RAT RIVER" and captured the imagination of readers and listeners throughout North America as they followed the daily/weekly newspapers dispatches and daily accounts on the relatively new medium of radio. The investigation began at a trapper's cabin near the Rat River on January 10 and the manhunt ended in a gun battle on the Eagle river on February 17 - a story of incredible tenacity, cunning and hardship in the bitter cold.
      For the RCMP, the investigation resulted in two firsts; the first time an airplane was used in an investigation (the pilot was none other than "Wop" May, himself a legend in the North), and the first time two-way radios were used for communications.
                                 Information edited from an article by D.J. Klancher (Rtd) in "The Quarterly" (RCMP Veterans Association publication).

     There are many websites this fascinating story which helped establish the RCMP's unofficial motto; "they always get their man". I found the following websites to be particularly interesting;

A well-written account of the investigation and manhunt complete with a maps.

"Wop" May's story about the mad trapper Johnson story (1952) complete with pictures and maps.

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