My Nahanni Dream Came True

Jerry Daminato shares his story of finally paddling the Nahanni River after dreaming about it for years.

In 1993, I purchased Neil Hartling’s book “River of Gold, River of Dreams.”  Having been drawn to canoe tripping over the previous ten years, I liked to read and dream about trips in the winter months.  Neil’s book was very exciting…though just a dream.

In the spring of 1994, Hiker’s Haven in Oakville was having a variety of outfitters presenting various trips.  My son and I attended one on the Nahanni.  I did not know it would be Neil.  This was my first encounter with Neil who had flown in from Whitehorse to make a series of presentations.  The slide show was excellent.  I made mental note of his hat, which years later would lend to a chance meeting in Yellowknife.  I left with thoughts that someday I would like to canoe the Nahanni (when and cost seemed to be the barrier)…and the dream was planted.

Over the next two years I kept thinking and dreaming of the Nahanni, reading all the publications that were available.  I discovered a co-worker that had canoed the river 10 years earlier.  He shared his experience, trip log and slides with me.  That summer of 1996 I started to think seriously about going.

Sometimes in life if you focus on priorities and set goals, wish or pray for guidance, things happen.  Both the time and the funds became available.  That fall I booked for July 1997.

Do you know how often you plan a trip or holiday and when it finally happens you feel let down or disappointed?  Not so this time!  The experience was more than what I had anticipated.  The details were expertly executed without surprise by the guides and Nahanni River Adventures.  Every moment of the trip was exciting and enjoyable.  From the float plane to the (grunt) paddle at the end I relished every moment.

There are not words to capture the awe of fourth, third and second canyons.  First canyon was spellbinding silence.  The beauty of the river and surroundings was every bit and more than what I had imagined or read. It was truly a trip of a lifetime…though I think there are still more lifetime trips to come!

I was staying in Yellowknife for a few days after the trip.  Some of our group were waiting for a plane and were killing time in a coffee shop in downtown Yellowknife.  I looked into the shopping mall from the coffee shop and spotted “The HAT” and remarked to my fellow travelers “if I did not know better, that is Neil Hartling.”  It was a pleasure to have a chat with him after our trip and before our departure back to Ontario.

I have written this for the use of Nahanni River Adventures as they see fit.  I would recommend the river and the firm without hesitation.  If you wish to talk to me personally, ask Neil to give you my number.  I have many good things to say about the experience of the Nahanni and Nahanni River Adventures.

By Jerry Daminato

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