Not to be picky but I think you were fishing on Lesser Slave Lake not Lake Athabasca. You will cross Lake Athabasca north of McMurray. Did you manage to contact the riders from McMurray that are riding north this week? They may have left the 23 so you maybe one day behind them. It would be too bad if you missed them from a human interest point of view for your project.
When you see a tall rock pile (mini mountain) in the middle of the lake your almost at Fort Chip. Many people have gotten lost on the river/lake in boats in the summer. A thought just came to me: there are many turns on the winter road and blind hills. Be aware of vehicles roaring around the turn and into your lane, keep way to your side etc.
As you have said there is major traffic on the north part of Hw#63 in the morning, a bumper to bumper ride for a few hours, maybe 6:00 to 8:00. It could be the busyest road for it's size in Canada, think I read that somewhere. Also the road is one of the deadlest in Canada for it's size.
Hope you enjoyed the plane trip over the oilsands. Hope it gives you an idea of how much money is invested in those places. I laugh when someone complains about the price of gas. To buy 2x1/2 litre bottles of water (or soda pop) costs about twice as much as a litre of gas at a gas station. Compare the cost of producing a bottle of water to the money invested in those plants and the 15,000 employees working out there and you can see the benifits.