Paddling the Dubawnt and the Kazan - 2004 Canoe Expedition

Day 3, Saturday July 10, 2004


Note to self. Train a bit before the next canoe trip. I went to sleep in about 2 minutes last night but when I woke at 5:30 I ached from head to toe. And this from only half a day of paddling. I went back to sleep thinking I would get up at 6:00. Each and every half hour until 7:30 this scene unfolded.I blame my fatigue on age, but given that George Drought is out here at age 65+ with Hugh Westerhauser who is 75, I really have no excuse. And they are going to Baker as well. Hugh started at the Chipman portage, to rub insult into injury.

Off at 8:30 and paddled until 11:30. A nice spot called out our names as we glided by. This siren's song and a nasty 6 to 8 mph headwind made lunch seem like a great plan.


More caribou meat with some hard boiled eggs on whole wheat bread. Yummy. The caribou is, of course, cooked Dene style. In lard, that is to say. Deciding who would get the pan drippings rubbed up with the bread near had us into a fist fight. I was so tired that I fell asleep for a half hour. Second note to self. Train, you idiot!

Interestingly, every place we have stopped we have found signs of caribou hunting. Some from decades ago, some from last winter.

Last year the Beverly and Kaminuriak herds both wandered far south.The Wollaston people had both herds within minutes of town and the Black Lake people had the Beverly herd right in front of town. All the old people said that the herds had come to see the Dene. Since the Dene are no longer nomadic, following the herds, they reasoned that they were lonley to see their friends. The Beverly herd went further south than they have gone in the last 25 odd years. No one knows the ways of the wind and the caribou.

We stopped to visit a Selwyn Lake Lodge camp boat. A man from Ohio and his son from Atlanta were being guided by a friend of ours from Black Lake - Fred Nilghe. We traded stories and Fred told us about a grave site near thespot where we wanted to camp. The grave is Fred's grandfather's brother. And Louis Naygli (Nilghe) - Downes called him "one eyed Louis - appears in one of P G Downe's pictures in Sleeping Island. Fred's sister in law is Mary Anne Kailther who co-authored Lynda's latest Dene Elder's book. History is everywhere up here and it all comes magically alive for us as we know so many of Dene of the area.

Fred is as happy to be out here guiding as we are to be paddling. As we agreed there are no headaches or worries out here. In town it is a different story for both of us.

We paddled until near 6:30 and after 7 1/2 hours of work ground out about 22 miles. Tomorrow should see us to the head of the portage from Selwyn to Flett Lake. With our load, it is going to be a long carry since we will each have to make 3 trips. I am exhausted just thinking about it.

Supper is more caribou. I can smell it as I type. Life is hard out here. We only have enough fresh meast for 1 more supper, after all.

The lake here is all rugged rock shorelines and landing the canoe is real tough. Tight knit forests of black spruce predominate. Infrequent stands of birch mixed in with the spruce usually mark more sandy ground and it is such a spot we are camped at now. In fact, the spot we have picked is an old Dene camp.

Gotta' go. I am starved, tired, and aching. A few more days of this training on the job and I should be fine. Lynda is her usual self. She just keeps going like the Energiser Bunny Rabbit. Lots of stamina in that tiny package for sure.


Day 4, Sunday July 11, 2004

"The height-of-land is a belt of low stony moranic hills, lying in a rather wide valley betwen rock ridges several hundrd feet in height. It is a mile and a quarter wide, extending from the shore of Selwyn to a shallow bay at the southern end of Daly Lake (now named Flett Lake). A good dry portage, 2400 yards long, runs through the small spruce from one lake to another."
Burr Tyrell writing about the portage in 1893

Well the area looks like what Tyrell said. What is missing is a feel of the pain and drudgery of portaging a full camp. We are over now and camped on Flett but my body feels like it belongs to someone else. It is refusing to do what my mind bids it do and all I want to do is crash in the tent. But we have camp to set up, food to prepare and a canoe load of gear to wrestle out of the lake befoe that. More tomorrow ... I am simply too burned out to think.

18 miles of paddling and near 7 miles of walking, half of that burdened under herculean loads of baggage. And I enjoy this? I wonder many time over each trip what it is that draws me back. Lynda is, of course, an anchor and trudges along apparently under no duress singing "Marching To Pretoria."

Sleep to catch here, kids.




Web Casts on

Paddling the Dubawnt and the Kazan - On Going 2004

Vermette Lake, NWT to Stoney Rapids, Saskatchewan - 2003

La Ronge to Arviat on Hudson Bay: 55 Days and 1000 miles - 2002

Paddling the Dubawnt River through the NWT and Nunavut - 2001


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Bill & Lynda's Other River Expeditions

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