Paddling the Dubawnt and the Kazan - 2004 Canoe Expedition

Day 9, Friday July 16, 2004

So it must have happened to you before? You know that feeling you sometimes get when you lose yourself in a movie or book? For awhile, your disbelief is suspended and you let your mind wander in a world of fantasy. Now, what if you found at the end of the movie or book you could stay in that world? And what if you found that you liked the other world better? That all the headaches and pettiness of the "other" world vanished? That you found clear purpose in your new world? That you wanted to stay? It would no longer be suspended "disbelief" you were experiencing. It would be suspended reality.

I think that is what happens to Lynda and I out here. We can stay a long time and we do. There are no other people to distract us from the magic that we share. We have no one to go home to, no need to explain all that we have seen and felt. In short, we have little reason to go home. I know we must and I know it is naive to think I could stay and live here. But many did.


After we left the Mckaskill cabin this morning, we stopped, once again, at the Tralnberg cabin. Now we are camped only 5 miles from the Brucie cabin - Fred Erickson used it next - and the cabin that belonged to Jimmie and Adeline Chaffee on Barlow Lake is two day's travel away. These people suspended reality and lived out here as long as the price of fur would let them. Brief visits to town for a few weeks in the summer to visit friends and re-supply and then they were off in early fall to go to their real homes.... to their other "reality". What more could a human want that to build a home with his or her hands, to hunt and fish for the food on their table, to trap fur to trade for a few luxuries like flour and sugar and salt, to cut their own firewood ..... in short, to shut out the other confusing reality?


We reveled in the day. A fast run down the river in spite of headwinds saw us covering 26 miles in some 7 1/2 hours. We had lunch atop a gorgeous tundra island. The wind mercifully kept the black flies at bay.

Many of the islands are small and circular. Steep-sided domes, they are fringed with black spruce and tundra birch on the bottoms and barren on the top. The view at lunch was 360 degrees of unparallel beauty.

We saw a cow moose today, and two pairs of tundra swans. We surprised the first pair and watched as they ran across the water, flapping their way into flight. They looked like some odd pre-Wright brothers contraption as they tried to get airborne. The second pair had 3 young with them and the father made a great show of leading us away as the mother shepherded her children to safety.

We ran several frisky rapids. I had been worried about my new Bluesteel Prospector. I wasn't sure if she would know what to do in a rapid. After we both agreed that we could each trust the other, we had no end of fun. The subtlest of paddle strokes and she danced her magic. It was as if she finally realized what she had spent all those months in the factory waiting for. This is one fun river and one fun boat.

We are camped on the tail end of an esker with a spectacular view to the west. It has been smoky all day but a north wind seems to have cleared the sky and we may yet get a perfect day tomorrow. If the wind keeps up from the north we will be stuck here as Boyd Lake will be a wind-tossed sea as we enter the south end. But to be stuck in such a spot would be fine with both of us.

Supper was beans and rice with bacon. Peanut butter butter cookies are now baking. Wish you were here?

Day 10, Saturday July 17, 2004

When we woke this morning, I spotted a young bull moose a few hundred yards away. I started to grunt like a cow and be damned if he didn't start walking my way. Each time he would stop, I would call again and he would draw nearer. Then he finally got a whiff of my undershirt, the DEET, and the wood smoke from our Sierra Zip stove. A few fond looks over his shoulder at the sound that might have spelled romance and he was gone. After we packed, we walked the esker and saw where our new friend had repeatedly crossed from one swamp of succulent plants to another where I suspect he goes for dessert.


We were on the water by 8:30 and started the day with a great rapid which woke us and the Prospector up. Then we were out onto Boyd Lake. The south end of the lake is spectacular. It is littered with gorgeous sand islands with gravel beaches and ten-foot-high table top tundra camping. There is a huge esker cutting through the lake and it is here that the Brucie cabin is tucked away on the south side. On our last trip through here, I told the Brucie story as many in the north have told it to me. This version is highly romanticized, but the fact remains that Dirk Brucie drowned and his wife Rosie and her two small children were left to wait and worry. It wasn't until freeze-up that Fred Riddell went to the cabin to find out why he hadn't seen his friend's snowshoe tracks where their trap lines met.


red and the Tralnberg brothers, Emil and Otto, got the word of Dirk's death out to Stony and Rosie and the children were flown out, never to return. Some time later, Fred Erickson took over the cabin and the trap line.

We are now almost 9 days and 190 miles north of the south end of Selwyn Lake where we started. And we are still not as far north as Jimmie and Adeline Chaffie went to trap. Their cabin is somewhere on Barlow Lake - we have never found it - and they went even further north than Barlow. Talk about getting "sucked into the tundra." Each trapper would leap frog the one who was furthest north, trying to find that perfect place for a cabin and better ground for pelts.

The north end of this lake is a maze of islands. They are all ringed by boulders and the higher ones are barren save for mosses, tundra birch, labrador tea and the odd tiny clump of 3 to 4 foot high spruce. The spruce look like they have given up trying to grow vertically and have found that the best solution to the winter gales is to grow in tight knit horizontal clumps. Usually, in the center of these clumps you find the patriarch reaching the grand height of perhaps 6 feet. Small birds can shelter in these trees and not have a drop of rain or a breath of wind bother them. Food is always near at hand with all the insects huddled under the same trees.

The lower islands are still largely covered in wizened spruce but soon even these islands will be barren boulder fields.

We are camped on a gorgeous barren island about 1 mile from where the river starts again. Seven hours saw us with another 24 miles under under belt. We should be on Barlow Lake tomorrow if the weather co-operates. Then a wild fun rapid and onto Tyrell's cairn on Carey Lake. From here we get to carry again as we work our way to Big Rocky, Kamilikuak and Nowleye Lakes. Then we will be on Inuit Ku - The River of Men - the Kazan.

Great weather today. The north wind blew the smoke away. Bear Creek Damn Good Chili and rice for supper. Those who followed our past trips may wonder why I am not fishing. Simple. We are trying to eat our load down for all the carrying over to the Kazan watershed

That's it, kids. Time for bed. Be good to each other. Life is way short.




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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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