Paddling the Dubawnt and the Kazan - 2004 Canoe Expedition

Day 11, Sunday July 18, 2004

   

It's 5: 30. We're set up on the west shore at the south end of Barlow Lake. We had to stop at 4:00 as the wind was too strong, from the north-east, and howling down the full length of the lake. So here we sit for a night, or a day, or a week. The wind is 10 mph gusting to 15. How do I know? I have the neatest wing gauge made by Dwyer Scientific , that's how. Boys and their toys. All I need to know is can we paddle or can't we paddle - but this is way more fun.

We are under the tarp tucked behind a small stand of spruce. Tea is ready and we are warm and dry. We had just got set up when a light rain started and the air temperature plunged. What's moving toward us is a tortured mass of black sinister clouds that promise bad weather.

 
 

I have a new tent this year - a Marmot Fortress. I really like their tents. They're well thought out. Marmot quit making this tent and I think the Thor took its place. Both are designed to take some serious wind. I set it up in the full force of the wind, and I am secretly hoping for a wild storm so we can try it out.


We were having some trouble with our Coleman Apex Peak stove this trip. I have it fixed as good as new now but during the 3 full disassembles I started to use our Sierra Zip Stove more than ever before. This is an awesome stove, although. I wasn't nuts about the original base that came with it and immediately did a "mod" to it. I added a set of folding legs from a Coleman Peak stove. This gave it a bigger footprint and, as there are 3 legs, it is very stable. For those who don't know, this stove works like a forge. It has a tiny 3 speed fan that forces air into a burner pot. It uses 3 inch pieces of dead wood, perfect for the tundra where you can grab a handful of dead willow or tundra birch just about anywhere. It will boil 4 cups of water on a handful of little finger-diameter twigs as fast as the Peak stove. Really! If you take one to the tundra, bring a pair of good pruning shears for harvesting fuel. This stove is a must have for tundra trips and you can really cut back your use of white gas if you use one.


I forgot how beautiful the section of river is from Boyd to Barlow. It is a winding river and the outside of each turn has been scraped clean by ice. The gravel walls rise some 20 to 30 feet tall and are a tan pinkish colour. As you round each corner you can see the next gravel wall contrasted with the dun-coloured tundra and the odd splotches of dark green spruce and vibrant green mats of tiny juniper. There are less and less trees and the barren tundra hills roll on to join the sky like waves on the ocean.


It was a gray warmish day today. Gray partly from smoke and partly from the north east breezes during the night. When we got on the water at 8:30 there wasn't a breath of wind. The river is generally narrow and you could hear the trilling of hundreds of songbirds echoing across it. Dozens of ducks winged overhead and many were so low you could hear the sound of their wings cutting through the air. Towards Barlow we saw a cow moose feeding in the shallows and when she finally decided to worry about us - she in fact couldn't seem to make out just what we were - we watched as a young calf jumped up to follow her.


Just the mention of fishing in last night's email got me hungry for fish. So this morning I rigged the rod. We carved - perfectly I might add - the canoe into a calm eddy and 3 casts yielded an over-10-pound pike. We ate about half for lunch and the balance goes into Sea Food Fettuccine tonight. Then chocolate pudding for dessert.


We are finally on the lake that Jimmie and Adeline came to trap on each fall. When planes became more common in the north the white trappers got together and built a "communal" cabin at the south end of Selwyn. This just so they could avoid the grueling Chipman portage from Black Lake. A hurried affair, it was dubbed "Blister abin" as those who built it ended up with very sore hands. But even with this cabin, the mileage to Barlow is significant.

We are 10 days and some 220 miles. And we are traveling light, not with provisions to last a winter, not to mention an entire dog team and toboggan. They were tough people for sure, those barreland trappers. But wouldn't I have loved to have been one of them. A big chunk of one of those two moose we saw this afternoon would be in the kettle right now if I was.

 

Day 12, Monday July 19, 2004

Well the storm didn't hit "Force Five" or anything near that last night so I didn't get to check out the tent. We woke to a strong NE
wind and leaden gray skies. Soft velvet curtains of rain fell off and on. We could see our breath. Not a day to travel.


Better to read books, play scrabble, work on gear that needed fixing and tweaking, take a bucket bath - thank Jeannie at Sierra Zip Stove- drink too much coffee and in general revel in a day off.


We did some hiking around and, on the top of the nearby hill, Lynda found, as she says, The Home Depot of the Ancients, a huge quartz boulder that hundreds have cleaved chunks from to make tools. Nearby, you can see a spot where they had a fire. There is much firewood scattered about. None of it shows a sign of an axe or saw mark and it is oddly out of place, having obviously been carried from the clumps of trees at the bottom of the hill. Quartz flakes litter the gravel areas. To think that the relatives of Dene people we know did this leaves us with a tremendous sense of awe. The skills they must have had to survive here are unimaginable.


One clump of trees has the oddest single tree I have ever seen on the tundra. About 5 feet tall and fully 2 inches in diameter at its top, it has had all the branches hacked off. By all reasonable standards it should have died. But in its stubborn will to survive it has sprouted fingers of new growth all about. It is as tenacious as the Ancients must have been.


Now as I type this at 6:30 it is dead calm, clear, and hot as all get out again. Certainly the shortest tundra storm either of us has ever seen .. touch wood.


Tomorrow should see us at Tyrell's Cairn where the carrying starts again. But we are both rested and I am finally in shape and I wake each morning with a spring in my step. Lynda doesn't spring as much as she crawls to the coffee pot where she regains a semblance of life. She really looks like she is being re-born every morning.


Somehow we brought the wrong bag of vacuum packed meat. So we have no hamburger and only 1 more bacon but a ton of salami and pepperoni and pizza meat with cheese. Such is life.

 

Resources

 

Web Casts on Out-There.com

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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