my shin when I slipped on a slippery rock. Lynda says her feet feel like
a bus ran over them. Such an odd-looking river all afternoon. Huge car-sized
bolders everywhere made it impossible to see where you were supposed to
paddle. Much like a maze and I suspect that there was no right way to
go. Rather, the solution was to pick a course and then curse a blue streak
and drag the boat over boulder after boulder.
The shorelines were
mile after mile of tundra peat field. We could see waves of hills off
into the distance, the near ones green, then the green bleeding away leaving
shades of lighter and lighter gray, finally the gray giving way to a light
blue thin final line of hills that blended into the blue gray sky.
We had given up hope for a good camp spot on Kamilukuak - for mile after
mile, the shores were a solid maze of boulders. We agreed to make one
last crossing to an island where, lo and behold, we found a perfect black
gravel beach pushed up by the ice, and fronting a flat tundra peat camp
spot. This is easily the best spot we have camped in yet.
Pizza is cooking. I can hear the pitter patter of drizzle on the tarp.
I have a cup of hot tea and am toasty warm in my Montbell down jacket.
And get this - no word of a lie. As I was typing the last line Lynda called
me from outside. A male caribou had drifted into our camp. I crawled out
of the kitchen and he watched us unconcerned. He pissed and then ambled
off. The first one this trip. It always makes our day when we see those
A good day to be alive. Perhaps 16 - 18 miles in about 6 1/2 hours. The
skies are clearing and the wind has gone down. Some day soon it will be
so hot and calm I will be complaining. I forgot to mention the hundreds
of geese we saw today. Many can't fly as they are molting. They look so
comical as they scurry about the tundra with their necks down trying to
Day 18, Sunday
July 25, 2004
Good day, but very
long. We are just now making supper. It is 8:00 pm. Paddled about 7 1/2
hours for 20 miles - 3/4 of a mile of this dragging over a rock-strewn
"sort of creek" between Kamilukuak and Nowleye Lakes.
More tomorrow morning. Supper calls, and then bed.
Suffice it to say we found an Inuit relic, and the fishing was beyond
July 25 - continuation
I planned to get up early - say 6 or 6:30. But when I peaked out, a mist
from the lake and the tundra had enfolded us like blanket. I couldn't
see more than a few hundred meters in any direction. Paddling out into
the lake on the crossing we had to make would have been foolish. And besides
Lynda was sleeping like she had been drugged..... and she does snore for
those who won't believe it. I
crawled into my sleeping bag. When I woke again at 8 the sun was making
a valiant attempt to clear our way. We got up and watched the mist evaporate.
As we ate our granola and sipped coffee we could see islands appear bit
by bit. It was like the lake and land were coming alive again, as were
Off by 10 to make a serious lake crossing. EIght miles across an open
spot. The breeze was coming from the east - we were headed west - but
I told Lynda we would give it a try. The weather seemed very stable, and
even if the breeze got up we could always turn to the south east and make
a run for shore. We got lucky. It just got better and better as we went
across. The light breeze never mounted. A good thing, as in the center
of our paddle we were 4 miles from any shore and the water is horribly
cold. It felt as if the ice had just left yesterday. Even with a jacket
on the light breeze chilled us to the bone.
We glided past a couple of islands mid-way across. They were all much
like where we camped last night, perfect tundra peat fields fronted by
Two hours and a bit saw us to the far shore. A perfect spot to stop for
a break. A beach of grapefruit sized multi-coloured rocks and trout feeding
from the surface everywhere. In fact, on the way across we could see them
feeding. Sometimes the ripples from 5 or 6 ringed the canoe. Once one
did a frantic dive to avoid being hit by the canoe. As Lynda said, it
was like we were being circled by sharks.
Lynda relaxed on a rock as I rigged the rod. Two casts and I had an over-8-pound
trout, caught it in less then 3 feet of water. Anyone who fishes trout
would understand how odd this is in late July. By now on La Ronge the
trout are in over 60 feet of water, looking for the cold temperatures
We paddled away into a fading breeze. It finally went to sleep and the
lake calmed. For the next two hours it was if we were paddling in a sea
of mercury. The waves looked frozen in place. The water was thick and
viscous, and we felt we had to pull our way through with added strength.
Much thicker and one could walk on it.
Lunch was a special spot of special spots. Stopping anywhere would have
been wonderful but this spot was spectacular. An island rimmed on one
side by huge car-sized boulders and on the other fronted by a bright yellow
pea gravel beach. The breeze was cold so we set up the tarp.Once again
we wondered how any one could live out here without something as simple
and easy to use.
And we were given good cause to wonder as we found a little fire spot
made by someone just in front of us. I knelt and felt the ashes, smelled
them, and studied the foot prints. Then, like "Tracker-Tom,"
I announced, "They were here yesterday, are Germans named Helmut
and Fritz, they have been out 17 days, likely from Dresden, and they are
farting far too much from the beans." Lynda was amazed at my woodsmanship
- or is it tundra-person-ship? To show me what she could do, she wandered
to the top of a nearby high spot and found the remains of an Inuit or
Dene paddle. I hung my head in shame.
One odd thing happened when we were leaving. I have never heard a spot
with such a perfect echo in my life. We have now dubbed this spot Echo
Island. Would this have freaked a superstitious "Ancient."
A calm afternoon, paddling across a mirror. We could hear the wings of
a thousand birds beating the water as they practiced flying for the long
trip south in mere weeks. Often we could hear them and yet they were nowhere
to be seen. We heard the odd "mewling" - like I suspect a cat
would sound llike were it to walk over the top of hot wood stove - of
arctic loons. And of course the fish were surfacing everywhere.
At 6 we got to the "almost creek" between the two lakes. An
hour of awful dragging up a kilometer long boulder garden got us to Nowleye.
Lynda did great on the rocks although she said it was a bit like a cartoon
as she got thrown about hither and yon by the back end of the canoe as
I "reefed" it over rocks and it swung wildly.
I am sick at the abuse I am giving this boat. It came to me wrapped in
a protective cloth cover and then boxed in cardboard. This is how proud
Tim and his gang at Novacraft are of the Bluesteel hulls. And what do
I do? Drive it like I stole it! I might as well have used a belt sander
on it in my yard. But we have no choice. The rest of the trip should be
much easier on it.
West wind as I type. It will hurry us along Nowleye. Tomorrow will see
us to Angikuni and we will be over half way to Baker. Many more days and
much remains to be seen. Muskox soon if we are lucky.