Paddling the Dubawnt and the Kazan - 2004 Canoe Expedition

Day 17, Saturday July 24, 2004

 
We are finally into Kamilukuak Lake. From here on, things should get relatively easy until we reach the Three Cascades past Angikuni Lake - on the Kazan River. And even there the portages are short and well-defined, and have easy loading and unloading spots.


Today was a easy day given, what the rapids could have been. The first two were the "cutest" little narrow channels, deep enough so that there weren't any rocks to speak of. With very little current, maneuvering was easy. At the bottom of the second rapid we went up to explore a huge collection of rocks turned up on other bigger rocks. There must have been fifty in a very small area. Our conclusion was that a boy's canoe camp had camped here. The testosterone could easily explain the site.

 
   

One cast at the bottom of this rapid and I had a 4 pound trout with salmon-red flesh for lunch. The next rapid was easy but the river was broader which resulted in a shallow boulder grind. Over and over, we had to get out of the canoe to work our way down. Lunch at the bottom saw the tarp go up. The weather all day has been gray overcast with sprinkles of rain. The wind was off and on from the north west. At times it was gusting well over 25 mph. But given we were heading east and south, most of the day it was fine for us.

The last rapid was even shallower. In fact, from lunch to Kamilukuak, it was in and out of the canoe over and over and over.

 
 

I smashed 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 guys.


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 hide.

 

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 good.


Later kids.

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 we.


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 gravel beaches.


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 they prefer.


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.


 

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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