the Dubawnt and the Kazan - 2004 Canoe Expedition
Day 31- Saturday
August 7, 2004
Long day. Freezing,
unrelenting wind. Just got into camp at 8:00 and very very tired. E-mail
in the morning.
Our semblance of a daily
schedule has been destroyed by the unrelenting north wind. It has blown
with the ferocity of a pack of timber wolves for over 72 hours now. Where
does all that wind come from?
I got up at 7:00 to boil some water to wash my feet. I have some horrible
sort of athlete's foot or trench foot or similar. My God, it is so itchy
that at night I can't quit scratching. I dare say a wire brush would feel
good. This has been going on for about 10 days and I have tried every
ointment and unguent we have in our limited pharmacy, all to no avail.
When I wake, my foot is usually stuck to the sleeping bag liner with blood
from where I scratched. The great thing is that all the drugs say to keep
the affected area dry. Good luck on a canoe trip.
Anyway, when I got up it was cold - real real cold - and by the time my
bath was done my hands and feet were frozen. So I concluded we would have
to wait for the wind to go down and for the day to warm up. The day warmed
up and the wind, in fact, actually got more severe. Nonetheless, at 1:30
we decided to make a run to a new home for the night.
We managed to paddle some 20 miles into a 20 mph wind. What a chore. You
have to set the paddle as fast as possible lest you start to stall and
slide backwards.. A few times the gusts would get so strong all you could
do was paddle like mad to simply hold your ground. As quick as the wind
relented for a second you had to fight to get the canoe moving again.
Hard hard work. And made even harder as I have to draw every stroke to
keep the canoe on course. My left shoulder - which isn't good on a good
day - felt like it had a hot knife stuck through it. But at least it made
me forget how badly my feet were itching.
About 3:00 we came to a rapids that we had run on river right in 98. My
plan was to do the same but I thought it best to look at the left shore
to reconnoitre. A good thing I did. It was a piece of cake to line the
corner. The top saw me boulder hopping and leading the canoe through easy
channels. Then a quick paddle through a calm pool to a final short portage
that the Germans had just finished. I took a look at the spot and concluded
I could line off the smooth series of ledges where it dropped back into
the river. Lynda said I was mad but with both ropes in hand and running
alongside on bare dry rock, I got the canoe through safely in a trice.
Ah, but I was so proud of my handiwork, and Lynda had to eat her words
about my mental stability.
The river turns straight north after the rapid and it was tedious paddling,
The waves try to race up the river but the river fights them. The result
is that the waves get bigger and bigger as they try to win the battle.
We had to fight to gain the privilege of simply going downstream, the
canoe slamming up and down all the while.
A beautiful sky all day. Low scudding clouds with the sun peaking through.
Moving circles of light danced across on the tundra and the reflected
light from the clouds cast everything in the most vibrant colours. Where
the river narrowed, it flowed between 20 foot high walls of jumbled boulders
pushed up by ice at breakup. Some spots showed the most gorgeous smooth
multi-coloured bedrock scoured to a mirror's finish by years of wind,
water and ice. Yet other spots saw huge rocks pushed beside sandy beaches
on the wider lakelets.
As we rounded the final corner that put us on the easterly course of Thirty
Mile Lake, we saw another herd of muskox at river's edge. Eleven this
time and when I went out to scout the tundra for quivvit, I saw 6 more
off in the distance. What luck for us this trip for us to see so many
of these curious animals. They are obviously thriving.
As I type this (Sunday Morning) we are sitting beside a narrow channel
where we are camped. I looked up and there are 5 caribou grazing peacefully,
oblivious to our presence.
Supper last night was trout. Right before we left the island where we
camped yesterday I thought I would cast off the rocks to see what was
about. Beside the smooth rock edge of the island I could see 3 over-6-pound
trout swimming in place against the current. I dropped my hook and instantly
had all 3 fighting for it. I couldn't resist. I cast 5 times and had 5
fish. I kept 2 and let 3 go. I am not near tired of fish but Lynda is
a tad "pisced" out after 7 meals in a row. "But at least
none for breakfast yet !" I comfort her.
The wind has moderated and appears largely from the west today. As we
are headed east it should be a good day. The mosquitoes are out and it
is warmish with sun. Suits us just fine.
Day 32 - Sunday
August 8, 2004
A most magical day.
No other word describes it better.
Thirty Mile Lake could be a million miles long and stretch to eternity
if only all of it would be as wonderful as what we have seen today. In
spite of unrelenting north wind - it started in earnest about 11:00 -
and bitterly cold air - we were near frozen the few times we stopped to
piss or see an inuksuk - the day simply flew by.
The paddling was all right except for my continuing complaint about having
to draw stroke after stroke after ..... The Prospector is a hull I love
to death but in nearly any wind at all she is like an errant puppy dog.
You know how a puppy insisits on going to the right and left of whatever
direction you really want to go? Well, the Prospector is like that, but
she is a 300 pound mastiff that takes a lot of muscle to control.