Bill Layman & Lynda Holland's 2003 Porcupine River Trip
Vermette Lake, Northwest Territories to Stony Rapids, Saskatchewan
  Day #5 - Monday June 30, 2003 - Route Detail

Helen Joseyounen born July 03, 1903, nick named Ts'u dlaghe (laughing girl)
From They Will have Our Words: The Dene Elders Project, Volume 2

"I have lived everywhere, Nueltin Lake, Kasba Lake, Snowbird Lake. The people from Kasba Lake used to get supplies from Stony Rapids. The route that they used was from Kasba Lake through Snowbird Lake and Selwyn Lake, then to Stony Rapids. My husband Bedzi aze (baby caribou) and Cilikwi aze (teenager) are some of the men that went to Stony Rapids. These men have all passed away. Things used to be cheap in Stony Rapids. When these men went there that is when we knew that other Dene were living this far south. Twice a year people would go for supplies. The men would go to Stony Rapids in winter by dogteam and in the summer they would go to Brochet by canoe." When asked about the sound of men drumming Helen says, "When I hear the drum it feels like my body is on fire."

And to think that this route we are on was also a major winter and summer highway for the Dene from Black Lake and Fond du Lac. This route will take us through Selwyn in about another week. When they hunt for caribou in the winter, Dene still use this trail and the one that Helen speaks of, although the land is strangely silent in summer months now.

We looked for the Disan's camp on Firedrake Lake today - the Dene call it Wolf Lake - but since we didn't think to mark it on our map the results were predictable. No camp. This camp is still active and Greg Disain uses it each winter as a base to trap for wolves. With the prices of fur so low as a result of what I consider to be the mis-thought anti-fur lobby, it is likely he and a few others like Raymond Fern and Lawrence Adam will likely be the last trappers this land will see.


A great day with a north wind that races us south along Firedrake. We even got to sail for about 2 hours.The country is changing quickly. There is less tundra and the hillsides are much more heavily treed with black spruce. We make near 20 miles in less than 7 hours of paddling and are camped behind a copse of black spruce out of the unrelenting wind on a hummocky muskeg field of flowering white Labrador tea, pink bog laurel and scattered tundra birch. The smells of the crushed plants from our crawling about in the kitchen permeates the air.

  The sun is warming us up nicely and the pizza dough is rising in anticipation of a feast. We still have some brownies left for a treat in the tent later.



We are very happy out here. I looked at Lynda tonight after we had the whole camp up in 25 minutes and asked rhetorically if anything in town could make me this happy. The answer was obvious. We are lucky to be able to chase this dream of a nomad.


As P G Downes said " ... camped on the edge of tree line, again it was one of those indescribably smoky, bright-hazy days one some times gets in the high latitudes ... it was a curious spot, for all the horizon seemed to fall away from where I squatted, and I said to myself, "Well I suppose I shall never be so happy again."

If P.G. could be here with us now he would count this as a spot that made him happy to be alive.

  Day #6 - Tuesday July 1, 2003 - Route Detail  

Up early today to do a CBC interview. Ted Deller asked, "What are you eating?" It's as if the world thinks we eat real marginal food out here. I told you about the pizza and brownies last night and tonight it is homemade beans and dried meat with rice and perhaps an Eatmore bar for dessert. Sounds pretty good to me right now after 22 miles and 3 portages.

Actually one of the portages was a creek we dragged and paddled up and the other two were short and excellent. We are camped in a nice spot at the tail end of the third portage and at 6:15 are just about ready to chow down. All in all an easy day, considering we had to portage. I suspected the portages wouldn't be as bad from Firedrake as they were from Jarvis. Why? Well from Lynda's research she knew that Adeline Chaffee had spent time here in the summer with her sister Louise Disain who was married to Thomas Disain and it is not likely these people would have been up here in the summer if the carrying was real rugged and over boulder fields as we found at the north end of Firedrake.

Pity the poor people though that follow the newer skidoo portages from lake to lake. They seek out the lower flatter muskegy bush. Distance is, of course, no object. On our second portage we spotted one of these and from the map it was easily 700 meters. We checked out a place where we suspected there might be a shorter trail and there it was, over a nice sandy ridge and a mere 250 meters long.

Now get this. Remember I was whimpering about my wrecked cup? Well I fixed it - sort of - with duct tape - and what do I find at the start of the second portage? A nice new melmac mug, in perfect condition, hanging in a tree. So I left my red wrecked one and took the new blue one. Could life get any better?


We stopped at an old cabin at the south end of Firedrake just before the narrows to Jost Lake. An odd place, as it looks relatively new and there are no obvious signs of a winter's trapping. We will have to ask about it in Black Lake when we finish the trip.

We are now into solid trees and saw our first paper birch - the down south kind - so the tundra camping is finished for this trip I suspect. It is so odd to be headed south after all the trips we have done from treeline to tundra..


The mosquitoes are relentless today. Unlike the blackflies who simply go up into the screened corners of our kitchen tarp, they swarm around our heads and make life very miserable. As the Dene would say, dejulie thon - lots of mosquitoes!

A few words about gear is in order. Every time Lynda puts on her Ostrom Nanibijou kitchen pack she says, "I love this pack." And I think the same when I hoist the Ostrom barrel harnesses and the royalight Novacraft prospector. Good gear really really shines when you are carrying. If it is an all lake or river trip you can get away with not so great gear. When you have to carry lots - and are 53 like I am - good gear is a blessing. We will be on to Anaunethad lake by tomorrow some time with any luck. Five portages, but they look like they might be short and easy.

In closing, once again the weather was great. Little wind but what there was was largely behind us and we had a nice mix of sun and cloud. This trip is proving to be real easy so
far - touch wood.


  Last Year La Ronge to Arviat 2002 Map
Introduction Story for the 2002 trip
Check out Bill and Lynda's
2001 trip to the Dubawnt River in NWT & Nunavut.
Bill Layman's bio - with other Trips & Stories by Bill.
Live text edited by
Joan Eyolfson Cadham, freelance writer/editor, Foam Lake Saskatchewan.


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