Bill Layman & Lynda Holland's 2003 Porcupine River Trip
Vermette Lake, Northwest Territories to Stony Rapids, Saskatchewan
   
  Day #7 - Wednesday July 2, 2003 - Route Detail

A hot clear night last night so I left the fly off the tent. By morning, the temperature had dropped and the inside of the tent roof was covered with drops of water ready to fall. Getting dressed was a wet adventure. Lynda has taken to staying asleep to the last minute, which means I pack my bag, roll up my thermarest and get dressed, then I have to roll her out of her bag so I can pack it and the thermarest. At this point she is still trying to sleep on the cold tent floor curled up in her silk bag liner. She relinquishes it with little grace as I roll her out onto the floor.

A nice day with cloud and sun intermixed so we don't overheat or get chilled. We do have to push into a head wind for about 4 hours but it is a price worth paying as the blackflies and mosquitoes are held at bay on our portages. What I thought, from other trip notes, would be many portages today turned into one easy short dry carry and another short ugly carry through a tangled burn and a muskeg up to your knees in spots. But largely we found rocky creeks that we could line and paddle all the way. Bonus!

We are now camped at the north end of Anaunethad Lake after about 14 miles. This trip is going quicker than I thought, largely as the carrying is far shorter and easer than I had expected. Lynda says it is because I make her carry all the heavy stuff. But if you have read the Hearne Journals you will see that the Chipewyan chief Matonabee said that women were supposed to carry everything to leave the men free to hunt. Works for me.

The country has changed dramatically. Low marshy wet indeterminate shorelines with tight knit black spruce up to the shore. No sand to be seen, and to unload you are up to your "you know whats" in cold water trying to balance on slippery moss-covered rocks. Camp spots are at a premium as opposed to a few days ago when we could camp virtually anywhere. A one-word description for this country would be "ugly."

Today was our first real day of blackflies. They were and still are bad but in no way near as horrific as we have seen in years past. We saw 6 or more bald eagles today and found an active osprey nest on a rock in mid-lake with 4 mottled brown white eggs inside. We took a few quick pictures as the parents-to-be wheeled overhead sounding warning calls and swooping low over us. On a hot day like this I don't worry about the eggs chilling when the mother flies off the nest. On a cold windy day, it would be another story and I would give the nest a wide berth.

   
 

Now at 6:00 we have camp set up and I can smell spaghetti sauce mingled with the Labrador tea that graces our kitchen. We had a south east shifting to east wind all day so the weather tomorrow is anyone's guess. East winds are really unpredictable in this country.

Since we have a few days of open lake, I am going to try for some fish tomorrow. With any luck we will get some uldai - Dene for pike - for tomorrow’s luncheon feast.

 
   
  Day #8 - Thursday July 3, 2003 - Route Detail
   
  Let's start with the here and now for a change.  
     
 

It's sprinkling rain and the view out from under the kitchen tarp is of a dark solid gray sky with a thin line of white hanging over a solid wall of black spruce that cling to the edge of the far north east shore. Quite dramatic, but not nearly as spectacular as the view behind us. We are on a tundra-topped island that is fringed with black spruce, in the middle of Anaunethad Lake just past the first narrows - about mid-way to Wholdaia Lake. Behind us, for as far as the eye can see, the view on the top of this several-mile-long island is of millions of white flowering Labrador tea plants and half as many pink flowering bog laurel. The odd black spruce trees in the midst of this sea of beauty look oddly like sentinels on guard. I hope the rain lets up so I can get a picture tomorrow. It is truely a wondrous sight and the smell is an aphrodisiac after a long hard day of slogging into an unrelenting wind.

 
 

It is now just past 6:00. We paddled for 7 total hours into an east wind. Each paddle stroke felt like we had a giant weight dragging behind the canoe. If we let up for even a second we were stopped dead in the water. The first crossing we did was over 3 miles and it was big all the way as we cut at 45 degrees into 3 foot and better swells. Without the spraycover we would have been stuck on shore all day.

 

 
 

About noon we stopped mid-lake on the most curious island. A high sand gravel esker with large areas of giant - for this country - spruce, some large wizened birch and the odd trembling aspen. At the tail end of the island we spotted a cabin and pulled in. Located on a large flat area of "parkland" carpeted with caribou moss, it is nothing more than a set of walls that has never seen a floor or a roof. The logs are all gray and weathered so it is 5 to 10 years, old I would guess. A lovely spot of rare beauty on this lake.

 

 
 

Just as we were leaving a mother spruce grouse strutted by me, tail in full fan and making all manner of noise. When my eyes were drawn to her, I noticed 6 baby grouse running behind her. She herded them off to safety and we watched as she started to feed and they gathered about her.

Our lunch spot was one of pure functionality. Good spots to stop are hard to come by on this lake and we stopped at the first open break we could find along the shoreline. We have taken to putting up the kitchen fly even for lunch as it only takes a few minutes and with the warmth from our Coleman Apex stove we can warm up nicely on even the coldest day. The spot was so small the nose of the canoe was actually in the front corner of the tarp.

This tarp is without a doubt the key to our comfort out here. I just wrote a piece for Kanawa about how to make one, and anyone who comes into this country without one is making a big mistake in our humble opinion. It really makes all the difference in the world on cold, wet or buggy days. Trust me. You need one. Right now, it is raining harder and harder, the mosquitoes are thick beyond thick, it is cold, and we are warm, dry and laughing at the mosquitoes clinging to the outside of the fly screen.

We saw a Beaver airplane fly into somewhere just north of our route and then fly off again. Perhaps a tourist camp somewhere on this lake? Tomorrow will see us on Wholdaia Lake, weather permitting. W e have already decided to take a day off if it is still raining tomorrow as we are ahead of schedule and, truth be known, tired from the two days of wind and all the portages. And as Lynda says, "It isn't a race."

I STILL didn't get my pike for lunch. The weather was just too ugly for fishing. This is the longest "no fish" ever, for a canoe trip for us.

 
     
 

 

 
 
   
 

 

   
  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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