Bill Layman & Lynda Holland's 2003 Porcupine River Trip
Vermette Lake, Northwest Territories to Stony Rapids, Saskatchewan
   
  Day #9 - Friday July 4, 2003 - Route Detail

Remember when I said that an east wind up here is real bad? Well here's today's picture.

Last night the thin line of white on the horizon and the dropping winds looked like we might get off easy. But then sometime during the night it started to blow again from the east. The temperature plummeted and then a light continuous drizzle started. When we woke, the waves were rolling into the rocky shoreline, the insects were all gone and the birds had stopped trilling. Little wonder, given that the tempearture according to my thermometer was 41 degrees F.

Like the fool I am, I pitched the tarp looking out at the lake and when the wind came up, it billowed up sail-like, pulling out the pegs and turning it into a sodden mass. It always looks way worse than it is though, when you are in a warm sleeping bag and don't want to get out of it. Ten minutes of frantic work and I had it turned around and re-erected with coffee on the go.

   
 
Now, at 2:00, it has not changed a bit and it looks like it will continue forever. How people ever lived up here without all the gear we have is still a mystery to me. Here we sit in our Marmot tent and down sleeping bags on thermarest pads with a kitchen tent complete with a Coleman stove and our biggest worry is that Lynda will run out of things to read. Our biggest decision for the day is whether to make curried hamburger with lemon poppy seed cake or black beans with amaretto poppy seed cake ... or perhaps seafood fettucine with chocolate pudding.
 
   
  When J W Tyrell came through this country on his way to the Dubawnt River in the summer of 1893, he had an outfit that was state of the art for the times. While the Dene were largely a "minimalist" society that carried the smallest amount possible, he took with him
 

 

 

" ... bacon, axes, flour, matches, oatmeal, alcohol, tin kettles, evaporated apples, apricots, sugar, frying-pans, dutch oven, rice, pepper, mustard, files, jam, tobacco, hard tack, candles, geological hammers, baking powder, pain killer, knives, forks, canned beef - fresh and corned, tin dishes, tarpaulins, water proof sacks.

Plus the tents, personal gear, rifles and shells, and mathematical and survey instruments, the estimated weight of their outfit was 4000 pounds. And all this was crammed into 18 foot Peterboro Canoe Company varnished cedar canoes capable of carrying 2000 pounds each and weighing, as he said, "only 120 pounds each.".

Contrast this to our outfit that is today's state of the art and there is little doubt Tyrell would be jealous. Where Lynda and I got away with two trips across each portagee for her and three for me on the Dubawnt - this trip two for each of us - Tyrell's packers weren't so lucky on their Dubawnt trip, having to make six loaded carries across each portage.

"For the past six day we had been labouring on long portages and during that time had carried the entire outfit for a distance of about 8 miles, over the roughest kind of country, representing a total transport of fifty-six miles, or a walk of 104 miles for each man. Sunday was spent, therefore, by all in enjoying complete rest."

 
     
 

Adeline Chaffee went through here with her new husband Jimmie Chaffie in the 1940s. It was spring and they planned to go to to Sid Carter's camp from a cabin called "Little Joe's cabin" on the north end of Firedrake to pick up her sister Mary. Adeline sees someone along the trail.

"So I yelled at Chafee, "Stop, someone's in the muskeg over there." And he turned the dogs around. It was a man by the name of Peterson (Oscar Peterson), a white guy from the west. He and his brother had a big tent set up there.

Peterson asks Jimmie Chaffee who Adeline is and if she is his wife.

Chaffee said, "Yeah," and Peterson said, "It must be her sister that drowned this fall. That's what Sid Carter told us.

... Mary was older than I was and the way she drowned it hurt me so badly. At the time it really took the heart right out of me. She was only a young woman. She wasn't married.

.... And that's where she is buried (on Mary Lake just south of Mosquito Lake). Those white people started calling the place Mary's Lake."

from "They Will Have Our Words: The Dene Elder's Project Volume 2." .

 
     
  Day #10 - Friday July 5, 2003 - Route Detail  
 

 

We were up at 6:30 as we had slept so much during the windbound day.

Not a very promising day, as there was still a solid sky of gray, misting rain, and an unrelenting north-east wind. But given that our line of travel for the day was largely to the south and east it looked doable - just doable - so we decided to give it a try.

Getting the canoe back into the water promised to be an adventure as the waves were breaking on the steep rocky shoreline. So I executed a half dozen black spruce and layered them into the waves and rocks so we could load on shore and slide the boat into the waves. It seemed like a great idea until I tried to wrench the canoe around so it would be at right angles to the shore and would slide out onto the bed of trees. The canoe just wouldn't co-operate, despite all my attemps to tug and pull and lift it. After about 3 or 4 minutes I remembered I had tied the other end to a tree because of the wind last night...

We paddled four hours at right angles to the wind and I was ready for a break when we spotted a perfect spot for the tarp and a hot lunch. Bannock, hot bean soup, and honeyed tea, and an hour and a half later we were ready to tackle the ocean again. And an ocean it was. We had been travelling down the west shore of Wholdaia Lake and that meant we had to make an open water crossing of some five miles at perfect right angles to the force of the north east waves that were piling up on over the full 12 mile length of the lake. Huge waves, easily over four feet and every few sets we would meet a set of three or four that were breaking and much much bigger. But the wind was steady and not gusting and the waves were about 10 feet apart so it was quite doable.

The Novacraft 17 foot prospector with a Northwater Rescue spraycover is an awesome combination. We bobbed over the tops of the waves and paddled like mad down the troughs. Every once in a bit I had to angle into the larger waves to stop them from breaking over the deck and it all went according to plan. We didn't even feel the need to change from our bent shaft Zaveral paddles to our Werner whitewater blades. But I can tell you if a tourist camp boat had seen us they would have declared us certifiably insane. They have a camp at the south end of the lake and they weren't even out fishing the part of the lake we crossed, preferrring, no doubt, to stay in sheltered bays near camp.

We are now at the south end of Wholdaia and after seven hours of paddling we managed 21 bone chilling and very tiring miles. We quit early. At 5:30, tea is ready and it is getting warmish under the tarp. But I doubt either of us will declare our feet warm for many hours after we are in our sleeping bags.

The sky is beginning to lift and the north east horizon is lightening. There has been the odd spot of blue as well, so we may yet see the sun tomorrow. But even if we do it is going to be REAL cold as this weather is coming all the way form the Arctic. You may have been wondering why I have not been mentioning fish. Too damn cold to really fish and all I am doing is the odd half-hearted cast. This has to end soon and I have to get my heart into it as we are both dying for a meal of fried pike.

We will be portaging into Flett Lake tomorrow by 10 or thereabouts. Lynda says I should mention that we are having chocolate pudding pie for dessert after a feast of East Indian Beans with shrimp and three cheese noodles.

Just too cold and wet for any pictures today, folks.

 

   
  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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