Bill Layman & Lynda Holland's 2002 trip
La Ronge, Saskatchewan to Arviat, Nunavut on Hudson Bay - 55 Days a 1000 Miles.
Day #18 Thurday June 27, 2002

Wow! Some day. It was hard times ten. But now, sitting under the kitchen tarp on one of the nicest little sand micro beaches I have ever seen, it is easy to forget the all-day slug.

We made it to Wollaston about 6:00, having started about 8:30. The portage where we camped was long, but excellent walking. Dry and an easy road. On the way back for our second load, I found the remains of an old freight sleigh, a huge contraption that must have failed to the point of abandonment.

Our Picturesque Micro Beach
  So many memories on this trail. The cat "skinner" working a 12 hour shift through the night. The cook making a pie in the kitchen sleigh, like the caboose on a train. The "Boss" sleeping until his shift on the cat. The "brakie" (gopher) doing all manner of odd jobs and hoping like hell that he can get a shot at driving the cat. "Maybe next year I'll get a shot at being a skinner, if I can impress the "Old Man.". And the stories and the celebrations at the rail head at the Flin Flon Hotel. Ollie, or Fritz or Hans swearing, "There's no damn way I'm freighting next year. Christ, if I keep this up, I'll drown with that god damn cat. When she went through on Reindeer River this year, I thought I was a goner. But then Svein remembered the damn big advance I had from him. He pulled me out so fast my socks hardly got wet." Story after story and round after round. And you know that they always went back. Once you're bit by the north, really bit, there's no place left for you. These men found that out and I found it out.

We opted to go to the south to Cairns Lake even though most people, I think, go to the north and west at Middle Lake. We had some hard lining-dragging between Middle Lake and Tighe Lake and even harder dragging into Cairns Lake. After some scouting about we found the portage to Wollaston. Wet and boggy all the way. To make it worse, the Wollaston guys don't seem to go this way often. So we had a hell of a time keeping to the trail toward the north Wollaston side. We did a lot of extra walking, and it was over horrible sucking bog and through thick tangled alders, black spruce and larch. We didn't find the real trail at this side until we were doing our last carry across. It was more fluke than good planning that we found it at all. I dropped the canoe at the 950 meter mark (I had the GPS running) and said something like: "Well I don't have a ^&*$##! freaking $%%^&* sniff of a %^&*%$ clue where those $%^&# Dene hunters went from here. Lets just head to the north west along this $%^&& bog." Tom took the canoe and so I could lead a line with my compass. Within a hundred paces, I was right on the trail. Ain't life like that.

We got onto the big lake and were looking for anywhere to stop. But it was all bog shore line fronted by huge boulders that wouldn't let you within a hundred meters. We paddled about an hour and this micro beach (see the picture) appeared, just like a gift from heaven.

It's now 8:30 and we have just finished curry, with fresh garlic and ginger no less. An Eatmore bar for dessert and I am going to crash and sleep the sleep of a little child. What a trip to get here. 1 1/2 hours by plane or 18 days by canoe. I'll take the canoe any day.

  Day #19 Friday June 28, 2002

Neither of us was in a hurry to get up this morning. Tired aching muscles and the fact that we knew we had the trip licked kept us in bed 'til 8:00. Besides, we could laze about because I had to do a radio interview with MBC at 9:30. We finally got rolling about 10:00.

Now at 5:30 we are less than 15 miles from Wollaston Post. And even though the trip isn't ending for me, it still feels like something major in my life has come to an end. For me, the question is always, "How many more trips will my body and my overall health let me do?" For Tom, at age 28, with all the demands of a new marriage and career choices to make, the question is, "When will my day-to-day life let me get up here again?"

Tom will be back. That's a certainty. It's just the question of when. Like me, he is lucky to have a gal, Karin, who also loves to paddle. In fact, that's how we met them. They were on a trip with two other people two years ago and we bumped into them on Aberdeen Lake en-route to Baker Lake.

Today when we woke up the smoke was incredible. You couldn't see 500 meters. The tarp and the tent were covered with fly ash. It was so bad, we didn't hear any planes taking off from the strip at Wollaston until noon. I have seen bad fire seasons up here, but this is REAL bad. The helicopter companies will be thrilled. There'll be tons of work for them this summer. But the povince's already slim budget surplus is going to get hit hard again.

The paddling today was surreal. We navigated by GPS alone and it was like being suspended in mid-air. With no up or down or side to side references. I felt like I had vertigo. Gotta' love that GPS, though. Pinpoint accuracy, and we weren't lost for a minute all morning.

During my interview this morning, Kelly Provost from MBC said his dad wanted to know how I kept all the electronics dry and how bulky it all was. Well, this picture shows it all. Of course I can't show the Hewlett Packard handheld PC and Pocket Camera as I needed them to take the picture, but the two leather cases under the phone are what they fit into. Everything fits into the Pelican case you see in the picture. Globalstar Satellite phone, HP handheld, HP camera, spare batteries, Socketcom cable to connect phone to handheld. Targus fold up keyboard. It really is a neat little package.  
The Field Equipment for the Web Cast
  The coffee cup is to give some sense of size. As to charging, I can carry all the extra re-chargeable batteries I need for 50 days in the box you see.

Over the next week I will be travelling to Stony Rapids, Black Lake, and Fond du Lac to do some environmental sampling work. I'll take some time at night to chat about some of the new gear I have. I've substituted a few pieces I didn't have last year, and it is all working amazingly well. One of the biggest improvements was to get a Coleman Exponent Apex 11 stove. I love it and Tom, a committed MSR fan, agrees that this stove is the way to go. And before I forget, I LOVE YOU OSTROM folks. The last two days of grinding, bug-infested, bog-to-your-ankles portages were made infinitely easier with your Nanibijou pack and deluxe barrel harnesses. Tom will be callin' from Pittsburg for sure, Bill and Anne.

Gotta' go. The pizza is ready. It's complete with fresh mozzarella, pepperoni and salami. God, I'm so hungry that I'm drooling. See ya all. Burgers and fries tomorrow night at the Wollaston Confectionery.

  Day #20 Saturday June 29, 2002

So we made it into Wollaston Post at noon. I had all these plans about what I was going to do vis a vis the sampling work that I do here. But then I got together with my pal George St. Pierre and found out there is a huge fish derby this weekend. First prize is $10,000.00 cash. Second prize is $8000. What do you think of the odds that anyone would go out to do the sampling work with this kind of cash on the table? Nil to none, I would wager.

So now I am up to my armpits in sampling equipment and dirty canoe clothes, and trying to figure out which way is up. I may end up going to Stony Rapids to do my sampling work there if I could track down the guys I work with, but I can't seem to find them. God, for all I know they are on their way here to the derby. Ah, the best laid plans. And I have to tell you that it always works like this when I come up here. I always have a plan and it always screws up one way or another. You'd think I'd learn.

One funny story. George told me to shave off my beard as he said I was scaring the little kids. I took my hat off and in front of about 20 people and said, "But George, when I take my hat off. it looks like my head is on upside down." Since I am, in fact, rather bald, they all nearly died laughing.

As soon as I get out sampling I will get some pictures of my pals and the work we are doing. Tonight I am way too confused and pooped. I really am having a terrible time reintegrating. "So what else is new," Lynda would be saying. Soon I will be back on the water en-route to Nueltin Lake with Lynda. Then things will make sense again.

The burger and fries for supper were good but last night's pizza was better.

  La Ronge to Arviat Trip Map
Here are the
Sponsors & 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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