Bill Layman & Lynda Holland's 2002 trip
La Ronge, Saskatchewan to Arviat, Nunavut on Hudson Bay - 55 Days and 1000 miles.
Day #34 Saturday July 13, 2002

If I had a paved city block and a way to kick myself in the ass I would. I got suckered into a blind dead end bay today. I knew it was there but thought we were past the opening. Since both the bay and the proper route were both right turns, it was easy to do. We flew into the bay with the wind at our tail. Then when I found the error we had to "claw" back 2 1/2 miles into a horrendous wind. Four hours of paddling got us six miles on course and about 11 to 12 if you count the sight seeing. Worse problem is that it got us to the head of Bigstone Rapids exhausted and in no mood for serious whitewater.

Cooking the Trout on a Stick
  The camping here sucks big time. We are camped in a burn from last year or the year before. It is all muskeg and we are covered in soot and it just plain ole sucks. Furthermore, the tent is in about the worst spot I have seen this trip and, with a floor that looks like a roller coaster, it promises poor rest. The blackflies are out in droves. Not like the tundra, but bad enough. So, today isn't one of those "died and gone to heaven" days.

For those who are familiar with the book "Toward Magnetic North", I should note that Annie Benonie is the daughter of one Alphonse Chipewyan (Dzeylion) from the book. He would have guided Ober and Billie, if his wife hadn't objected. But ya know today I couldn't care less. I am too tired and hungry and the night is going to be a long uncomfortable one.

On the up side, at lunch one cast landed a five pound trout that we cooked on a stick. We also watched an eagle being tormented by a tern Here's hoping the rapids are OK. I hate camping at the top, and would like to have them over with.

Day #35 Sunday July 14, 2002

Ted Nagle, The Prospector North of 60 During August of 1928 he describes Bigstone Rapids: "From the top of the Bigstone Rapid it was like looking down a hill of white foam. Boulders as large as small rooms sat in the current, their watery skirts jade green and glassy smooth one minute, and the next frothy with bubbles."

The Easy Stretch of Bigstone Rapids
  Am I glad we didn't try to do Bigstone last night! It is really quite a piece of water and Nagle's description is apt, even if I would argue about the large boulders. To me it was like a serious class 3 mountain river. A wild series of S turns with only micro eddies for large sections and constant large breaking waves for all but one brief section you can paddle.

Lining is very very difficult since the current is ferocious right to the shore and the banks are undercut so you are always in deep water ... from knees to hips to up to my neck in a few places. Even against the shore there were lots of bad holes and tight turns that threatened to pull the boat into the main current. In a couple of the deeper sections along the shore I lost my footing and was literally swimming with the boat in hand until I could scramble back to my feet or grab the bank. We had both ropes on the back and would let it down 20 feet at a time. Then the bottom person would hold the boat until the top person could leap-frog down about 40 feet. We lined the entire rapid river right except for one section below a little mid-stream island where we had to do a wild ferry from right to left to miss a very nasty piece of lining.

The entire rapid has burned on both banks and there are sweepers and strainers all along. Thank God I had a small saw that Ric Drediger gave me years back, or we would still be there. Have you ever tried to use an axe to cut a tree that keeps bouncing in and out of the water? I must have cut ten longs that were more than six inches in diameter and as many small ones.

Three and a half hours to go about 2 kilometers. It beat portaging but not by much. For the serious river freaks, the drop in the 2 kilometers is 14 meters. Wahoo ... bob sled run or what!

To top it off we had a wild east wind into our face at the bottom of the rapid. Add this to my wet-to-the-neck clothing and I was shivering like I had hypothermia.

I know a great place for a lunch so we paddled like mad to get there. What did we find but a bunch of fishermen and guides from Wollaston Lake Lodge. They fed us deep fried fish and beans and bread and corn and Coke and pan fried potatoes and get this ... chocolate Macadamia nut cookies. Too good!

We stopped early, after only getting about 8 miles. We are wet and tired and the wind plain old sucks. It's raining now. We are sitting under our kitchen tarp and pizza is simmering. This spot is easily a hundred times better than last night's.

Oh... we saw a two year old bull moose at the top of the rapids.

  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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