Bill Layman & Lynda Holland's 2002 trip
La Ronge, Saskatchewan to Arviat, Nunavut on Hudson Bay - 55 Days and 1000 miles.
Day #38 Wednesday July 17, 2002

IIt is like we have entered a whole new world. We follow a line of eskers all day toward the north east. The lakes are small and narrow. The water is crystal clear and a greenish blue ... what you expect to see in the mountains. A fire raced through this country about ten years ago. Now you see the standing dead gray jackpine and spruce.

Entire hillsides of dead bleached white birch looking like bones stand guard over the lush new green growth that blooms from the base where the roots still live.

A Spectacular Campsite
  Gashes of yellow sand are mixed with mats of emerald green bear berry. So different than the Cochrane.

Seven portages, from mere meters to half a kilometer, link this "chain of little lakes." Oddly, the portages are not much used in winter any longer. All we see are the deep groves cut into the sand by countless thousands of explorers and traders and, of course, the Dene families who lived here. This route was known to them for centuries and it was they who showed it to the first trappers and traders. A series of fur trade posts were situated along this highway of water in the early 1900s. Supplied from Brochet, this route and the portages we walked today saw Cree, White and Dene, searching out new territory.

Today on the trail into Blue Lake we walked by one huge spruce which was spared from death when the fires went through. One root of this tree crosses the trail. The root has been used as a stepping stone for all this time. Everyone, from Tyrell to "Ober" and Billie, to Downes, to Syd Keighley and Frenchy Tremblay, to Alphonse Chipewyan (Dzeylion), has walked on this very same root. I walked over it at least twelve times in my four trips past it. If that tree could talk, what stories.

The day started overcast with a light wind at our back. The mosquitoes were relentless and dogged us in clouds all day. But now we are on Fort Hall Lake at Casimir Aze's grave site. Buried at a narrows on a high sand hill, this strong-willed Dene man, who spent most of his life
between here and Windy River, was the first Chief of the Barren's Land Dene (Lac Brochet). When we rounded the point, Lynda called out, "We're back, old man." Tomorrow we'll visit the grave and leave some tea and dry meat.

Where we are camped is spectacular and as I sit under the kitchen tarp I can't think of a place I'd rather be. I should note two things. With seven portages, the Ostrom harnesses and packs showed their stuff. Carrying is always a pain but with Bill and Anne's gear it is way less pain. Thank God, as we have a 1.5 kilometer carry tomorrow.

And now to the mosquitoes. Have you ever watched how "pissed off" they get when they try to get into your bug shirt? I think it's good for them. As Downes said about blackflies (and it is apt for mosquitoes), "Whatever divinity brought these small monsters into the world bestowed upon the Man of the North a curse for which it will never be forgiven."


Day #39 Thursday July 18, 2002

So again the wind gods have arm wrestled. And again the "other guy" has won. Where we had a tail wind yesterday, today we have a "down the pipe in your face" wind. So we take a rest. I, of course, want to move. But as Lynda points out, we need the rest.

I can tell you one thing I REALLY miss about Tom. His muscles. For some reason, Lynda, at half his size and slightly older (I can't say her age of course) can't carry the same kind of loads. Go figure.

One nice thing is the sun today. We have wind, but it is hot hot hot. So hot I am going to go swimming.

We headed across to a place where Lynda has been told by Pierre Besskkystare that there are two graves. We didn't find the graves but we did find a lot of signs of winter camps. You can tell a winter camp because of the location. A summer camp would be on a higher open wind swept area to keep the bugs at bay. As well, the tree stumps are about 5 feet high so must have been cut off when the snow was deep. On the way back we stopped at the point across from Casimir's grave. We revisited the huge log and fencing wire corrals we found years back.

This was a caribou crossing and the Manitoba government decided to tag caribou in the 1950s. John MacDonald and Pierre Besskkystare and his brother, Baptiste, helped with this project. They must have had a pile of guys building the corrals and the fences that would lead the caribou in, as the structure is enormous. It even has a "chute" with a gate where the animals would have been singled out for tagging and release. Real neat.  
Inspecting the Caribou Corral
  It is now 1:00 and the wind is still rockin' hard, so who knows where we will camp tonight. One thing is for sure, though, we won't be able to do the same night paddles we are used to in the Arctic. It just gets too dark too fast in the tree line.

And for the first time on the trip, I couldn't catch an uldai (pike) for lunch. Poor Bill, I can hear you all saying.

We finally got away at 3:30. Its now 8:30 and we hammered into the wind and ended the day with about 10 miles. We stopped at what is left of Fort Hall after it burned. We are both tired and the rest of the story will come later.

We picked our our camp spot totally at random at a fairly new Dene camp. Signs of 3 tents set up for summer use. Lots of axe cut fire wood piled up. Just before we got here a 2 year old bull moose charged out from behind an island we were skirting. Then it swam across the river directly behind us. Neat.. that's the fourth one now.

Supper of fettucine and pike. Yes, I finally caught two little ones.My manhood has been redeemed.

  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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