Bill Layman & Lynda Holland's 2002 trip
La Ronge, Saskatchewan to Arviat, Nunavut on Hudson Bay - 55 Days and 1000 miles.
   
 
Day #40 Friday July 19, 2002

And once again I have to beg off on the bigger story. We are just now into camp at 8:00 after having started the morning at 8:30. We were over the Kasmere Portage, about 1.2 kilometers, in 2 1/2 hours - me in three trips, Lynda in two. And in spite of this big slow down we still cracked off 20 miles. We are going to get a late start tomorrow so I can catch up on all the history then. I am really too beat to go into a long diatribe now.

 
A Norseman
   
  It has been warm and sunny all day and we have had cross winds that kept my drawing my armpits off. But we ended at Graves Lake near the Dene graveyard we know about and that Downes mentioned. Our kitchen is right by the lake's edge on a perfect bed of tiny juniper and bear berry. The tent is mere feet behind. We will surely sleep well tonight. The sky promises no rain so we will leave the fly off and breath fresh clean northern air.

Tomorrow we will visit the graves. This is the spot where Billie and "Ober" met the camp of Dene. The pictures in "Toward Magnetic North" of the two Dene women were taken here. It is possible that they lie buried above us on the high sandy promontory that looks to the north and that countless thousands of caribou have walked upon. Downes visited this graveyard in 1939 and says, "In (the graveyard) were 25 graves. In the soft sand we found the recent tracks of a wolverine which had entered the enclosure and excavated the small grave of a child. There was something frightfully depressing and pitiful about this little graveyard on the hill. Each grave had a hand made rickety cross, Weather beaten, unpainted, and gray, and from each hung the deceased occupant's rosary. The Christian God had not guarded it very well if the wolverine tracks were any evidence."

My own feelings about this grave site couldn't be more different. To live and die here and then to lie on the top of this sand esker that looks to the north would suit me fine. I can only begin to imagine the feeling of oneness with this spot that the living felt. Your loved ones buried near you, and to see the caribou pass each year and to feast on them and fat whitefish and trout, I can't imagine wanting anything more.

We stopped at the new tourist camp on the south arm. It is fantastic, we had coffee with Don and Hazel - manager and cook. They told us there is a group of "tiny" Minnesota women in front of us by about a week. Don and Hazel were more than nice and later one of their camp boats gave us two ice cold Pepsi. The picture is of the Gurke family's (they own the camp) Norseman airplane. It is perhaps the nicest of its type I have ever seen. See ya all. Supper is ready.

   
  Day #41 Saturday July 20, 2002

For a bit of history about this route read:
Sleeping Island; P G Downes
Trader Trapper Tripper; S A Keighley
When the Foxes Ran; Gerry Dunning
On The Barrens; W G Ross; The Beaver, Autumn 1968
Toward Magnetic North; The Oberholtzer Foundation (ph: 507-532-5097)
Voyage to Nuthletin; R H Cockburn; The Beaver Jan-Feb 1986
Benasni; Forty Years with the Dene;
Lynda Holland

All the above are great reading and get you started on the wealth of material that is written about this area. This route we are on was a regular water highway for the fur trade starting in the early 1900s. Cree, White, Dene and Inuit all populated the area and their stories are fascinating.

Remember the other day when I said that we had a mishap at Caribou Rapids? Well, Ted Nagle et al ran right through the hole and swamped when they did it in 1928. This is an easy 8 foot hole that is at least 40 feet wide. To top it off, the sides of the hole curve upstream so it would really like to eat you. I thought we screwed up. YIKES!

Regarding Fort Hall that we passed by the other day. Well I have no real notes on hand and the following is the best my memory can do. Herbert Hall set up this HBC outpost, as well as Canoe Limit (on Putahow Lake where we are going), as well as an outpost at the south end of Ennadia Lake about 1906 to 1908. "Ober" and Billie saw him pass by in the middle of Mirond Lake when they stopped to talk to his brother Gordon. Herbert was just returning from 4 years at Ennadai.

These posts were primarily to trade with the Inuit of the Ennadia area (Farley Mowat's books "People of the Deer" and "The Desperate People" talk about them). The Inuit started to trade into Brochet after a Father Gaste travelled with Dene from Brochet to the area around Yathkyed Lake in the 1860s. In typical fashion, Hall of the HBC moved closer to his customers to ensure he got the fur. As an aside, Putahow means "he missed it" in Cree. Hall was to set up the Fort Hall Post on Puthaow but put it on Fort Hall by mistake.

A slowish day today. We were still in camp at 8:30 planning to try to do the 4 portages into the Putahow River system later in the day. Largely unused, these are a chore even if they are short. Tomorrow will see us at Eskimo Charlie Planinshek's Putahow homestead. And was he a story.

Message for Freddie Throassie in Black Lake or anyone that knows him. "This is the route you should use to get home this fall with your trip of kids and elders. You'd love it. Take the Little Partridge River to Kasmere lake and then you have an easy trip to the Cochrane River. I left a claim post (marked with red flagging) hammered into the ground about 3 miles upstream from the Kasmere Portage. It will show up on your right and marks a great camp spot where Dene have been camped recently. And as an added bonus I left a written IOU on the post and signed it. If the kids haul the post back to Black Lake and I get it in La Ronge it is worth $250 of Chester Fried Chicken. I know that about day 30 into your trip the thought of deep fried chicken would be darn good. Have a great trip ... I'll be thinking of you guys ... and we saw 6 moose already along the river from Bigstone rapids to Kasmere Lake so you should have good
luck on this route."

   
 
  We got away at 10:30 after a visit to the graves on top of the hill. Four portages later we are onto the Putahow River and will see Eskimo Charlie's tomorrow. As to these portages: we've been here before, but I couldn't see any sign of our last trip at all. I blazed out the first two so not even a blind person could get lost. The first was great walking and about 400 meters. The second was up one bitch of a hill at the start, but short at about 200 meters.
Another Portage
   
  The third is a tiny hop across and is a still active skidoo trail (the other ones will have parallel skidoo trails but they will be through low wet boggy areas). The last one is about 400 meters and is a maze through tangled deadfall. I'm glad they are behind us. At the end of the last one we saw the same ten foot high undercut red peat shore that Downes commented on in his trip through here with Alfred Peterson. That trip saw the pair get to Eskimo Charlie's and then back to Brochet.
   
  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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