Bill Layman & Lynda Holland's 2002 trip
La Ronge to Arviat on Hudson Bay - 55 Days and 1000 miles.
   
 
Day #2 June 11, 2002
Both Tom and I slept as we haven't slept since we were last out in the wilds. In bed and crashed by 10. I woke but briefly a few times. Each time I was serenaded by the plaintive ancient sound of loons and small song birds, and the waves lapping against the rocks. As it was warm we had all the screen doors open and were opiated by the fresh crisp air. In town when I wake I struggle, most often with no success, to sleep again. Here I can't keep my eyes open as all that is the wilderness lulls and soothes me.
 
Bill, in the midst of sending e-mail updates from the floating office en route.
   
 
We are up by 6 and after coffee and granola hit the water by 7:30. A surprisingly fast start given it is our first night out, Tom is just learning what goes where, and we haven't yet the luxury, of the set mindless rhythm that Lynda and I have grown into. This leg of the trip with Tom will be good!
 
Tom, standing on a rocky outcropping on the shores of La Ronge
  Somehow, as always, the load in the canoe packs so much more efficiently than the first day. I used to fret about the way the load looked the first day out. It always seemed to be too much stuff in too little space, Now after years of this I know it will all pack better and better each day. And it does all fit much more nicely today.

We paddle about 10 miles fighting a head wind and are now stopped at 11 in a perfect little cove that breaks the wind. We will wait for an hour or so to see if it lets up, as the wind is sapping our energy and although we are moving, it is silly to fight it all day.

 
 
The canoe is but 20 feet from where I sit typing and Tom reading. A perfect flat table top of bare rock encrusted with almost fluorescent green and orange lichen. The bedrock is stepped such that we can lean against the "riser" of the second step and use it as a backrest.

Out of the wind the sun is baking us and I am ready to strip to my tee-shirt. And with no insects to bother us I am hard pressed to think of why we would leave this spot. Hard pressed that is except that Tom has to fly home to Pittsburgh and I have to get to Arviat before freeze up. More later at supper. Time to lay back, doze, and luxuriate in the splendour.

Well here I am at 1:30 barely 2 miles further on. We tried to move but it is really too much and the effort to reward ratio is just not good enough. We will wait and see if it lets up toward evening and grind out another 10 miles or so when it does. Two camp boats full of tourists just flew by and we have seen lots of planes today, A turbo Beaver, Cessna 185, and Twin Otters repeatedly fly over us en route to tourist camps on the Churchill River. How different this all is than 220 odd years ago when Etienne Waden set up the first fur trade post on what is now called Wadin Bay. We see beaver cuttings everywhere we stop and saw a beaver yesterday. The beaver was the prime reason people like Waden and Peter Pond and others came here. Their pelts could and did make men rich. Now the pelts are deemed all but worthless and they flourish un-molested. I had hoped to make the portage to Iskwatikan Lake tonight. If the wind lets up we might.

Well the wind didn't let up. It has been in our face and very strong all day. Now at 5:30 we camp exactly where Lynda and I camped once a few years ago when we went from Missinipe to La Ronge. We end the day with barely 16 miles and still about 4 to go to the portage to Iskwatikan. But it just wasn't worth the effort we were putting out. In any case we will see the Churchill river tomorrow.

Curried fresh potatoes, onions, carrots with caribou meat and couscous for supper. (Note to self don't let Lynda give you a bag of fresh food unless you have a group of 8 or a small fridge. We STILL have 2 potatoes, 2 carrots and a bag of asparagus left for gawd sake!) If I'm not too lazy perhaps Bear Creek Brownies for desert. Tom will be impressed the first time I make a cake you can bet!

 
Day #3 June 12, 2002

So I guess about half of my first e-mail got lost. I feel sorry for the poor folks at Out-There who had to try to think in my head and finish it. I think the part that was missing was about how the idea to carry to the lake from the house was hatched after several bottles of red wine and too many beer. At midnight it seemed like a great idea - as many ideas often do. By block five of the portage, the Wrath of the Red Wine was making me wish we were using my truck.

On to today. By 12:30, we were just finishing lunch, having been forced to stop yet again at 11:00 by one of the more persistent winds I have seen in this area. We barely eked out 7 or 8 miles and were now just at the entrance to Iskwatikan Lake. It was a howling wind reminiscent of the tundra, and we weren't going anywhere for awhile.

The transition as you head up the narrow bay to Rapid River is quite dramatic. It is a narrow channel with high rock shorelines and there is much more of the same after the portage to Hale Lake just before Iskwatikan. We stopped at one particularly gorgeous rock cliff encrusted with orange and green and black and brown lichens. The fluttering green leaves and white bark of the wizened white birch that seem to take hold in the tiniest of cracks in the rock contrasted with the earth tones of the rock beautifully. And wouldn't you just know it. We found a plaque for a Robert Hale who was killed in WW II on the cliff. This would have been put here by a relative, with the help of a friend of mine from La Ronge, Doug Chisholm. What a spot of rare beauty!

We stopped at the dam at the head of the portage and, after a quick look, made our way to the portage where there is a miniature railway for people to haul their fishing boats across. The track is mounted on a raised wooden walkway and we had a great dry level carry. The cart is at the other end and from past experience I know it is easier not to use it.

We found that our outfit can be carried in two trips each so we made good time. Years ago lots of the Stanley Mission crew used to portage their way into Lac la Ronge for commercial fish. Big Jim Mackenzie, Adam O Charles, Dan Roberts, all friends, used to make this trip across each spring. Big Jim could carry a 16 foot pound boat on his back up the trail to Iskwatikan past Nistowiak falls. I tried to carry one once and when my partner let it down onto my shoulders I felt as if I was being driven into the ground like a fence post. I was able to carry a 20 hp Mercury outboard across that more than one kilometer portage though. Now I doubt I could carry a motor like that more than a few hundred feet. And to think the Indian packers in the fur trade routinely carried over 200 pounds!

We have seen 13 eagles and a flock of about 40 pelicans on a rock reef. At one point I could see two mature and two immature eagles all soaring together. When the pelicans saw us they started to flap their way into the air but the wind is so strong they would sit a mere foot from the water suspended in place like great white helicopters.

Our lunch was a bit of an adventure today. Tom made bannock and said, " I think this is too wet?" When I looked, it appeared that he had made a frying pan of thin gruel. We had to add two more cups of flour to a 1 1/2 cup bannock to thicken it up. We could barely get through half of it and it felt like a great brick as it hit our stomachs. But it was a very tasty brick. With tea and Bear Creek salmon chowder and asparagus from our garden it was a fantastic meal. I do think I will have to get a ruler though. You see when Tom quartered the bannock, somehow he ended up with a piece that was easily half again as big as the one I got. And the piece I got is still weighting me down a full hour later. Does the boy have a tapeworm? His wife Karin warned me but maybe we will have to stop in South End at the Bay store.

The wind started to break a bit by 3:30 so we set off. We made it to just above Potter Rapids on Nistowiak Lake and our camp spot is great. I am at the kitchen right beside the edge of the lake sitting on a flat rock with the stove just to my right as I type. I can reach down to my feet and dip water from the lake and the tent is just up about 75 feet behind us on a great flat spot. The weather is breaking and tomorrow promises to be SUPER. We quit at 7:30 and supper was ready about 8:00.

   
 
After our obligatory stop at Nistowiak Falls (quite a sight) we visited with Big Jim for mere minutes and told him about our trip. All he said was, "I wish I could go with you." One of his clients who was listening said he had heard me on the radio this morning. He introduced us to his party, all from Moose Jaw. It turns out that three of them know a friend of mine, Rod Van Slyk. And, weirder is that I met Bonnie Stevenson's dad. Bonnie is a great friend of Lynda's and just spent three weeks with her in Mexico. Small world. I am supposed to say hi to Bonnie ... so "Hi Bonnie"  
Nistowiak Falls
   

Good night Lynda .... Tom is great but I do miss you and you would LOVE this spot.

   
  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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