Bill Layman & Lynda Holland's 2002 trip
La Ronge to Arviat on Hudson Bay - 55 Days and 1000 miles.
  Day #44 Tuesday July 23, 2002

"We followed the river down to where it entered Nueltin, running all the rapids, some of them being very tricky. Later, we were told by the natives that the rapids on this river were impossible to run."

Sydney A Keighley, about his trip with Albert "Frenchy" Tremblay down the Putahow River to Simon's Point on Neultin Lake during the fall of 1927. And if you think my trip with Lynda is a big deal listen to this. They left Stanley Mission with their wives on July 25, just to get up here to trap for the winter. And Syd and his wife Rachael brought their three week old son Cyril along. WOW!

It is now 8:00 pm and we have just got camp set up. We were up at 6:30
today but had a long day - miles and rapids. It took us until noon to get just 7 miles from Boal Lake to Cote Lake. The drop, over a distance of about 2.5 miles is roughly 40 feet and it all happens through five wild narrow steep drops. We lined one all the way, portaged one, half lined and ran one and outright ran two. The water is way higher than when we were here in 1996 and it was a tricky morning. No way Syd would have been running this stuff, I can tell ya'.
Looking Back at a One of the Rapids We Ran
  Stopped at Cote Lake for lunch. After a tough morning it is such a treat to float into this lake. It looks like Coney Island with miles of sand beaches and eskers. There are a few tundra type islands in it. Round domes with a fringe of black spruce all round and part way up to the high center. Then, part way up the incline, the trees peter out.. whether due to lack of water, poor soil, or just too much darn wind and cold is anyone's guess. The sides and top look so much like tundra or what you would expect in an alpine setting.
We stopped at the first such island and found what remains of a note we left in '96 in a rock cairn we made at the "summit". I left a new note and the remains of the old one in a ziplock bag. I noticed that, in the original, we said we would be back. And here we are.

The afternoon was long with wind in our face but at least the many rapids weren't too wild.

Lynda and the Cairn at Cote Lake
  We ran them all without scouting, several being very tricky and several just plain ole' fun. The drop from Cote Lake to Nueltin Lake is about 60 feet but it happens slowly, mile after mile, as opposed to this morning's abrupt intensity.

At one of the rapids I found my fold up wood saw that I lost 6 years ago. It is now tied with a piece of blue rope into a tree at the top of the portage. While portaging, I found a leg hold trap buried in the moss. I hung it from a small spruce tree at the bottom of the trail..

We are now at Simon's Point, named after the infamous Del Simons. So many stories to tell about him and this place. This is where P G Downes and John Albrecht met the Dene men, Lopison (Robinso Throassie) and Zahbadeese (John Baptiste Tssessaze) who guided them to Windy River in 1939.

Of the Dene camp he says "Here the worm eaten faded pages of (Samuel) Hearne's narrative in my library so far away had come alive. In one hundred and fifty years, despite the whiteman and the airplane, the cycle of life was just the same. Here was something which in a few short years was destined to never be repeated again: a strange people, a brave people, with a heritage and way of life stretching back through the mists of time."

Such a lake, Nueltin. Lynda and I have seen it four times. And four hundred would not be too many.

  Day #45 Wednesday July 24, 2002
We slept in today and didn't get out of camp until almost 10:30. We were "whupped" after yesterday's paddle into the wind and all the lining and the carrying. Besides it looked like a horrid day and in fact it rained most of the morning. But the lake was calm as glass so we set off.

We visited a few old Dene camps on the shore and stopped for lunch on a great little rock point. Generally we took it real easy to let our bodies recover a bit. We quit early on a gorgeous tundra island at 4:30 after barely making 13 miles. That's OK. We need the break.

Our Tundra Camp
  We are now camped about 5 miles into Nunavut. The Putahow put us into Nunavut briefly but then headed us back to the south and east. There is a drastic change in the country today. The islands are fringed with rock and boulder shorelines. Blackspruce grow in clumps so tightknit that you couldn't force your way in for love nor money. The tops of the islands are largely bare of trees but a gorgeous mat of miniature Labrador tea, juniper, cranberries and bearberry, mixed in with the caribou moss to make a luxuriant floor for our kitchen. Large rocks, from table size on down dot the islands. Covered with green and red and black mosses and lichens they are a sight to behold. All together, the scenery is probably best described as alpine but however you care to describe it, I love it.

You can walk for miles in this country and you can see forever. It is so fascinating to see 360 degrees of weather. It can be clear blue skies in front of you and huge thunderheads behind.

Now, about the bugs. How'd the Inuit and Dene do it without DEET? Probably the same way we will have to soon now that the idiot mandarins in Ottawa have banned 95% DEET! I can't believe they did it. I heard this lady on CBC from Health Canada say that "we haven't got any proof at all that DEET is harmful, but you can't be too careful." I knew the ban was coming, so I bought 75 bottles of it. I also got some great stuff made by 3M. It's a cream based repellent that has 31.58% DEET in it. Called ULTRATHON, it really works. But now I find out from the folks at 3M that since the luddite Canadian ban is at the 30 % level we can't even get this stuff up here legally. It's rules like this that make me so proud to be a Canadian. I had Tom bring 24 tubes of ULTRATHON up with him from Pittsburgh. The Customs guys looked at him like he was crazy. Lucky he didn't get thrown in jail.

We have been putting our "Original Bugshirt Company" bug shirts through a workout. On the uncleared bush portages where we were crashing through trees I was worried about ripping the no-see-um mesh. But here on the tundra they are GREAT.

We are camped right next to "Indian Camp Island". This is the "Sleeping Island" of PG Downes' book. In Dene it is called New-al-thin. Hence the name Nueltin Lake. Downes notes how hard, if
not impossible, it would have been for him and John to navigate through the labyrinth maze of islands on this lake. Yet somehow, without benefit of maps or guides, Billie Magee and Ernest "Ober" Oberholtzer did it. And they did it in 1912, fully 27 years before PG Downes. Strangely, their feat was largely unknown until the last 20 odd years. "However did they do it?" I think each time I have worked my way north along this 100 mile maze.

I picked a bowlful of last year's cranberries. Lynda is going to add them to some rehydrated strawberries and blueberries. This, along with a brown sugar/chopped nut mix will serve as a garnish atop a vanilla pudding mix that is setting into a baked pie crust. YUMMY.

  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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