Bill Layman & Lynda Holland's 2002 trip
La Ronge, Saskatchewan to Arviat, Nunavut on Hudson Bay - 55 Days a 1000 Miles.
   
 
Day #50 Monday July 29, 2002

Awake at 5:30 and up by 6:00, and we fooled ourselves into moving. It was still blowing like crazy from the east and misting to the point of rain, but we had sat still for a day and we felt we have to move. By noon, we were stopped cold at the point where Smith Bay turns to the south. It turned out that the wind we thought was an east wind was really a south east wind.

 
Waiting on the Weather
   
  Gigantic breakers are rolling in where we are now camped and there is no way we are going anywhere until this quits. It's hard to believe that it was so hot a few days ago that we were leaping into the lake with all our clothes. Now we are so cold that even after three hours in our sleeping bags, our feet are still freezing. We paddled Mink Rapids and it was big but thankfully short. On a day like this, every rapid looks much longer and much more sinister. We stopped at the Schweder's trading post at the mouth of the river. This is the independent post that Fred Sr opened after quitting the HBC in 1939. With his sons, Charles, Fred Jr. and Mike, they kept this post open until 1948 when the bottom fell out of fur prices and they were forced to leave the country.must already be making plans for where to go. God I hope these dreams never end.

Gerry Dunning's book "When the Foxes Ran" paints a fascinating picture of this family through Charlie's remembrances. When Francis Harper stayed with the family he captured many priceless images on film. The ones of the Inuit coming in to trade at the post are vivid in my memory. But for me, perhaps the most compelling image is the one of Mike about age 10, with Kukwik even younger and her brother Anoteelik about 15 on a caribou hunt. And they weren't play-acting. They went out on their own and killed and butchered their own meat where they camped many miles away from their home. Charlie recounts meeting on their respective trap lines when he and Fred Jr were still in their early teens. He had 28 white foxes and his brother over 60. Adults in the bodies of children.

 
Not Much Longer We Hope
  We paddled for two hours along the edge of a huge barren tundra "almost" mountain called Josie's hill. This hill is named for Joe Highway who in the '30s hunted and trapped and freighted into this country. From Brochet, he fell in love with this land and spent countless hours atop these hills scouting for the herds of caribou. Perhaps those who knew this area and Joe would have called the hill ," Joe his hill," which became Josie's hill. His son is no less than the noted playwright and novelist, Thompson Highway. From the tundra to Toronto in one generation.  
 
 
  Day #51 Tuesday July 30, 2002

Pity the unprepared in this country.

The skies are so low I can touch them. When it isn't pouring torrents, the violent north east wind literally drives fine sheets of mist into your very bones to numb and chill you. Pity the unprepared.

 
 
At worst I am growing bored by sitting. We are prepared. Layers of Northface fleece and gortex and a great little tent, a Marmot Swallow. Although my North face VE25 is a better bet for the extremes of more northern tundra wind and weather, the Swallow is a great tent. With its smaller foot print, I picked it for the leg of the trip where camp spots can be small and "tight". Today I would like the more spacious VE 25, but that is only a matter of greater comfort, not actual necessity.  
The Marmot Swallow
   
  Where I am writing, I am dry and relatively warm sitting under our kitchen tarp. As I said, I am getting restless to move. But, to go out in this would be foolhardy even if there was no wind. It would be to court hypothermia. I can see my breath and it can't be many degrees above freezing. Had I not previousl seen how fast this country can change its mind and go from a frozen wet desolate grayness to a warm welcoming paradise I would be worried about our trip.

As it is, I just have to wait. Right now, the way it looks, we could be here for weeks. As I said, pity the unprepared. Today we hiked to the top of the tundra hills that surround and somewhat shelter us from the wind. Large rocks of solid quartz are littered about. In several places, you can see where people long ago fashioned the stone spearpoints and arrowheads that they needed to kill idthen (caribou). Fed, clothed and sheltered by their friends the caribou, one can only wonder about the intense emotion that must have coursed through them as they saw the herds headed south. Is it any wonder that today their direct descendants the Dene can still be drawn into an animated conversation by one simple question, "Where are the caribou?"

This country and her mercurial nature are pure magic. For those who haven't seen it you can never know. And for you who have, her beauty will haunt your dreams until the day you die and, with luck, perhaps even longer.

   
  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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