Bill Layman & Lynda Holland's 2002 trip
La Ronge to Arviat on Hudson Bay - 55 Days and 1000 miles.
  Day #52 Wednesday July 31, 2002

It is now 11:00 a.m. and we are stuck in the same spot. The wind is still from the north east and has moderated somewhat. We could perhaps paddle, but the temperature has plummeted and there is still lots of rain and heavy mist. If any one of these things would change we're off. No rain, or no wind, or some sun. But with all of this added together it would be stupid to leave UNLESS there was some urgent reason.

I, of course, am growing very impatient as I watch our the daily average of our mileage plummet to an all time low. But we have food, good food and a warm (though rather odorous) tent. What often comes to mind is "I hope it gets better soon." But like Solomon Merasty told PG Downes, "It doesn't do any good to hope in this country. You just do the best you can."

We walked to a distant hill this morning and found a stone hunter's blind. It is always so fascinating to try to picture the day to day life of the people who made this thier home a thousand years ago.

Freddie Throassie and his crew from Black Lake should be hitting the water any day. I can't wait to swap stories with him when we get together this winter.

Time for cappuccino and bannock and dry meat.

We finally got a break at about 2:30 when the rain mostly quit. Still leaden skies and north east wind but it's doable.

So we packed and fled. Now at 8:30 we are out onto Nueltin proper and hoping for better wind tomorrow. If it stays the way it is now, we are pinned for sure. Two little portages from Smith Bay through a great little tundra lake. Fresh caribou tracks at both of them. Heavily rutted north south caribou trails cut across both of our portages.

Lynda Lining
  Got lucky and found a fantastic spot to camp with a sand beach and table top of low tundra. The sand would be nice for a swim on a hot day. But that ain't gonna' happen. Easy to unload the canoe though.
  Day #53 Thursday August 1, 2002

I am growing so very very tired of this weather. Last night it went calm and I thought we might finally have seen the end of the savage wind and bone chilling cold. Although it rained off and on all night, when we got up in the morning it seemed mostly calm although cold and overcast. When we started, we could actually see light blue spots of hope in the sky. Once the sun poked through as though it was trying to burn off the gray. Then within hours the wind started to pick up again, this time from the north and slightly west. And of course we are now headed right into it - again.

We made about 10 miles before we had to stop for lunch - we were exhausted from hammering into a relentless force greater than our combined strength. We tried to go after lunch but barely made two miles and are now pinned to the shore camped again. There are days when you can learn to loathe this country, when it just won't give you a break, when you are forced to fight into the wind hour after hour day after day, when you are so tired and wet and you stink so bad you would pay anything for a bath and a warm bed. Well today is one of those days. This is now the sixth day of fighting our way inch by inch to trip's end.

On the up side, at lunch we saw a young caribou within 150 feet of us, and when we paddled around a corner, two young males came racing down the bank. The first one leaped headlong into the lake to make crossing which was about 2 miles. The second saw us and did as caribou do. He stood and stared directly at us and then kicked one rear leg out at a funny angle. As if ready to bolt, he waited until his friend saw us and swam madly back to shore. Then the two charged up the hill and back out across the tundra.

Where we are now stuck the ground is an inter woven maze of dozens of caribou trails. From the high hill behind us, you can clearly see where they have been migrating for millennia passed this little narrows between Nueltin and a small landlocked lake. But today I'd trade it all for one warm windless day and clean dry underwear.

I caught three smallish trout. The one for lunch was delicious and two for supper will be as well.

P.S. Lynda says to tell everyone that she continues to maintain her sunny disposition and promises to wash my underwear the first day we get sun.

  Day #54 Friday August 2, 2002

Everything up to now has all been put into grave perspective. My frustration at the bad weather, the fact we haven't seen the sun for 6 days, the cold and wind, all seems like nothing now.

Last night, the weather got REALLY bad. The wind right now is easily 80 kilometers an hour and, after close to 24 hours, shows no sign of letting up. The tent is hanging in there. Just hanging in there. What I wouldn't give for our Everest stable Northface VE-25 right now.

We camped where we were forced to stop and are near lake's edge right in the path of this Arctic freight train. I had to stumble out in the pitch black and wind and rain at 3:00 am to collapse the kitchen fly before it destroyed itself. It took me hours to warm up again after being out just 10 minutes. The rain is as relentless as her sister the Arctic wind. It is coming down in buckets and is being driven at us in cold violent horizontal sheets.

We are getting by on handfuls of granola, Eatmore bars, and dry meat. All washed down with ice cold water. Coffee or tea or hot soup would be wonderful now! The temperature is anyone's guess but it isn't many degrees from freezing. Even by Arctic standards this is a long run of "SHIT" weather - six days and counting.

This is what I picture it is like in late fall, say August 30 in Nunavut. In our few years of travels up, here I have never been hit first with a North East storm of epic proportion, given a 5 hour break, and then hit with a North West storm of even more horrific ferocity. At best, this isn't fun. But add a few more kph to this wind and we are in serious trouble.

I think that after 24 hours we are now seeing this storm's angry apex of strength. God I hope so! But as to duration, I have no idea. And irony of ironies, there is a cabin less than four kilometers away, if worse came to worse. But it is across the lake and the waves are easily 6 feet high. It might as well be on the moon for all the good it can do us.

Somehow the Inuit and the Dene, not to mention Billie Magee and Ernest Oberholtzer, did it. How one would survive here day after day year after year from birth to death is beyond me.

Still Pinned by the Weather
  I will worship the sun when I see her next and give praise to any Arctic goddess who finally releases us from this misery.
  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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