Bill Layman & Lynda Holland's 2002 trip
La Ronge to Arviat on Hudson Bay - 55 Days and 1000 miles.
   
  Day #55 Saturday August 3, 2002
   
 
It's 11:30 am and although, mercifully, the rain has quit - it makes getting out to find stuff so much easier and when you get back to the tent you are only frozen and not soaked to the skin - the wind is still howling from the northwest like a banshee. The dark gray skies give no sign that it ever wants to quit.  
What a Week in a Tent Will do to You
   
  MIt's 11:30 am and although, mercifully, the rain has quit - it makes getting out to find stuff so much easier and when you get back to the tent you are only frozen and not soaked to the skin - the wind is still howling from the northwest like a banshee. The dark gray skies give no sign that it ever wants to quit.

I got up at 6:00 and dug around under the collapsed rain fly after unsuccessfully trying to erect it. The center pole, when raised into the wind, punched the reinforced material and the brass grommet right through the fly. I got out the stove and we made hot cereal and coffee in the vestibule of the tent. We melted 2 tablespoons of lard into the cereal and it was wonderful! What I wouldn't give right now for some Extra Greasy Kentucky Duck (as we call KFC in La Ronge) with some of those fries that seem to have soaked up a tablespoon of oil each.

This is now 7 straight days of "no sun, shit weather." It's a record for us that I would rather not have in the list of "Things we've done," thank you very much. On the plus side of today's ledger, when I crawled out of our rather smelly abode, 3 gorgeous male caribou were within 50 meters of me staring at the bright yellow "thing" on shore. Makes you wonder how many have walked past in the last two days as we lay curled up in our sleeping bags.

Lynda has just made her first venture out of the tent in the last 48 hours. We plan to have soup and make a bannock so she is set on getting a few more things out of the canoe and from under the tarp. I looked at the canoe this morning, and it was full of water to just under the seats. Now, that's some rain!

Things have now gone from "sinister and threatening and on the edge as it were " - the rain has quit and the flapping of the tent tells me the wind has gone down a notch or two even if it is still hard to walk into it - to " miserable but safe and easily survivable." But we have only made 35 miles and this setback has ended any plans to portage over into the longer route I had hoped to take on the Tha-ane River.

Lynda has work to worry about and the food we have left just wouldn't make it, I'm afraid. Some other year, I guess. !2:30. A Beaver took off from the camp across the lake. He just got out. Within 20 minutes the visibility dropped to zero as thick wet sheets of fog rolled in. You should have seen the plane when it turned downwind. It was going about twice as fast as any Beaver I've ever seen.

We just finished lunch and I took a look out toward a little willow-choked low spot about 150 meters from us. There was a male caribou browsing on leaves. I walked over and he seemed generally unconcerned about a goretex clad human. Neat.

4:00 PM. So out of nowhere a Transwest Twin Otter comes blasting over us at about 100 feet. Then he heads south and does an even lower pass. Almost like they are looking for us. Of course I freak out and think the Beaver I mentioned earlier has declared an emergency on our behalf and that they have launched the Twin from Lynn Lake. After a couple of phone calls to Transwest in La Ronge and Shaun at Nueltin Lake Lodge I find out that they are up here doing exploration. WHEW!

But a big thanks for checking us out to everyone at Transwest. And here I am for the first time ever with no VHF radio so I couldn't even talk to them to thank them. As to the wind and rain, Shaun says that in the 25 years of collected knowledge of weather between his dad and others at the camp they have never seen anything as bad as this. Now I don't feel so bad about being miserable. On the topic of Nueltin Lake Lodge, as is typical of northern camps, Shaun and his family are great people and will bend over about backwards to help if you have trouble. They better than anyone know how mean this country can be.

Later, all. And as stupid as it sounds, I'd still rather be here than just about anywhere else I can think of.

   
  Day #56 Sunday, August 4, 2002

I awoke off and on all night, as did Lynda, and we both sensed that the wind was calming a bit. When I got up at 5:30 it was still blowing but paddleable - just paddleable. And of course it was nearly in our face. We got going at 7:00 into a cold cold wind and intermittent rain and mist.

It was like paddling with an anchor tied to the canoe. Hard hard work and I spent the entire day drawing for all I was worth. It was touch and go as to whether we could keep moving forward but by 11:30 we had covered about 10 very hard miles. When we stopped for lunch, we were both exhausted, cold and wet. But after an hour and a half under the tarp and with some bannock, tea and soup in us, we felt like we just might make it to the last point on Nueltin where we would be turning and have the wind at our tail.

What a grind. An hour to go about 2 miles. Every stroke straining joints and muscles. Lynda's arthritic elbow and my old kayak shoulder "almost dislocation" made us two very sore paddlers. But we made it to the corner and surfed several miles to just where the river starts into Sealhole Lake.

Talk about surfing. Easy 3 1/2 foot plus waves and we were going at a slight angle to them. I had to keep straightening the boat out and be ever vigilant about our angle. No water rolled over the cover BUT it was so very very close. The wind picked up all day and is now almost straight out of the north.

There were a few minutes off and on when the sun poked out. This might be the end of 8 days of violent storms - touch wood. The sky is now filled with high white clouds with little glimpses of blue.

Cold or not, I had a quick "almost" bath where we are camped. I also got to wash my socks and underwear. Yippee! We finished the day at 4:30 and got about 19 tough miles closer to Arviat.

   
 
All the toil of the day was made worth it when we started to see tuktu (Inuit for caribou). It started when we were packing up this morning when over 25 "moms and tots" drifted by. It seemed that, on every hillside and around every corner, there were more of these lovely animals. We have seen over 80 now and will stop counting at 100. It's a game we play every year, but last year we never even got to 100.
Tuktu
   
  The females drop their antlers when they calve and they are just now growing fuzzy stumps that will be large racks by winter. The males have HUGE racks now that are covered in velvet and their coats are a deep chocolate brown with white rumps and chests - gorgeous creatures.

Tonight we are having baked beans with salt pork (I make my own, it keeps longer than can possibly be good for you) with bannock.

   
  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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