Bill Layman & Lynda Holland's 2002 trip
La Ronge to Arviat on Hudson Bay - 55 Days and 1000 miles.
  Day #57 Monday August 5, 2002

We were up at 6:00 and had a late start what with some trouble with getting a sat phone signal for my CBC interview. Got moving at 8:30 and had to make one medium portage along the length of an island that bisects the river. Either side is not to be paddled. River right is an easily a class 4 to 5 - impossible really. The left side is a ledge - impossible - followed by a narrow chute a little further on that could be paddled if you were with multiple boats and ready for a swim. The last series of S turns into Sealhole Lake are pretty wild. We ran river right and then slid into a full front ferry to get to river left. Then another aggressive front ferry back to river right followed by another tricky front ferry to river left. Finally we had to do about 200 meters of lining to miss the really big stuff piled up on river right at the bottom. After that we were home free.

I thought of the following quote at the top of these S turns.

"The first time I came into a herd of Barren Land caribou it was like a wild dream - thousands and thousands of animals." William Douglas to PG Downes in 1936 at Southend

We didn't see thousands but as I scouted the S turns I heard Lynda say "Holy Shit!" I turned around to see about 100 caribou on a ridge not a 100 meters away, looking at me. Later, as we made our third ferry and sat in the eddy we saw another equally large group plunge headlong into the river just upstream from us and swim across right at a spot where we had to do some rather tricky paddling in BIG current. And this with calves less than 2 months old in the mini-herd. Can they swim!

We've quit counting now but we've seen caribou every 5 minutes all day. Our count was well over 250 before we stopped. Many have chosen to swim across right in front of us. As a matter of fact, as I type, 2 males just trotted by about a hundred meters from our very bright red kitchen and bright yellow tent.

It's a fine day to be alive. The wind is from the south and it is blue skies and warm temperatures. And yes I did "worship" the Arctic goddesses for the sun and weather. I am even glad to see the black flies back in clouds as this is a sign of warmth.

We stopped at the little red cabin just before the rapids out of Sealhole and found a note written on the wall yesterday from a Dene friend of ours. John Dantouse and about 6 others were up to hunt or do some land claims work - I'm not sure which.

The rapids out of Sealhole are fun but big. No subtle back ferries here. The current is hauling ass! The GPS recorded us at over 8 mph on slower stretches.

As we did our first front ferry into a big eddy on river right we found two boats from Nueltin Lake Lodge. The picture is of two of the fishermen. They gave us a trout and a greyling and I promised to put their picture on the web. Fair trade as I see it. The two guides were Ovide and Raymond Denecheszhe from Lac Brochet. They told us that the Twin Otter that buzzed us the other day was John and company. Man, do I wish we had met up with them as they almost certainly would have had fresh idthen.  
Trading Fish for Fame
  Anyway, in a very short day hour wise we made 20 miles and this with a bunch of scouting and a portage and a long visit with the fishermen. We are now in our first tundra camp, and we have 2 more fresh trout I caught for supper. Life is very good once again. This is a fantastic river.

What a difference 24 hours can make in this country.

  Day #58 Tuesday August 6, 2002

We woke at 6:00 to mounting south west winds and generally overcast skies. Not a nice day at all. Over coffee and granola, 5 caribou walked past us. How many passed during the night is anyone's guess.

By 9:30 we were at a nasty rapid that we ran and lined on river left in 97. So what did I do this time? Set off into the unknown and took the right side, of course. This is a big rough rapid and there is no clear line that I can see from either side. We worked our way down then lined an easy spot, then paddled some more and finally lined a tougher spot. The biggest problem was the wind driving up the river and making paddling and lining very difficult.
Lining a Gnarly Section
  Billie and "Ober" were on this river a long time and portaged a lot, partly, I am sure, as there was no way that help was coming if they had trouble. We, after all, have a Sat Phone and Personal Locator Beacon. Partly, though, I think their decision was due to the style of paddling that was prevalent up until a few decades ago. Now we use a "slower than current style" with lots of front and back ferries. Then the chosen method was "faster than current." In my mind, this style, as described below by P G Downes, is a sure recipe for disaster.

"The beauties of artistic and rhymthic paddling are forgotten. You claw and paddle with all your strength, in any fashion, manner, or method you can command at the moment. If possible, the canoe is kept moving faster than the current and so you paddle madly down the rapids to keep
steerage way."

For the rest of the morning we were fighting wind from hell. Where there was shelter from the wind the GPS showed us racing along at 7 mph. Into the wind, we were down to 2 and 3. We saw only a couple of caribou before we stopped for lunch. We were exhausted from fighting the
wind and had to stop on a rocky little island and fight for a lunch spot with the family of sea gulls who have taken possession.

After lunch it started to pour rain and inside 20 minutes the skies were leaden gray. But the wind stopped so we made good time. We saw 15 caribou on a nearby ridge and then within 30 minutes 9 more swam across right in front of us. For the rest of the afternoon we saw ones and twos and threes seemingly everywhere. Where we are now camped after 25 miles we saw 5 before we had the tent and kitchen up.

Bear Creek Brownies for dessert tonight. And Lynda rates these as an 11 on the 10 scale. Fresh trout for lunch again. All we are missing is a chicken Caesar salad and a good bottle of Chardonnay.

  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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