Bill Layman & Lynda Holland's 2002 trip
La Ronge to Arviat on Hudson Bay - 55 Days and 1000 miles.
Day #4 Thursday June 13, 2002

So, we are into a steady rhythm now. Up at 615, granola and coffee and off by 7:30 latest. As it has been every day since we started, there is wind in our face. Not a little wind, by the way. It really slows us to a crawl, although is not bad enough to force us to stop.

We dragged over the boat roller portage at Potter rapids on the south side of the river and take the obligatory pictures of a canoeist at the bottom of the falls.

Bill at Potter Rapids
  This section of the river to Drinking Lake and Drinking Lake itself is real neat. It has been burned and the new growth of largely aspen has taken over. You can still see the exposed bedrock that the fire left behind. Lovely granite greys and pinks and the whites of some quartz veins contrast wonderfully with the green shimmering aspen leaves and the standing gray dead trees.

Over the day we saw 15 plus bald eagles, one on a nest, one golden eagle, two ospreys, a pileated (Woody) woodpecker, and hundreds of soaring pelicans. We got to Island Portage into Keg Lake about 1100. I had run the north channel on the main branch of the river (south branch) before, so I decided we should do it.

As I usually do with Lynda, I told Tom the downside, assuming we would be just fine. I thought that we will take in water as I was too lazy to dig out the spraycover. I told him that at worst it was a safe swim, and we wouldn't die. Off we went. We didn't swim but we took in enough water that we looked like we were in a bath tub as we wallowed into some calm water. It is still quite cold. Little surprise, given that the ice has been off for mere weeks. We bailed out the boat and headed to a rocky outcrop where we lunched and dried everything out. As we munched on soggy bannock, I said to Tom. "You know the last time I ran this I just remembered it was with a cover on. I bet we would have been fine if we had put it on this time. What do you figure?"

He tried to be nice, but everything we own was out drying in the sun and I could tell he was struggling. But I am older, if not wiser than he is, and he has to treat me nicely. Oh by the by. We lost a bailing jug, so, Lynda, bring one to Wollaston with a carabiner, will you?

The afternoon was great as the wind finally died about 330 and we banged off miles like all get out. Keg Lake isn't burned and there must be every shade of green known to mankind with all the different trees. Dark green spruce, yellow green jackpine, bright green birch and somewhat darker green aspen, grayish green willows. It is so different than the tundra I have grown used to.

We are now at the entrance to Trade Lake, having lined down Keg Falls on river right (quite a feat, I can tell you) and running Grand Rapids on river right, which was real fun for all but the bottom 50 yards where we dragged the canoe over some trees ripped from the forest floor. These latter two adventures were with the spraycover on, in case you were wondering.

Tomorrow will see us going past the historic Frog Portage where we will stop to see the commemorative cairn. What an historic site this. The people that walked across it would fill up an entire e-mail. Tonight our kitchen is right on a long sloped smooth piece of gray bedrock where we were able to drag up the canoe fully loaded. The tent is in a tiny spot just big enough to barely fit it under towering aspen. The night is dead calm and there isn't a cloud in the sky so we decided not to put the fly on the tent. We opened all the roof vents so we can see the sky. I am very, very tired after pushing wind for four days and will sleep the sleep of a small child tonight.

It is now 915 and we have just finished Fettucine with four small fried pike which we almost totally devoured. Tom rates supper 9.5 plus on the 10 scale. A small flock of Pelicans just flew up the river, less than 250 feet from where I sit and as Tom has taken to saying often, "Life is very good right now." But then I don't know how much this means, as he has also taken to naming pieces of our outfit. His Crazy Creek chair is now called Larry and the egg flipper is called Bob.

I am exhausted and have to sign off. Pray for a calm week for us with scorching hot sun to melt the ice on Reindeer Lake. Frankly, I will be amazed if we don't run into ice there, given the late break up.

Night all, and sweet dreams, Lynda.

Day #5 Friday June 14, 2002

I forgot to mention yesterday that we saw a dog on the shore near the bottom of Grand Rapids. It no doubt belongs to a Pelican Narrows family camped somewhere on Trade Lake. Many people from Pelican get up to this lake and several families commercially fish the lake, primarily for walleye (pickerel). The last time I was through, there were lots of small planes, De Havilland Beavers and Cessna 185s, hauling the catches back to the packing plant in Pelican. This year we saw no one on the lake but just after we paddled away form the cairn at Frog Portage, a boat load of people were heading into the portage.

The Cairn at the Frog Portage
  We were both lazy this morning so didn't get up until 7:00 and finally hit the water at 8:30. Tom said he felt like he had gone a round with Mike Tyson when he got up. All I could think was, "Thank god it isn't only me that feels like I've been beat with a rubber hose!" At age 52 I ache in places I didn't even know I had when I was 30.

We got a break in the morning as the wind died down to flat calm and we gobbled up the miles. We made a quick stop for lunch at a Pelican Narrows cabin complete with a grass front yard. It was just like having a picnic. Off to the cairn at about one and we grabbed a few obligatory pictures. What luminaries of fur trade history have been past this point. Frobisher, Waden, Mackenzie, Thompson, Ross, Fidler, Henry, Pond, etc etc etc. And as to contemporary history, we have names like P G Downes, and Billie Magee and Ernest Oberholtzer. The former's book, Sleeping Island, and the recent book about "Ober" and Billie's trip, Toward Magnetic North, are must reads for anyone who is fascinated with this country. The pictures alone are worth the price. I can only imagine the thrill Ober felt as he took pictures of a York Boat and its Cree crew when he was somewhere near Pelican Narrows.. So odd to think that all the trade goods necessary to run the many fur trade posts of the early 1900s were freighted by water on this very same river we are paddling. These water routes were the highways of the north. Much of the freight was destined for the HBC Windy River Post run by the Schweder family at the north end of the Nueltin Lake. And I think I am doing quite a trip. Imagine if Tom and I had a thousand pounds of freight to deliver to Wollaston.

Another character of the north spent time in this country before moving on to Reindeer Lake and ultimately Putahow Lake near Nueltin Lake. Charlie Planinshek, known to those in this area as Farmer Charlie, had a farmstead near Frog Portage and actually made a rough flour with a home made grist mill made of two large circular flat rocks. He later moved on to the far north and was known then as Eskimo Charlie, as the area he lived in was frequented by the Inland Caribou Inuit from the Ennadai Lake area. Little has been written about this man who died alone at Putahow Lake but he shows up in many accounts of those who did write about their trips north. Lynda and I will once again visit Charlie's home, hidden behind his esker, and we will send in some pictures for sure.

We saw many bald eagles, another golden eagle, a pair of ospreys and countless loons and ducks. We also spotted a wolf and followed it along the shore down wind for the best part of a mile. Then it spotted us and was gone like a flash.

The weather in the afternoon was up and down like a yo-yo. One minute it was so hot we were almost melting and then a brief violent storm would hit and pin us on shore. In mere minutes a dead calm widening of the river would go from calm to 1 1/2 foot whitecaps with winds gusting easily to 30 mph.

The river is just that now - a river. There are no more lakes to cross for many days and, where we are now camped, the far shore is about 400 meters away. We are about 20 feet up from the river in an old camp from about 30 years ago. The view from where I sit is of an old burn of about 10 years ago. The new green growth is coming in thick. Mergansers are calling and the forest behind us is alive with the sounds of hundreds of little songbirds. As Tom would say "Life is very very good!"

We ended the day early with 20 miles and are now just ready for Bear Creek Damn Good Chili and Spinach Parmesan Bread. I suspect an early start tomorrow and many miles if the weather will cooperate.

I am so damn happy out here it hurts. Something about this soothes my soul and speaks to a primal need in a way I can't seem to find anywhere else.

Later all. Chow time.

  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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