Bill Layman & Lynda Holland's 2002 trip
La Ronge to Arviat on Hudson Bay - 55 Days and 1000 miles.
Day #8 Monday June 17, 2002

So where did that phrase " busy as a beaver" come from, anyway? I mean, the inference is clear. You think of a housewife making four pies and six loaves of bread as she does the laundry and washes the floors. Busy is always equated to productive busy when you think of beavers. Right? Well, let me tell you about the couple that came to visit us last night.

Bill at the west side of Steephill Rapids
  I surmise they were two young beavers out on a date. The guy had to show off, as young beavers and men are wont to do. With no car or boom box, he resorted to the only trick he knew. Every thirty seconds for over three hours he slapped his tail nearer and nearer to our tent at water's edge. Then he would make a dash out to mid-lake and start all over again. Once in awhile his girlfriend would slap from mid-lake where she patiently waited. I think she was telling him to grow up.
So, let's get real about the productive busy beaver. These ones were making lots of noise and not doing anything at all. Perhaps they are beavers in training for their own Federal Parliament? Anyway, neither of us got much sleep and, when we did, we had very odd dreams.

We got up late, at about 7:15, and would have been on the water by 8:30 but we had visitors from Pelican Narrows who were up moose hunting. Alphonse Dorion and Angus Sewap stopped in for coffee. We had a great visit - they both had heard me on the Dubawnt last year.

Tom, Alphonse and Angus
  I showed them the HP computer and sat phone and "Gus" thought it was very cool. We took pictures of each other and I told them to look on the Internet tonight and they would be famous.

Turns out that all the cabins we saw yesterday and, in fact, up to the end of Royal Lake are Pelican Narrows people. Man, do those guys travel a long way by boat. Alphonse said they have to carry 45 gallons to make the trip. It's hard to believe they can haul those 16 foot Lund boats with a 40 horse Mercury outboard across the boat skids. They told us that the guys fishing at Uskik Lake take their fish back to the fish plant in Pelican by boat. That has to be at least 10 boat ramp portages and 80 miles one way. With a boat loaded with probably 500 pounds of fish, they are sure earning their cash.

Gus and Alphonse got a one year old bull moose yesterday but all the meat was back in camp. Pity, as they would have given us a few pieces for sure. We stopped at the bottom of Steephill rapids and it is quite a drop. Our new friends told us about two Southend men who got swept over the falls when their motor wouldn't start. They both drowned . It was a grim reminder of what can happen in this country.  
Tom at the east side of Steephill Rapids
  We caught four walleye for lunch and tackled the boat ramp. How those Pelican folks ever get a boat over that hill is beyond me. We found a wonderful lunch spot on bare bedrock and had tea, fresh bannock, fried pickerel and some leftover Lemon Poppyseed cake. To die for.

At the north end of Royal Lake we found Ted the bear, who had just broken into and ransacked a trapper's cabin. We chased him off and I nailed the door shut.

Somehow the bear had managed to set off a HUGE bear trap and not get caught. One lucky bear I can tell you. We paddled away from the cabin into a narrows and who do we find but Ted, swimming across to the other shore. We chased him and I tried to get a few pictures. I noticed how low the bear was swimming in the water. All we could really see was his ears and a bit of his rump. This is one skinny hungry bear as a fat one would float much higher in the water. Good thing he didn't come into our camp when we made pizza last night.  
Bill with the gear
  We had wind in our face again. What else is new? The afternoon into the wind and upstream played us out and we quit early, at 5:00. Nothing special about this spot. We are on a marshy little island with just enough room for a tent and our kitchen tarp. Supper of beans and salt pork with some moose jerky thrown in. Sounds good to me.

We should be in Southend early the morning after next. We don't need a thing, but will probably buy a coke or something. Oh yes, Gus and Alphonse told us that there is a couple in front of us enroute to Stony Rapids. A retired couple from Regina if I got the story straight. Maybe we'll meet them on the Swan Blondeau section.

Day #9 Tuesday June 18, 2002
Nothing very exciting today. Funny how cold and rain will make you just not see how beautiful the country is. We stopped at the Whitesand dam and bumped into Fred Ulrikson (spelling?) and an American fisherman friend of his. Fred worked at the dam for about 25 years, I think he said. He and I got to talking and he remembers meeting John Albrecht (who went with P G Downes in his book Sleeping Island). His remembrance of John is what a story teller he was and how he loved to talk about trapping north of Stony Rapids into the land on the edge of the barrens.
Bill eating lunch
  Where Downes did a few trips into the north of old and wrote an excellent book, John spent his entire life ranging far and wide. He trapped and prospected and did whatever he had to do to survive in the land he loved. His time with Downes was only of countless trips. Fred, and others I have talked to who knew John, said he never spoke of that particular trip he did to Windy River. It is worth noting that he and another person whose name eludes me at the moment (Leroy Tobie, possibly) found the Nisto uranium showing on Black Lake.

While passing the dam, I was reminded of Downes mentioning Del Simons and saying that he had a hand in the dam. I have never found anything more about Del and his involvement, but as P G said, "Any time something big was on the go, Del was involved in it". ( I am working from memory, but this is essentially the drift of the quote .) Del was a character for sure and he shows up in much of what I have read. He went with Thierry Mallet and some guides from Bochet to the shores of Yathkyed Lake on the Kazan River before getting turned back by ice On this trip they met and traveled with the infamous Inuit (Eskimo or Husky as they called him) Kakoot whose grave on Dimma Lake Lynda and I have seen. Among a host of other skills, Del was a trapper and a trader and a tripper (one who went out in search of the fur rather than waiting for it to came to him at his posts). He was the first person to use a bush plane on charter to go out to get fur and to deliver it straight to Winnipeg. This guy thought big.

Southend, of course, has grown in leaps and bounds since the days of Billie Magee, Oberholtzer and Downes. In fact today I broke my fishing reel somehow and was bemoaning what one might cost in a northern community. I got to the Northern and found that they had $44.00 reels on sale for 70% off. I couldn't get a better deal in Saskatoon. We grabbed a bottle of Pepsi and a bag of Nacho chips each. Not 'cause we craved them, but because we had to paddle another two hours in a bad rain.

Of course, as expected by us each day, we paddled into the wind for half the day. Up 'till noon it was calm to a slight tail wind but all that time we were fighting a strong current. The wind hasn't been a problem up to now. The lakes we have been on are small enough that we could just about always paddle. Reindeer is about the 25th biggest lake in the world, I think. At 250 odd miles long, we won't be going far if there is wind. Right now the wind is up and I can see the breakers rolling past. Coming down the length of the lake, they are very nasty looking We may be paddling or sitting tomorrow. We are at the mercy of the weather.

Just as we left Southend a bright yellow Beaver float plane was flying north. Contrasted against the dark gray to black sky it was a sight to see.

We were up early today and ended the day with 24 miles. If we ever get a calm day, or a day with a tail wind look out.

Bear Creek chicken and dumplings tonight for supper. Very good! Tom said they have BC product in the Northern. Go figure. I happened to hear Missinipe Broadcasting in the store and they were talking about "Bill Layman's Trip to Nunavut" being one of the reasons to listen to the North at Noon. The clerk could see I was a paddler and asked "If I knew that guy?" When I told her that he was me she took the cheapie reel I wanted to buy and showed me the ones at 70% off. Gotta" love it.

Loons are calling everywhere right now and we must have seen at least 25 boats working their way back to Southend. Possibly guide boats for the camps?

Well, time to sign off. Good night Lynda. I'm missing you lots. Traveling without you is OK, but traveling with you is so much better.

  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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