Bill Layman & Lynda Holland's 2001 trip, on the
Dubawnt River in the North West Territories & Nunavut.

Tuesday July 03 / Wednesday July 04 / Thursday July 05 / Friday July 06 / Saturday July 07 /
Sunday July 08 / Monday July 09 / Tuesday July 10 / Wednesday July 11 / Thursday July 12 /
Friday July 13/ Saturday July 14 / Sunday July 15 / Monday July 16 / Tuesday July 17 /
Wednesday July 18 / Thursday July 19 / Friday July 20 / Saturday July 21 / Sunday July 22 /
Monday July 23 / Tuesday July 24 / Wednesday July 25 / Thursday July 26 / Friday July 27 /
Saturday July 28 / Sunday July 29 / Monday July 30 / Tuesday July 31 / Wednesday August 1
Thursday August 2 / Friday August 3 / Saturday August 4 / Sunday August 5 / Monday August 6 /
Tuesday August 7 / Wednesday August 8

 
Tuesday July 03
So the trip begins ... well sort of. We got up at 5:00 am and hit the road for Stony Rapids. Aside from a quick break at 7:00 am to do a radio interview with Sheila Coles of CBC Regina we drove straight through. The first 650 kms to Points North took 6 hours. The next 195 took 6.5 hours. WOW ...hardly a road at all, and lots of our Dene pals use it to go south for shopping.
 
 
It's a winter road that they use in the summer, a cross between a wilderness adventure and a Baja 4 wheel drive marathon. Premier Lorne Calvert and Highways Minister Pat Atkinson should be forced to drive it, so they can see what their Dene constituents are up against. Ministers Buckley Belanger and Keith Goulet could go along for the ride.

Anyway we finally got to Stony after some 13 hours... totally exhausted. The good news was that the Beaver airplane was just landing at the dock where we piled all our gear and canoe. The bad news was that the Resources guys commandeered the plane for a fire. We are now stuck overnight in Stony. We reloaded the truck, looked for a place to camp, and found a barely acceptable spot. Somehow it just isn't what we had planned for the first night. We wanted to get to Selwyn Lake tonight and this plain SUCKS!! Oh well ... the vagaries of the North test our resolve today.

 
Wednesday July 04 2001
Up at 7 and over to Northern Dene Airways to meet our pilot Charlie. He ties the canoe onto IFJ the Beaver and after our good-byes to Shauna the base manager (an Aussie go figure) and Jeff we hit the sky. A fine day and always fun to fly in a piece of history.... If those Beavers could talk! A gorgeous day with a high pressure moving in from the South so we might get some stable weather for a bit.
 
 
Charlie drops us at the south end of Selwyn and we hit the water by 9:30. A nice tail wind all day sees us cover about 22 miles in 6 hours paddling. Real pretty lake ... lots of open jackpine parkland bush and small wizened birch. Lots of great spots to camp and lunch and when we stop at noon it is in a spot of rare beauty ... and of course there is a Dene grave on top of the sandy knoll. It is an old grave that someone has erected a new picket fence around. For sure someone in Black Lake will know whose grave it is. Lots of sign of last winter's caribou harvest everywhere we stop. And speaking of caribou, in mere minutes wea are feasting on idthen (caribou in Dene ) along with potatoes and asparagus from our garden. I can smell it as I type! Huge fires to the north and west of us but they look too far away to do anything to slow us. We are camped right now just over the edge of the Sask border in the NWT and should see the portage to Flett Lake tomorrow or early the next day if the weather holds. We will both sleep well tonight after a GREAT first day. The black flies and the mosquitoes aren't' really bad yet but the VE 25 North Face and down bags sound great right now!! And as always the timeless rhythm of the paddle has quieted all the angst and confusion that clouds my brain in town .... SO FINE TO BE HERE
 

Thursday July 05 2001
South east wind all night blows in leaden skies and rain. I use the wind as an excuse and we get up late at 7. In the water by 8:30 after granola and coffee - with real milk as Lynda has secreted a litre in her pack.

We decide that Harry Stimson from North Face is a God after we try the new gortex in 5 hours of driving rain. The spray cover from Northwater is a blessing to help us keep warm and dry although we have waves breaking against us at 45 degrees to our line of travel all morning. We set up the kitchen tarp at lunch and have a great hot meal with bannock, soup and coffee. We are filthy, wet and cold and we LOVE it.

The familiar patterns we have learned fall into place and, even in the worst weather, few words need be spoken to get comfortable. The wind lets up a bit by 3 so we take off again for 2 1/2 hours and stop in another old Dene winter camp spot where the mosquitoes are from Hades. The north end of the lake is all boulder rock shoreline. Campspots are few and far between. The bush here is all pretty tight and mostly black spruce.

Paddled 6 1/2 hours today and covered 20 odd miles. We will be at the portage to Flett Lake by about 10 tomorrow. As I type, the wind is down. Perhaps it could be clear tomorrow Touch wood.

Supper of Black beans with salt pork, leftover caribou and teriyaki rice. Very good!

 
Friday July 06 2001
We were up at 6:30 and in the water by 8:00. Looked like a nice day with gentle South wind .... but that was just looks. Later we had rain and cold and then some sun then West wind then more rain. Weather in the NWT? Mercurial!

We passed some gorgeous campsites mere minutes from the less than great one we picked. Such is the life of a canoeist.

 
 
The shorelines here are mostly burned and coming back thick with birch. Just before the portage there is a gorgeous high rocky promontory that looks like a mountain. We arrived at the portage at 10:00, aided by a red plastic gas jug hung in a tree, left, no doubt, by a winter hunter from Black Lake.

I figure the portage at 1750 double paces = about 2.7 kms = 1.6 miles. It takes 3 round trips to move our mountain. And here's a note for you gear freaks ... a large barrel crammed with dry food with a Northface VE 25 on top carries easier with an Ostrom Deluxe harness than a small barrel with a Black Feather harness. As well, Lynda has fallen in love with the Nanabijou pack (spelling?) that we have fitted our kitchen into. Looks like the Ostroms are gonna' get a cheque outta me at trip's end.

We stage everything at the 2/3 mark where a trail to the east leads to Goo Tue, a small pond that is sacred to the Dene as a lake with healing properties. They still take water from it and the old and sick swear by it. We leave a kerchief ... a piece of clothing is to be left in respect ... drink some water and carry on.

Finally finish by 4:00 and have to quit paddling by 5:00 since there is a huge West wind and rain. Nice camp spot, though, so it is fine to be stopped. Besides, the muscles are aching. Only 12 miles of the trip eaten up today ... but we did walk about 10 miles. Did I mention that Lynda took to singing "Marching to Pretoria" and "The Howdy Doody Song" to keep up the pace? Has she finally lost her mind from living with me so long? Tune in next week to see!

Talked to a Single Otter today from Obre Lake Lodge. The pilot said he would drink a cold beer for us tonight.... DAMN him anyway.

Lynda says I wimpered too much today and calls me a grumpus because I wouldn't sing.

 
Saturday July 07 2001
And on the one topic all canoeists can seem to spend hours discussing ... FOOD. Last night was a sort of leftover soup stew and was tasty, but for dessert there was Lemon Poppy seed cake courtesy of Bear Creek Country Kitchens.

It is a real no brainer to bake with an Outback Oven. Lynda gave me a lecture when I told her I wanted to try baking a few years ago, but now she seems to have grown quite used to homemade pizza, spinach parmesan bread, and all manner of cakes. Strange how she complains no longer, is it not? But then, cake in bed seems to work wonders for most people's attitudes.

The wind shifted around to straight North last night and blew in cold air and rain showers. The fact we will be plowing head on into the wind, combined with the rain and some real sore portage muscles (note to self: skip this training on the job stategy and do some pre trip training next year) keep us in bed, each of us pretending to be asleep as we see how long we can delay the inevitable. My bladder gives out at 10:00 am and we get into the water by 11:30.

Slow going today with the wind in our faces. Camp spots are few and far between and we could have (and should have) gone further, but at 5:00 pm when a flat table top lichen covered spot shows up, we grab it even though we have only gone 14 miles.

Tried half heartedly to catch a pike for supper but we will have to settle for spaghetti and spinach parmesan bread with vanilla pudding for dessert. Life is sure tough n'est ce pas?

Last night we forgot to bring the bailing jug to the tent with us. Those in the know realize this is a crisis (bailing jug = pee jug, after all) when the mosquitoes are so thick that they sound like rain against the tent fly. I am sure I lost a liter of blood as I dashed out at 1:00 pm to relieve myself.

 
It is so light up here that last night at 12:30 we could still hear a Single Otter grinding away in the distance. The country is finally starting to flatten out and is more tight black spruce than anything. There's a bit of birch but the jackpine is pretty much all gone. Rocky shores and no sand to speak of. The odd barren land tundra spot with flat peat table tops appear sporadically. Lots more of this to come soon as we work our way from the trees to the tundra.  
 
We are within miles of Wholdai (this means pike in Dene) Lake and have taken a route to the north and east that is seldom used as most people head straight north and over the portage at the north end of Flett Lake.
 
Dubawnt River Map & Trip Outline
 
 

 

Press here if you have arrived at this page without
the navigation bar on the left