|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 /
|Black flies, for those
who don't know the devils, always gravitate to the
ceiling and to the corners when enclosed in a tent or
under a fly. They just love to crawl on the fly screen.
Well here's the picture. While I was putting up the tent
I was COVERED in them and the droning noise was beyond
Just the act of quickly putting the sleeping bags and other gear into the tent allowed well over a THOUSAND inside. GAWD, what do the caribou do and what did the Dene and Inuit do without benefit of DEET and fly screen do? Where I sit under the tarp there are easily 5 thousand in each corner of the fly on the inside and many thousands more trying to crawl in. With several swipes of my hand down the corner I was able to crush enough of them to partially fill my cupped hands. I actually measured them in a small plastic measuring cup and it was well over the 1/2 cup mark, and that was just the few that I killed. There are easily ten times as many under the tarp with us. WOWWWW ...for the unprepared this would be a nightmare. They should run SURVIVOR up here. I doubt you would make a night without encephylactic shock setting in.
Walking down to the canoe is like walking through hail. If you reach up and clap your hands you kill about 50 a time. Anyway, where we sit life is fine and we are starting supper .... sea-food fettuccini tonight with trout pieces. YUMMY.
The other extremes today were weather and wildlife. About one hour after we hit the river I spotted a brown moving shape in the distance. One always gets excited and hopes for a muskox or a grizzly ( We still haven't seen the latter) but are usually happy enough to see a moose. This turned out to be a bull moose that we got to about a 150 feet from before it vanished along the island in the same direction we were floating. A cow got up to follow her mate and as we rounded the corner, there they were swimming across the river directly in front of us with a new-born calf in hot pursuit. The light was bad but I got some great shots of the bull running up the bank. Then about a minute later as we were talking about how neat it was to see 3 moose, we found 2 one-year-olds swimming across the river chasing their extended family. Five moose in five minutes. In all my years of canoes and working in the bush, this takes the cake for me.
The last extreme for the day was the weather. It started slightly overcast and gray and then a nice tail wind came up and blew us about 6 miles down Barlow Lake with Lynda hanging on to a jury rigged sail. Then, just as it started to sprinkle and the wind died we found this spectacular tundra island lunch spot. We had just taken out some fleece and gortex and were getting ready to rig up the kitchen tarp to stay dry when the sun poked out. In five minutes it was about 85 above.
After lunch we paddled in dead calm that felt and looked like we were moving through a giant bowl of jello. By the time we hit the north end of the lake some huge thunderheads were rolling in on us and just as we got the gortex out again. It hit us like a freight train. I could hear the wind moving at us. It sounded just like a low flying jet and I could actually see a squall line moving across the dead calm.
Within seconds rain drops the size of golf balls were hitting the lake, while, to our left, we could see clear blue sky and sun. Two perfect rainbows formed on the water, both seeming to originate from the canoe and angling away into the rain . Within a minute the two rainbows were moving away from us and soon were arched in the sky in front of us where I am used to seeing them. WHAT a day.
I haven't even told you about the tent adventure we had last night. You'll just have to wait for that one. To close, we saw 7 Actic loons today (we are in the Actic, after all) and had a pair of common loons dancing in front of us to try to distract us from their two young ones. Life is very good.
So here's the tent adventure story from a few nights ago. First I have to preface this by saying that I really like the new VE 25 tent that Harry Stimson and Rick Wood from Northface arranged for me to try, but those who want to use it on the tundra take heed. Two nights ago it was real hot out and the tent was kinda' warm, so I fell asleep naked lying on top of my sleeping bag. I mean where's the harm when you're in a bug proof tent and there are only a few mosquitoes floating around inside?
Anyway, I was in the "more asleep than awake" state. I could hear the odd mosquito humming around and would wait until I felt it land and then whack it without really interrupting my dream. But even in dreamland I was getting just a little tired of the humming and slapping, so I reluctantly woke up to see what was going on. I looked over at Lynda and she was lying there all squirreled into her sleeping bag with a real serious contemplative look on her face.
"So where the hell are all the mosquitoes coming from?" I asked.
With a look of total puzzlement she replied "I just don't know. It's so weird. I mean I thought we had killed them all and I checked to see that all the doors are shut."
Feeling pretty confident that it wasn't spontaneous generation of "mossies" I sat up to take a look around. Doors shut. No holes in the fly screen. Then I looked up and saw the roof vents open. But they're fly screened so no problem there. OOOPPPSSSS. Back up to the vents again. Lynda had opened the 18 inch zipper that you can use to get your hand outside to adjust the vents on the fly. The thousands of mosquitoes trapped under it were pouring in. They must have been excited when they saw 190 pounds of naked flesh just lying there for them to feast on, don't ya' figure? Is it possible that Lynda did this on purpose to poor little ole' me?
Anyway, Harry and Rick, here's my idea. In this day of liability issues and all the warning labels on everything you best get on this quick. How 'bout a SAFETY WARNING TAG on the outside vent access zippers? "WARNING! FAILURE TO OPERATE THIS ZIPPER IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE OWNER'S MANUAL CAN RESULT IN SEVERE BLOOD LOSS AND ANEMIA I!"
I was itchy for a few hours after that!
As for today, we are stopped dead at the entrance to Carey Lake at 10 where a strong east wind has us pinned down after 1 1/2 hours of paddling. The first rapids leaving Barlow is BIG and with the wind was tricky. We slid down river centre and back ferried into an eddy on river left. From there we did a really aggressive front ferry to river right through 2 to 3 foot breaking waves to an eddy. It was all really straight ahead from there but the wind was strong enough that we had to paddle REALLY hard just to get down the river. The camping along the north shore of the river between the two lakes would be truly spectacular. Lots of little eddies. Behind them are gravel beaches in front of flat tundra fields. Lots of grayling leaping about us as we sat in the eddies. I caught a 6 pound trout and lost a 10 pound or better pike.
With this wind, I wonder how long we will be stuck here. It could be days, or it could be calm as glass in an hour. Lots of parasitic jaegers ( I think that's what they are ) flying along the river's edge feasting on black flies. Even now with this wind the black flies are hitting my jacket hood by the hundreds and it sounds like rain. Someone told me that some idiot group wants to ban DEET because it's bad for my health. Before they do, I'm gonna' buy a 45 gallon drum of it.
Forgot to mention that a pair of ptarmigan starting clucking around the tent at about 3 last night. There's a noise that would have you reaching for a shotgun if you hadn't heard it before. It's now 6. The wind just picked up to gale force and then switched at about 90 degrees to almost south. It brought in some huge rain clouds, so we wrestled the tent up and dug in. No sooner had we finished getting ready for the violent night that we suspected was ahead than it went almost dead calm. It started to rain and the black flies started in earnest again. We could pack and race out of here but we are set up and say to heck with that. Perhaps an early start at 6 or thereabouts tomorrow.
And before all the above sounds like whimpering, I gotta' tell you that a bad day on the tundra is better than a good day in the city. It's pouring rain now, but we have curried trout with couscous on the go and the tea is steeping in the pot.
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