|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 /
|The lack of food and the
fact that the last Dene they saw on Selwyn Lake told them
how ferocious the river was and that they would surely be
killed and eaten by the Eskimos must have had mutiny a
few days away at best. It is neat to think that, in 1893,
the crew consisted of the relatives of people we know.
You see, as well as 3 Mohawks, he had a Francois Maurice and James Corrigal from Isle a la Crosse and John Flett from Prince Albert. All these last names are still all over the north of Saskatchewan. Interestingly, although Guy Blanchet did a section of this river in the thirties (I think) the next recreational trip wasn't until the 1950s when 6 Americans went from Black Lake to Baker Lake. The leader, Art Moffat, tragically lost his life on this trip.. If you do some rough guesstimate math you can figure that less than a thousand people have seen this river. I figure closer to 500. I only know 3 other Saskatchewan people who have done it, although there may be more.
Talked to a Single Otter from Tukto Lodge on Mosquito Lake and the pilot said he saw 40 muskox at the north end of Carey Lake. We never did see them. DARN !
Lunch of fresh caught trout and bannock on a gorgeous little tundra island. While I fried trout, Lynda found a Viking site where some hunter had been making tools from quartz. Lots of cast of pieces were scattered about. So neat to think that people were at this spot centuries ago.
We are now half way between Carey Lake and Markham Lake after running and lining all the rapids. WOW. Big stuff! My advice is to take the left channel where the river splits around an island. We viewed the right channel from the bottom and it is HORRENDOUS. The first rapid on the left channel is runnable river left. The next rapid is probably all runnable but being a single boat we ran the top river left, then I lined a bit and then we ran the bottom. From there on it is a piece of cake as they say.
Did I mention I identified myself to the pilot in airplane lingo? All Canadian planes are registered as CG-AAA or CF-AAA (where the AAA can be any 3 letters). So I called him as follows ... "Single Otter, this is BFWG"... He replied asking for the call sign again. Then I told him that I was a canoe and BFWG stood for Bald Fat White Guy.
On the topic of Tukto Lodge, Bob the owner can rent you canoes and has planes to fly you around the area for both put-in and pickup. As well, you can get from Winnipeg to the air strip at Kasbal Lake on a several times a week commercial big plane. Bob can pick you up on floats from there or you can leave directly down the Kazan River. There are lots of good rivers proximal to these camps and from my dealings with Bob and with Doug Hill who runs the lodge at Kasbal Lake, they are happy to do business with canoe people. I will give better information about both of these options to OUT-THERE when I get back to the real world. Pizza is about done so, gotta' run, kiddies.
|Wednesday July 18
Ah, the best laid plans go oft astray. A HUGE violent storm hit last night from the east. Much thunder and lightning and really heavy rain.
I had to run out and collapse the kitchen fly lest we lose it. This is when you either love or hate your tent. We love the VE-25. Not a drop of water got in and the design is good for more wind than we got - and we got lots.
Unlikely we will be moving today but you just never know up here. There are still thunderheads moving through, and the thought of getting out of a warm down bag is strangely unattractive.
Now it is the next day (Thursday). We are up and have decided to try to move. The wind is still strong from the east but down somewhat at last so we might be able to sneak down the east sore of Nicholson Lake.
It may sound strange, but our decision is based largely on this fact: where we set up the tent, I have been sleeping with a huge boulder in my back and can find no way to get comfortable. Besides, there are no fish to be had from shore and Lynda keeps beating me at every card game I know. Isn't this the way all good wilderness decisions are made?
We have been hearing lots of sandhill cranes just across the bay but little else today. The skies are solid grey and it is as cold as a politician's heart at tax time. We are wearing so many clothes that we look like we are ready to go cross country skiing
Hope the rapids are easy, but kinda' doubt that. We may well be carrying later today ....
|It was relatively easy
and saw us do a ferry from river right to an eddy on
river left. One more ferry back to the right and we were
through. The next one, where everyone we read about
carried, looked awful but it turned out to be cheatable
down river right with us tail in and backferrying around
We stopped for lunch. I was thrilled that we had avoided a portage and that the rest of the river to the last rapid before Dubawnt Lake would be a float. By now it was really blowing from the north east, the ceiling was down to nothing, and we were getting a steady drizzle. This was not the kind of day that instills confidence when running rapids. Funny how a sunny day makes all rapids look easier.
After lunch we took off, ready for a float. Oops. We came to a double S turn that no one had even mentioned .... and it was screamin' big. Tons of volume right now and we had to do 2 front ferries through big pushy stuff. I actually got that "what the hell am I doing out here?" feeling on one ferry. It was no joke. If you dumped here you wouldn't get out for miles - if at all.
This must be really HIGH volume. Neither of the other groups mentioned this section. Besides, the dock back at Wholdai Lake was a foot under water. One group from Camp Widgiwagan said "the river picks up speed from here." Understated or what? It's like a huge freight train from Nicholson Lake. Very reminiscent of the Coppermine River at Sandstone or Escape Rapids ....big and pushy like crazy!
Anyway, we lived. We made 18 miles in spite of all the wind and scouting of rapids. We are now camped right beside river's edge in a spectacular spot. The weather is horrid, wet and freezing cold, sky gray and a fine mist of rain, wind strong and still from the north east. I doubt we will be moving tomorrow. Even if we did, the second we get to Dubawnt we would be stopped dead, and it's only 20 miles away. If there is ice on Dubawnt it will all be pushed against the west shore and we will have to wait for a west wind to move it. This is highly likely given that other groups, Tyrell included, have been stopped by ice in early August.
Besides, weather aside, this is a great place to be wind bound I caught 10 trout in about 15 casts and the last one was over 18 pounds. We are eating it with sour cream and chives, noodles and bannock. Nice and toasty under the tarp, all bundled up in fleece and warmed by a nice little fire from the Sierra Zip Wood stove. These are great little critters ... aside from the base which I immediately re-designed, it is an awesome idea for the tundra.
Time to eat more Thlewazane (Dene for trout)
|On the plus side, we are
warm and dry in down sleeping bags and a tent that laughs
at this weather, we have lots to eat, and I caught a slug
of grayling of which 2 chose to come to lunch.
Went for a walk in the nearby hills and found another nest of peregrine falcons. Should have mentioned yesterday that this section of river is truly spectacular. The south shore is a mountainous mix of cliffs and rock studded hills, while the north view is of tundra meadows. We could see for miles from the hilltop.
I think what makes this come to life for us both is the absence of people and development. With nothing to suspend your disbelief, you can easily see a band of nomadic Dene trooping along in their quest for Idthen ... caribou. If you want to read two good books about this land and its history get David Pelly's books "Thelon-A River Sanctuary" and "Kazan"
As nice as this is, I would like to see the sun again. We have one set of notes with us by the Harmuths. They were stuck about here for 5 days and then on Dubawnt for 6 more days. When Eric Morse did the first recreational trip on the Thelon, his party was stuck at Beverley Lake for 10 days.
Now, at 6:00 pm, there is a band of light sky on the east horizon. This is good .
I am still mystified about being able to sit in my tent and, type on my PALM, and then send e-mail with the GLOBALSTAR satellite phone. It still feels Star Trekkie to me.
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