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

 
Saturday July 21
"In the past the Inuit used to come down as far as Dubawnt Lake to hunt, or perhaps to trade. One day, as a group of men were paddling across this huge lake in their kayaks, something rose up out of the water and swallowed one man up, boat and all. They disappeared. The others fled, abandoning their kayaks on the shore. The Inuit did not return to this lake for many generations."
Adapted from a story told by Adeline Chaffee, Stony Rapids. 1978
 
Now I know the answer to yesterday's question, "What the hell are we doing here?" We got up just before 6 this morning and it looked ok ... just ok ...cold as all get out and still an east wind, but a paddleable east wind. So off we went and, in spite of the wind, we make good time. We were alternately too cold and too warm, depending on whether we were out of the wind or not. Saw 2 golden eagles and, right before lunch, our first for this trip caribou, a gorgeous young male with a full rack.

We should start seeing lots more males as they straggle behind the females who will now have calved and are heading back south. These caribou are part of the Beverly herd, so-named for their calving area north of Beverly Lake. A great book about the caribou that is well worth reading is by George Calef. I think the title is "Caribou of the Barrens Lands." The pictures are fantastic and the imagined scenarios that begin each chapter appeal to all ages and bring the barrens to life. Your kids will love it.

We lunched before the last rapids into Tu-Bon-Tue (Dubawnt Lake in Dene). Both of these rapids are easy enough and could be run any different number of ways.

We hit the big lake and the wind died. We covered over 30 miles, but we paddled off the map I had out so I won't know for certain until we dig out the new map. It's so hot we are down to shirt sleeves. Hard to believe that yesterday we were wearing every piece of clothing we own.

Trout are surfacing everywhere ... EVERYWHERE. I finally can't stand it any longer and, as Lynda wants a break, about 3 I rig up and promptly catch 5. Just as I quit, a large trout charged shore after a 4 pound one. I cast once and caught it. It was over 15 pounds. We set off again and I saw one that guess at easily over 20 pounds, swimming beside us. Ten minutes later I saw some huge fins breaking the water and first cast, I had one easily as big. It actually towed the canoe around in a circle and hauled us all over the place.

From our camp spot at lake's edge we can see nothing but water to the east. It looks like the ocean. I just caught a half dozen trout looking for a 4 pound one. I had to let one over 15 go as it was just too big. The one I kept is now ready to fry and to be eaten with fettucine. The flesh is the colour of ketchup.

We are camped amongst millions and millions of midges. Thank goodness they don't bite. No blackflies but lots of mosquitoes. We just had a bath and this lake is COLD COLD COLD! but so far there is no ice. Just heard an arctic loon. An eerie sound...not at all like a common loon!

 
Sunday July 22
So you like the weather in the arctic? Just wait a day and we'll see what we can do about that.

We were in the water by 8:00 to a building west wind. But since we were on the west shore, we figured that should be ok. NOT. The wind grew bigger and bigger and shifted by 10:00 so that it was in our face. We stopped to take a break and get "up close and personal" with another lone male caribou.

 
Lynda watched with the binoculars as I snuck around a small bay and came up towards him from downwind. I got some great pictures, I hope. We could see his horns in full velvet and his coat is dark brown as, for all the world, he stood looking like he was posing for us.

We fought on to the next point a mile away and stopped as it was just too much. I caught so many trout I can't count them. Certainly over 20. Twice when I had a 3 to 4 pounder, a giant Orca Killer Whale trout charged the shallows and tried to eat it. The big guy was in so close that his back was right out of the water as he ground his stomach onto the bottom.

We took off at 1:30 into big wind and dark cold leaden grey skies. Out came the fleece. After 3 hours of cutting into big waves and feeling somewhat seasick we give up. We paddled about 5 hours and only covered 12 miles, although we put as much effort into today as we did yesterday. The wind sucks it out of you. I can see some night paddles coming out of this trip soon if we want to get done before freeze-up.

We are now at the north end of Dubawnt on the west side and are just over the 340 mile mark. Now that camp is set up, my guess is that it will go dead calm. Further, since we are heading pretty much east tomorrow, want to lay odds on which way the wind will come from?

This lake is all tundra with no trees at all. There is hardly even any tundra birch to speak of. Most shorelines are a jumbled maze of huge boulders scraped up by the ice. Lots of smooth bed rock and the odd gravel beach as well. The water here is crystal clear and the shallows at one spot we stopped today was a solid floor of boulders in shades of pinkish red, terra cotta and pure white ... spectacular and as Lynda said "It looks so Mediterranean." Behind the shore is an infinite view of tundra peat fields dotted with huge boulders. You can walk for miles in this country. The camping is great and pretty much anywhere you pick to stop will see you in a gorgeous spot.

Now should we have Bear Creek Lemon Poppy Seed cake or Pina Colada cake tonight? Decisions decisions !

 
Monday July 23
Ok ok ok ... so I'm not ready for Jo Jo's Psychic Friends Hotline. It turned out to be a no wind day and we made 25 miles in about 7 and a bit hours of paddling.

We were up at 6 and gone by 7:30 after doing a CBC radio interview. It looked like it could be a bad day as the skies were grey and there was a wind starting from the north east. Off we went, hoping for the best and it just kept getting better and better all day, until it got so hot we were almost ready to complain about the heat.

 
When we stopped at 8:30 to do an interview with the local La Ronge broadcaster, Missinipe Broadcasting, the sun was just poking through and the blackflies came out in swarms. I swallowed a bunch as I tried to do the interview Laugh all you want, but just try to keep your train of thought on the tracks as you do an interview with a blackfly half way down your throat.

The sun made the water, the tundra and all the rocks start to steam. Soon we were enveloped by a fog Neat or what?

We have decided to stop at the Tukto Lodge outcamp at Outlet Bay to see if we can meet Bob the owner. I phoned their Ontario number and but Fred, the pilot I spoke to last week, answered. He asked, "Is this Bill --- BFWG?" So I guess the call sign BaldFatWhiteGuy has stuck?

The north end of this lake is spectacular! The host rock is a brownish conglomerate that the ice has eroded every half mile or so into the nicest gravel beaches. And behind each raised beach is a perfect flat tundra camp site. We work our way through a maze of gorgeous islands that dot the north end of the lake. To our right we can see nothing but an endless ocean of water that melds with the skyline. FYI, we have now left the Northwest Territories and are in Nunavut.(102 degrees longitude is the border) and we are tracing along the eastern limit of the Thelon Game Sanctuary. Two days and we will be paddling across 64 degrees latitude and still no ice. This is good!

We see golden eagles, gaggles of flightless geese, Arctic loons galore, and to top it off, I see some caribou horns behind a shoreline boulder. "I wonder if those horns are hooked to a caribou?" I say to Lynda at precisely the same instant they move. We float within 2 canoe lengths of a young male before he gets up. Does he run? Nope. He just watches us watch him. Such neat animals, and it is a thrill every time we find them. (I have to admit that given that caribou meat is my ALL TIME FAVE this guy looked like "walking T- Bones" to me.)

We weren't back onto the lake for 5 minutes before we saw another one on the next beach. Fred told us there is another herd of about 30 muskox at the north end of Dubawnt. I hope we see them. Common Loons called all morning to serenade us as we paddled, thoughtful creatures that they are.

We are just getting ready to eat Bear Creek Damn Good Chili with re-hydrated caribou hamburger made by yours truly, with dessert of what's left of the Lemon Poppy Seed cake. Trout were surfacing all day but Lynda said if I catch one more, she will break my fishing rod ...

If that's not grounds for divorce I don't know what is! The Arctic loons are calling in the distance. It is the most eerie sound, sort of like a cat mewling.

Life is VERY VERY VERY good..........

 
Dubawnt River Map & Trip Outline
 
 

 

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