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 / S
unday 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

Sunday July 08 2001
Before I forget, I just have to mention how cool this EMAIL from the trip is. I have a PALM handheld, the III xe which uses triple A batteries so there is no problem with re-charging, along with a PALM portable keyboard. The two units together take up no more room than a small novel. I do the EMAIL like at home, using EUDORA and then hook the PALM to my GLOBALSTAR phone and off into cyberspace go my mindless ramblings.
GLOBALSTAR introduced the data service just last winter so this is a first for me. Last year I met some gals who were doing EMAIL to a webpage from their canoe trip, but they were using a small SONY notebook computer and had a much bigger satellite phone (and, of course, had battery charging headaches). My set up is so miniature I can fit it all into a Pelican 1200 case with a Pentax WR 105 camera, a GPS, and a VHF plane radio. A few years ago, the GPS would have taken up the whole Pelican box. Being the techno junkie I am, I love it.

So we are in the water by 8:30 to cool north wind with leaden skies. The wind is light to moderate and neither helps nor hinders us. We see the hill just to the east of the portage (the one we would have taken from Flett had we not gone the longer way) where legend has it that Erelkal, a Dene shaman, flew to the large island several miles distant to escape his Cree pursuers. This legend is known to all Black Lake and the Dene from many other areas of northern Saskatchewan. We also stop at an old Dene camp at the base of an esker that forms part of a caribou crossing.

What an interesting place! Much of what is left is from the sixties...old Elan snowmobile parts and such... but you can bet an archaelogical dig here would unearth hundreds of years of occupation by the relatives of the Black Lake, Stony Rapids and Fond du Lac people we know.
In fact, on one of the audio tapes of Adeline Chaffee that Lynda is transcribing as part of her Dene Elders project, Adeline talks about visiting the people at this very camp when she was heading north with her husband Jimmie in the thirties. This site was actively occupied until the early fifties and hunters still get this far north each winter although no one lives here any longer.

Small wonder the Saskatchewan Dene feel they got short shrift with the formation of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.

A friend of ours, Ron Robillard, is heading a project to compile as much evidence as possible to make a case for land claims for the Saskatchewan Dene. From our travels it should be an easy issue to prove, as everywhere we stop, we find signs of Dene activity.

A longer day today, with about 8 1/2 hours and 22 miles. Right now at our campsite, de julie thon (Dene for lots of mosquitoes). As well, the blackflies are beyond belief. Still, we have a fresh caught thlewizane (trout) for supper tonight. YIPEEE!
Sunday July 09 2001

Because I have to do a CBC Regina radio interview with Sheila Coles at 7:00 am, I get up, whimpering, at 6:00. We are in the water by 7:30.

It is a GREAT day, with huge, grey-bottomed clouds with white fluffy tops floating in a sea of aquamarine. I know it sounds silly, but it looks just like the sky that opens the Homer Simpson show. (Honest. Take a look.) Lovely to have sun and hot weather. We luxuriate in it. There is just enough breeze so that we don't overheat. We make miles like crazy.

I have to stop for a radio interview with MBC in La Ronge and I do it right from the middle of the lake. Different. It's fun to talk about our Dene pals in the north who all listen to Missinipe Broadcasting. This country means so much to them.

Just before we left to come up here we had to go to a funeral. I was in a real bad space and then we stopped to visit a couple we know from Wollaston. Hector and Maryanne Kkailther were at their daughter's house in Prince Albert. Hector was more than excited about our trip. He looked at me with a smile and a far off look in his eyes and said, "That country is so beautiful. If I won the lottery I would live there forever." He would.

Just like clockwork, at lunchtime a magic spot appears in an otherwise bleak shoreline. We find a little rock outcrop where we can nestle the canoe and lift the kitchen pack onto a perfect tabletop. I sit in my Crazy Creek chair (thanks to our friend Megan whom we met last year on the Thelon) and cook up some awesome Bear Creek Tortilla soup and a bannock with tea. On days like this, I remember why we are here. We are truly so lucky to be able to do this. Health and finances allow us to follow our dream.

We put in a big afternoon and finish the day at a rapid. This is the first moving water we have seen, at the outlet of Wholdaia lake. For the next many days we will be on a river, so we should see lots and make mucho miles. We are camped on top of a tundra peat field with the scent of what I imagine a Scottish highland smells like wafting over us. The gulls camped beside us are eating the millions and millions and millions of caddis flies that must have just hatched. I know there are grayling in the river but tonight it is Bill's Best Pizza and Bear Creek fudge brownies. (Lynda votes these12 on the 10 scale.). We made just over 24 miles today.

Tuesday, July 10
Last night when we went to the tent it was covered with mating caddis flies. There must have been thousands. So what's the deal? They like Northface stuff, too? In the morning, the canoe was filled with them as was the water pail and everything we own including our boots.

There are thousands of blackflies and mosquitoes and midges and mayflies. What an explosion of life. I try to imagine what it must be like for a Lapland Longspur to fly around, mouth open, consuming the equivalent of a Big Mac every few seconds. Small wonder they like the tundra.

We stopped at the last island out of Wholdaia and visit an old Black Lake winter trapping cabin in a lovely spot, sheltered from northwest wind and with a gorgeous tundra esker in the back. Lots of neat stuff around, from an old Skidoo Olympic chassis to a net jigger for winter net setting. Someone will know whose place this is and we will check it out when we get back to La Ronge.

The river is breaking into tundra now but is far from pretty and, in fact it is even hard to find a lunch spot. When we do, it is a beauty, and well worth the wait ... a rock table top with enough lichen to make a great place to lie down a snooze for a few minutes after we eat. And bless the gods or goddesses NO FLIES!

The warmish weather and wind have re-ignited the forest fires we passed yesterday that were still smouldering. As predicted, the current is a great help and we bang off 30 miles, stopping at 6:00 at the base of a gorgeous sand esker on Hinde Lake. A fox scooted off of the beach as we landed the canoe and I am looking at a giant caribou rack from where I sit under the kitchen fly. On the beach we found some pieces of wood with copper nails that I conjecture is from and old wood and canvas canoe.

No rapids marked on the map and an article we have from 1983 from Nawstagan by the Harmuths indicated that all the rapids would be "of the boulder and gravel type," often with not enough water at the foot. Perhaps the fact that we saw a tourist camp dock under a foot of water explains why we found honking big rapids with more than enough water at the bottom. No problems, but several of the rapids were easily 2 + and needed maneuvering to avoid waves of the 2 to 3 foot size.  
Real fun afternoon. I love the boat we are in. The Prospector hull design rules as far as I am concerned and the 17-foot Novacraft royalight boat we have performs as any good Prospector should. She is ornery in a crosswind on a big lake but put her in rapids and she dances. It is so nice to have a boat that does all the work for you and listens to the most subtle of paddle strokes. Given the Dubawnt canyon portage of 2 1/2 miles, it doesn't hurt my feelings that she weighs only 67 pounds.

We are surrounded by tundra birds - Canada geese, tundra swans, snow geese, and curlews, greater and lesser yellowlegs - as well as common loons and even a few eagles. Grayling are jumping everywhere all day and the trout are surfacing to eat the caddis flies. I resist the urge to fish and we dine on Bear Creek Damn Good Chili and wild rice pilaf.

I think I am working Lynda too hard. Today when she lay down on the boat to take a quick break as we drifted along she said, "Gee, I wonder why every time I stop to rest and then sit up, I can only see in black and white for awhile." l said nothing. Any doctors got any ideas? Will I get her through the trip?

Lots of marked rapids for tomorrow so it could be exciting. We had a good breaking in today and all went well. But it does feel funny to go from our bent shaft Zaveral paddles that weigh about as much as my coffee mug to a whitewater paddle. Feels like you just picked up a ton of bricks.

Oh… and just to whimper ... I stood on my reading glasses today and broke them. Since I can't see, map reading is going to be a real chore. I can just see the headlines when we take a wrong turn and end up in New Mexico or go over a waterfall....

Dubawnt River Map & Trip Outline


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