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 31
Remember the part where I said getting back to the big lakes would be like a visit with old friends, friends who can get in your face at times? Well, we are camped on the shore of Bevelry Lake and she is like a good friend who has had WAY too many beers. What a storm! It rained buckets all night but this morning it looked like stable weather, low overcast and drizzle and cold but no wind, so we could travel.
 
 
Before I tell you about the rest of the day, let me tell you about the mess we are in now. The wind came up from the North, fast, and so bad it was next to impossible even to rig the kitchen fly. By the time I got our Northface VE 25 up, it was soaked inside and the water had to be mopped out with a mountain dry towel. I took out several cups of water while Lynda made some tea and hot soup under the jury-rigged kitchen fly.

We are now in the tent with the rain pelting down and the tent shaking in a severe wind. We had a half bannock made, so that, plus the soup, tea, peanut butter, cheese slices, honey, dry meat, some instant vanilla pudding and granola will keep us happy We are in our down bags and are planning to sleep on top of our Crazy Creek chairs to keep sort of dry. If there is anything in the world better than sitting out a storm in a tent in a warm sleeping bag, I haven't found it. It is so neat to be able to get comfortable in all kinds of weather,. not just the good stuff. But having said all that, we won't be moving again until we dry out a bit. We are so wet that if the rain quits and the wind doesn't, it would be just dumb to travel. Way to easy to get hypothermia when you are this wet and this cold.

I hope our friend Beverly sobers up by tomorrow so we can have a nice visit with her. And as fate would have it, we are camped within a mile of where we met our new friends Tom, Caryn, Megan, and Greg last year. That day, we were all so hot we were swimming!

Now, to the rest of the day. We were lazy this morning as a result of the horrible grey skies, so we lay in bed until 9:00, a lucky decision. As we were eating breakfast, I saw something on a point about a half mile away. A quick look with the binoculars confirmed that it was a herd of 26 musk ox that had drifted along the river's edge and right up behind our campsite. This is the third herd we have seen and it is such a thrill every time. The old head bull was out front leading them and the rest trailed behind as they saw fit. When they spotted us, the teenagers leaped about and galloped to the front, but, largely, they did nothing at all about the red and yellow gortex covered humans.

They look so much at home out here. It is nice to think that they are on the rebound after near extinction in the 1930's. They were the prime reason that the Thelon Game Sanctuary was created, and it must be working if we are seeing them on every trip. When we got out to the junction of the Dubawnt with our stormy friend Bevelry, we found a welcoming committee of a lone immature male caribou who promptly came over to visit where we beached the canoe.

The other highlight or the day was the Dubawnt Gates. There's a piece of wild whitewater. We ran the top tight between HUGE waves on the left that fed in a line to the right and a ledge tight to the right bank. (Tell me, why do waves always look smaller from shore?) When we slid into the slot tail to the big left waves and nose tight to the ledge, I found myself looking over my left shoulder at waves a foot over my head. YIKES! To make it even more thrilling, I got one in the lap and took on about 4 gallons of water even with the spray cover. We had a hard time breaking away form the eddy line off the big left waves and when we piled into the HUGE eddy on the right I was quite happy as what follows below on the right is huge as well. You can see a clear line to ferry from this eddy to the left but with all the current pushing right, the wild run we had just been through, the cold weather, the single boat, and the rather nervous feeling in my guts we did an ugly short "up the cliff down the cliff portage."

It was the safe, sane move but it bugged me as I know it can be run and I probably won't get another chance for many years. There really is no portage trail so you just pick a spot to go down about a 70 foot very steep (probably 70 degree) scree slope. I was quite tired after 2 trips up and down so I got this great idea while Lynda was making another trip. I figured on letting the canoe down by a rope bit by bit. And if the boat was going down anyway why not put 2 barrels into it? Have you got any idea how fast a loaded Royalite Novacraft canoe can go down a cliff?

It took off like a thing alive with me hanging onto the rope for dear life. I think I stood for about 10 feet and then I was on my rear end, tied to a wild mad dog canoe. When it hit the river, the only thing that stopped it was the fact that the nose got stuck on the bottom . Next time I am gonna' do the ferry .. it has to be safer than the bob sled run I did. And the worst is I tore the rear end right out of my pants.

Lynda never saw any of this luckily. The descent scared her enough without adding .... my circus act.

 
 
Wednesday August 1
The storm raged all night. As I write this, we are without rain but the wind that is howling in from the north shows no sign of giving up soon. We scrounged up some coffee which necessitated my walking into the lake wearing a gortex rain jacket and nothing else so we could get water. Now there's a sight that makes the mind reel.

It is 9:00. We are now back in the tent and the wind is so strong you have trouble walking into it. But, the sun is out and the tent has heated up nicelyand all our wet gear is drying out.

Before I forget, for those who are interested, there is an out-of-print book that your library could get for you about the Moffat trip (Hi and thanks to Rosemarie and Jocelyn at the La Ronge library who got a copy for me.) It is by a George Grinnell and is called "A Death on the Barrens" (I think). It is now noonish. The wind is worse, but here's one for the "good ideas in the Actic" book.. We can still hardly stand up in the wind and we see two kayaks go by, head on into the wind like it is no big deal. Pity they didn't stop, as it is always fun to visit and I would love to have seen their outfits. If you can paddle in this, there isn't much that would be able to stop you. The way they are going, they will eating junk food in Baker in 4 days max.

It is now 6:00 and there is no way we can keep the kitchen tarp up so we have collapsed it and are cooking in the vestibule of the tent. This VE 25 is rock solid in the wind and it comes as quite a surprise when you go out and try to stand up. I have now finished all the books but the one Lynda is reading and she won't give it up. Perhaps the cards come out soon. Lynda, by the way, is much better at sitting still than I am --- but then, so is a squirrel.

I won't bother to file an e-mail tomorrow if we are stuck here unless something happens that is more exciting than winning at solitaire.

 
Thursday August 2
So since it is still blowing like crazy and very cold (about 7 degrees Celsius) not much has happened here.

I was thinking last night that there is one piece of equipment I haven't spoken about at all, and it is perhaps the most important piece of gear on a trip like this. You all know by now that we carry a GLOBALSTAR satellite phone, and a ICOM air band radio to talk to airplanes.

 
 
Both of these units can be used for emergency or just to chat to people and planes as I have been doing.

Of more importance in a total EMERGENCY is my GYPSI 406 PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) made by ACR Electronics and sold by Northern Airborne Technologies (see the web link). This unit, when activated, sends a DIRE EMERGENCY SOS signal to Canada's National Search and Rescue Center. Each unit has a coded signal so that, when it is set off, the Center knows whose beacon has been activated and they initiate a rescue based on where you are and what your pre-trip instructions to them were. In my case, since we are doing a different trip each year, I ask that the Center phone the La Wrong RCMP where I leave detailed trip notes.

In the highly unlikely event that the Center can't contact the RCMP, they will initiate immediate rescue based on your location and the best means they can establish. Prior to this trip I filed a package with the La Ronge RCMP, the Stony Rapids RCMP (my departure point) and the Baker Lake RCMP ( my end destination). In this package they have a route map, our departure and expected arrival dates, colour of canoe and tent and cooking fly, and a list of our survival communications (Globalstar phone, VHF radio, and PLB). As well, I indicate that my PLB is strapped to my life jacket and that if it goes off, we are in DIRE NEED OF ASSISTANCE and that all other means of communication have been lost (say in a canoe capsize) or are being utilized simultaneously. As well, I provide the RCMP with a list of logical phone numbers for potential air support. For this trip, I gave them the numbers for Selwyn Lake Lodge, Tukto Lodge on Mosquito Lake, and Kasba Lake Lodge. These people are "bush smart" and are probably the best bet for us in an emergency as they are close and know the area. As well, they know how tough this country can be and they all bend over backwards if there is an emergency.

Many people now are relying solely on their Globalstar phones. I think this a BIG MISTAKE. I can just see it ... the canoe is lost with the phone in it, the phone is soaked and not working, the person in need of help is in shock and/or hypothermic and is unable to clearly provide location and situation details. The great Actic explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson is quoted as saying, "Adventures only happen to those who are ill-prepared."

As to cost, what is your life worth? PLBs, GLOBALSTAR phones, and VHF airplane radios (most northern planes will be monitoring frequencies 122.80 or 126.70) can be rented for those who won't be using them year over year like we are. It is worth noting that you can get the VHF, and the GLOBALSTAR phone into a Pelican 1200 series box (which are cheap like Borscht, as the saying goes) and still have room for a GPS and a point-and-shoot camera.

Keep the PLB on your lifejacket in case you have a bad swim. PLBs are a MUCH better choice than the more popular EPIRBs (for boats) and ELTs (for airplanes). These units send a generic non-personally coded signal, and in the case of the latter, the signal is generally interpreted as "Plane has Crashed." Too many people are utilizing these units and manually setting them off for dumb reasons. Last year, I heard about a party of 8 or 10 Americans from a canoe camp who activated their EPIRB and had a helicopter rescue that was paid for by the Canadian government. Their reason? They were scared off forest fires as the air was thick with smoke. If they had carried a Globalstar phone as well as a PLB, a phone call would have established whether or not they were in real peril. Another group we met last year from Minnesota had an Bell 204 helicopter (at about $1200 dollars an hour) land at their camp on the Back River to ask if they were the group that set off an ELT. When they said, "No," the helicopter continued on its merry, expensive way. The folks at Tukto told us of a Japanese kayaker who set off his EPIRB near our present camp site, and had a military HERCULES air transport complete with SARTEC parachute teams ready to deploy off the end ramp circling over him within hours (at about $5000 or more per hour, I bet).

I think it is incumbent on us who can afford to do these trips in the first place to do them right and to plan for emergencies in a double redundant fashion. In other words, have a plan for when your first 2 primary plans fail. If nothing else, it would sure help to keep our Canadian taxes down.

 
Dubawnt River Map & Trip Outline
 
 

 

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