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

 
Friday August 3
The wind finally broke at 5 p.m. on Thursday, as we had predicted, so we had supper and prepared to take off. We were in the water by 7 and paddled till 1 a.m., covering about 20 miles. We were lucky enough to see 4 lone caribou along the shore as we paddled.

We were up against a really cold northwest wind. The upside is that the bugs are almost nonexistent.

 
The down side is that when we got into our sleeping bags, our feet didn't thaw out till 3:30 a.m. However, we had made it to Aberdeen Lake and set up camp on the beach.

The next day we were up at 10 and had breakfast on the beach in the kitchen tarp, then set out paddling by about 11 a.m. When we quit at 6 p.m., we had covered another 20 miles. We've done over 40 miles in the last 24 hours and, if all goes well, we'll end up at the narrows between

Aberdeen Lake and Shultz Lake in a day. From there, the last 50 miles stretch is an 8 hour day, so it won't be long until we are at Baker Lake and the end of the journey.

It struck me, up here, that nothing is free; you pay a price for everything. When the weather is comfortable, the bugs are horrible. When the weather is miserable, the bugs are gone. Speaking of weather, we now have low overcast skies, with north west'ish winds. They just help us in the morning. Right now we're digging into some Bear Creek chili, smothered in home made caribou burger, and my homemade salted bacon. We are looking to pack on the fats right now to help us to stay warm.

 
Saturday August 4
Last night we were so cold that when we went to bed at 10 p.m., we were wearing all the NRS fleece we own, plus our toques. All this, after having some Bear Creek vanilla pudding with granola that had half an Eatmore bar broken into it, just for extra fuel. I woke up at 3 a.m., dreaming of Mexico. It felt like we were in a sauna. I had to strip naked and lay on the tent floor to cool off.

This morning, we awoke to drizzle and cold dark skies. A flock of honking geese sailed by, about 10 feet over our heads, and landed directly behind the tent. The wind is huge from the west but we are going to try to get in it and sail. That is, of course, if we can launch from the beach where two foot waves are crashing. I keep on thinking of a variation of a song. "Only mad dogs and Layman canoe in the wind for fun." Just as I finished my coffee, two Inuit boats from Baker hammered by into the wind. They're 140 miles from home. Some fishing trip! I wish they could have stopped, but it would have been impossible where we are. My guess is that they are after Tukto (Caribou). It's now 12:15 and we are lunching under our tarp behind a huge continuous sand hill that runs along lake's edge. We've paddled/sailed for about 12 miles and we are frozen solid. The tarp is up to get some shelter from the wind and rain. It's amazing how much heat builds up under these things when you have a Coleman Peak Stove going.

At this point last year, we did a night paddle. At 1 a.m., there were still so many flies that we came across a lone caribou standing on an huge ice wall on the shore (where the lake waters had pushed it) trying to get away from the swarming bugs. Later that night, we glided into what we though was a rock-studded beach. While we unpacked, the rocks got up and drifted away. Caribou. The next day we woke up to a hot sun (where has it gone this year?), and the caribou were back, sleeping just a few hundred feet from us.

The shore is all sand with perfect tabletop camping just about anywhere you stop. You can see frequent gullies/washouts, strewn with boulders, where the rain and the spring run off drain into the lake. The lake is low this year. The place we paddled through last year is a foot out of the water.

The wind is starting to shift north again and we have solid leaden skies and cold, cold, cold. Without the NRS fleece, the Northwater spray cover and Northface Gortex, we would be real unhappy campers. As it is, we are just tired, filthy, stinking (Lynda says she smells like a rose) wet campers.

Bear Creek curry potato soup, fried bread (Bannock, deep fried in lard) and hot coffee for lunch. Yummy! We ground away the afternoon with a strong wind from the north. Remember I said that the prospector is stubborn in a crosswind? I feel like my left arm is about to fall off from drawing all afternoon. There's still lots to tell but it will have to wait until tomorrow because we are as fried as a couple of well done rib steaks in a road side diner and just about as damn tough.

We ended our day with 22 miles. The Peqetuaz Hill rises behind our campsite. We are just off Aberdeen Lake with 115 miles to go. Pizza and Bear Creek chocolate chip brownies for supper. It's such a hard life.

Sunday August 5
The Peqetuaz Hill behind our camp is spectacular. It rises nearly 450 ft and inl shades of gray, red and black, and is surrounded by green meadows at its base and 20 foot high yellow sand gravel ridges at lake's edge. Under yesterday's dark skies, we felt that, at any moment, a winged creature from Tolkien's "Hobbit" might have swept down on us.
 
The shoreline, from where we launched to were we are camped, is littered with 20-30 foot gravel ridges pushed up by ice at break up. The narrows from Aberdeen Lake is a Caribou crossing and there are all manner of Inukshuks and rock hunting blinds.
 
All along these lakes, you'll find Inuit graves. Unable to bury their dead, they lay the bodies on the "land" and cover them with rocks. Of course, over time, the animals work their way in and it is not uncommon to see human skulls and femurs scattered about.

Our campsite last night was a twelve on a scale of ten, a tiny sheltered cove, with the kitchen fly nestled behind a rock ice bush and the tent a little higher up on a perfect tabletop.

 
At one point when Lynda left the tarp, a rather confused Longspur flew in. It took us a minute to get him/her out. I found it rather interesting to have it fluttering about my head.

We awoke this morning to the promise of a perfect tee-shirt paddle; it was dead calm and hot, and stayed that way all day. Later in the day we came across a group of paddlers. A couple from Ottawa and another from Phoenix. They were enjoying the Thelon to Baker Lake route at a leisurely pace. They described seeing a grizzly, along with the spectacular sight of some male musk ox males in rut, butting heads. In addition, they had been into the middle of the 3000-member Beverly Caribou herd near Hornsby Point. By some weird serendipity they had met a neighbour of ours from La Ronge, Rod Dubnick, who is up here in a Cessna 185. I guess he stayed in the herd for so long his pals had to drag him out.

We will paddle late, as the water is flat as a mirror and it is still warm. Yesterday, we were frozen. Go figure. We just passed the 600 mile mark and we will spend the night very close to Shultz Lake, the last hurdle of a fantastic trip.

This has to be a first for Palm and Globalstar, as I am actually filing this report from the canoe in the middle of the river.

 
Dubawnt River Map & Trip Outline
 
 

 

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