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Home  | Trip Journals | The Beautiful Thelon River

 

 

                     The Beautiful Thelon River, July, 2002

 

The Thelon River, if started above the Canyon offers a wide range and variety of landscapes and terrain, plus a fairly challenging walk along the canyon rim. It took us two trips to get our gear from the beginning to he junction of the Hanbury and the Clark where the Canyon ends. That's about a nine mile walk with and without gear. It' worth doing. The days spent going through the Game Sanctuary were very interesting but good camping spots were sparse. We liked everything about the trip. It was long, hard and a lot of fun. Try it. You won't be disappointed.

                     

July 10th, 11:00PM, The long travel day.

The first day on the water is always hard. I can hardly write. We got up at 4:30AM to catch the Convair to Kasba Lake. The Convair makes a couple of round trips a week hauling fishermen up to the fishing lodge on Kasba and a couple of other camps in the vicinity. Bob, our ultimate transportation had a little cabin there and used it as his adjunct headquarters. He has a number of fish and hunting camps farther north and the gravel strip and the Convair make it easy for him get his clients most of the way to his operation. He picked us up in the afternoon in a pretty nice blue and white Beaver and flew us to Mosquito Lake where he had a very nice outpost camp. No tents, nice wooden buildings and a dining hall. We had our old plastic Old Town Tripper at Mosquito Lake. We leave up there with Bob. After a pretty nice snack in the dining hall and a little chit chat with the help, we loaded the canoe and headed west after a big thunderstorm blew itself out. Bob landed on Jim Lake after about an hour flight and helped us unload the airplane. We started paddling at 6:16 PM and promptly got overrun by one of the big thunderstorms that had been roaming around all afternoon. We were on the river only a couple of hours and had gotten soaked, lost and tired and paddled a big, fast river.

Day 2 July 11th, 9:00 PM

Well, that was a long day. We woke to grey skies and a strong east wind. It turned into a good travel day. The river is big and fast. The wind was at our backs most of the day. We paddled about 45 kilometers. Only a few bugs. Iím pooped.

Day 3, July 12th, 10:00 PM, Bush Camp

We are just past Mary Francis River and camped on a rocky, bug infested point. Itís the best we could do. We made 55 kilometers paddling through numerous thunderstorms riding a very strong, fast current interrupted by a bunch of little rapids. Nice day. As we were preparing dinner, a musk ox walked into camp. We apparently had camped on his spot. It was a solo male. We stood our ground and he eventually walked away, but not far. The point was covered with willows and brush and he disappeared into a thicket. He stayed nearby and we were careful not to get him riled up. I didnít want to get run down by a crabby musk ox. They run like a horse and are very fast. We could not have outrun him, and we didnít have much room anyway. We were pretty much trapped on the point.

Day 4, July 13th, 10:00AM, Windy Lake Camp

We woke up to hurricane force winds. It rained briefly. Weíll stay here, maybe move later. I baked biscuits in the morning and corn bread in the afternoon. At around 5:00PM we packed up and paddled to the south end of Eyeberry Lake. The wind went down a bit but was still very strong. Eyeberry is a spectacularly beautiful  lake. A true, treeless sub-arctic lake surrounded by flat tundra meadows. Camping is easy. No bugs, itís cold and the ground is flat with no willows. We got of the lake around 11:00PM. We couldnít continue into the wind

Day 5, July 14th,  Windy Lake Camp

Woke up to moderate wind. By the time we got on the lake, the wind had come back up. We were on at 9:00 and off an hour later. We couldnít even drag the canoe along the shore. It was really ripping. We make another camp and put up the tent just to out of the wind. There is nothing to hide behind here, not a hill, ditch, rock, boulder or even a depression in the tundra. Itís flat and wide open. I crawled in the tent and shut down, read, dozed, read all day. Paul just paced around outside. Weíre going to break camp and paddle as soon as the wind goes down, whenever that is.

Day 6, July 15th, 12:00PM, Windy Lake Camp II

Itís raining so hard I can hardly hear myself think. The wind never went down and it started raining at midnight when the wind shifted to the north. A plane just flew over- we heard it but didnít go out of the tent. Weíve been in the tent for 16 hours. Weíre hunkered down and waiting for an improvement in the weather. Iíve spent most of the last three days in the tent. We want to move but itís impossible.

Its 5:00 PM, Wind Wind Wind

Weíre pinned- itís still raining. Weíve been the tent for 36 houses. Hope it breaks-it doesnít look like it will. We ate some granola and raisins. I had a little cheese. Winded in!

Day 7, July 16th, 3:30 AM, Windy Lake Camp II

Weíre going to give it a go! Itís still windy but way down from where it was. The barometer is rising steadily. Cold. We went about 300 yards and quit. The wind came back up and blew us right off the lake. Paddle time, fifteen minutes. We put the tent back up and I went right back in my bag. I was cold. Iíve spent about fifty hours in my bag without doing anything else on this lake. Big time wind bound! Paul came in and we both zipped up.

The tent was vibrating in the wind. I woke about two hours later as Paul crawled out. The wind was down a bit and we decided to try it again. I made some coffee, extra, extra strong and the worst dried camp food eggs that I have ever tasted. Where did that stuff come from?! Literally choked it down.

 Packed up and left again. Big rollers and white caps on the lake. Paddling over the reefs was hard. They made big waves but we were moving. As we slowly worked our way up the lake, the wind slowly went down. Neither of us commented, afraid of jinxing ourselves or offending the winds. We didnít stop until we were well of the lake, the hellish lake. It slowly warmed up and the water flattened out. We've been on the water for hours and we've only gone two kilometers so far.

 We saw a herd of musk oxen and two moose in the water. Weíre in the game sanctuary. The river flowed between big sand banks and dunes. We were on flat water, no wind and the river is spectacularly beautiful. Weíre not stopping.
We have a long way to go.

Day 8, July17th, 4:30 PM, Halfway Camp

Weíre at the Canyon. We woke to moderate temperature and rain. We packed and lined into the wind to the Canyon. We worked hard for about 4 hours to get here, the crux of the trip. We think it is a two day, five mile portage. Itís now nearly midnight and weíre in the tent. Lotís of bugs. We think we made it about half way, walking on the Canyon rim.

Itís absolutely, gorgeously, spectacularly beautiful. Weíve never seen anything like this. The river is roaring though the gorge  below us in a never ending series of continuous rapids, falls, drops and very short stretches of flat water. It just roars and we are dragging our gear along the fairly flat plateau that the river cut through. It was so windy up on the plateau that we couldnít lift the canoe up without getting blown over so Paul dragged and carried it.

We were able to move our gear in two trips. We got everything packed down pretty good with no loose stuff. We carried the gear about a half mile and then went back for the next load and just kept shuffling our stuff along. After we made camp, I had to walk back about a quarter of a mile to get water where a little creek crossed the plateau. We had camped in a beautiful spot overlooking the river as it ripped through the gorge but the cliff went straight down to the water and there was no way to get down.

The moon came up in the east and the sun was rimming the plateau in the west. It was an unforgettable evening. Weíre tired but ok. Tomorrow we should be at the end of our walk and back on the river. The float trip begins there, just sit back and watch the shore go by. Probably not.

Day 8, July18th, 7:00PM, The Junction

The portage is over! Weíre campeas probably only a little over three miles. Thinking about it a bit, it really was about ten kilometers. We made three trips of about  three and a half kilometers each, maybe a little more. Goodness knows we couldn't walk in a straight line. Anyway, it's over. Yesterday was "easy", but todayís carry totally trashed us. It was warm when we woke and then it got hot. It was hard to get to the water to drink and it was very difficult to carry any with us as we trudged and dragged along the river. It took us a long, hot, buggy eight hours to get here, wherever here is.

Todayís walk was through several marshy draws. Towards the end of the Canyon where it turns towards the Clark, we got way off trail. I followed a small cairn into the willowy bush. It got thicker and buggier and wetter and tighter. It wasnít long before we couldnít go forward and it was nearly impossible to turn around. We lost sight of each other and didnít know where the river was. It gassed us. We slowly just bulled our way out to the river and encountered the worst boulder field that I had ever seen or been on. Everything moved, there was no good footing and we stumbled and fell until we reached the shore. When we got our bearings, we found we had not gone very far from where we had started and there was a nice clean easy walk back to the rest of our gear. The detour really knocked the snot out us. We had just begun the day and we already gassed. Now we had our gear on the riverbank and had crossed the marshy draw. To get going down the road, we now had to haul our stuff up a very steep bank of sand and small rocks to get back up to the plateau. It was murderous and the sun was beating down on us. Seriously bad. The rest of the walk wasnít much different.

But here we are, eight hours later camped high above the Junction. Itís hot, maybe in the 80ís. Weíre cooking like beans in a pan. Paulís not feeling well. The heatís got him. Heís overheated and overworked. That was probably the hardest physical task that Iíve ever performed, and now Iíve got to go down the cliff and get some water and try to cool Paul down. The Junction is beautiful.

d at the confluence of the Clark, the Hanbury and the Thelon Rivers. They all come together at the end of the Canyon. We carried and dragged our gear about five kilometers. It seemed like ten miles but it w

 

The trip down to the river was harrowing. There is a very steep draw near camp and I slid and fell down it. Thereís nothing to hang on to, everything is loose and sliding down to the river. Getting up was worse. I was carrying the water in one hand and only had one hand to try to grab something or dig it into the sand. Needless to say, I only made one trip for water.

Paul was in the tent. That was the only place within miles of us that provided any shade. The problem with being in the tent in the shade was that the tent was in the sun and really hot. It was very still and everything around us was cooked up and hot to the touch, the rocks, the sand, the sparse vegetation, everything. The late afternoons were the worst time of the day to be on the shore. The sun is still very high and very hot and everything on land is heated up. If there is little or no wind, it is miserable and it takes a long time for things to cool down. Soaking some clothes for Paul with the little water I dragged up here helps, but itís pretty far from good. The heat is a killer. Thatís why we like to stay on the water late and not come off till deep into the evening when things do start to cool down. We didnít have that option on our long walk. When we got here, we had to quit. We were too tired to start paddling.

Day 9, July 19, 11:00 PM, The Gap and Wardenís Grove

We woke to clear skies and more very warm weather. Not a cloud in the sky; I was worried about cooking again.

We ate, packed and laboriously lowered the canoe and packs down the draw that I had gone down and up last night to get water. The wash was unconsolidated, very steep and went right into the river. I found one boulder near the top that was solid, tied all of our rope together into one long line and used it to carefully belay first Paul, then the canoe and then the packs down to the river. The packs would sometimes hang up and I would have to climb part way down to kick them loose and then scramble back up to the top to continue lowering them down. It totally exhausted me. We loaded the canoe and paddle a few riffles, a few standing waves, passed through the junction of the Clark and the Hanbury and then hit the last big rapid. We decided not to try the little flat chute on the far river left of the rapid and portaged around it, up, over and down a the cliff on the left side of the river. It wiped me out.

 

Once through the opening, the river again became dessert like in appearance. The sandy shores went for miles and the giant sand dunes could have been in the Sahara or the Gobi Dessert.

The weather cooled, stayed windy and we had a beautiful paddle to Wardenís Grove. We had been reading about Wardenís Grove and now we were here! We are deep in the Game Sanctuary now. We stopped at the cabin site and walked the quarter mile or so up to the old site. This was the home of the first warden of the Sanctuary. In 1928 Billy Hoare and Jack Knox built the first cabin, which was now the old one. In 1961, the legendary trapper, Fred Riddle built the second newer cabin. There were still a lot of trees around the cabin site, not many had been cut for the cabins or for fire wood.

On January24th, 1978 the Russian satellite Cosmos 154 fell from the sky burning up over northern Canada. A large portion of the vehicle crashed near Wardenís Grover interrupting a group of travelers from the University of Colorado that were over wintering at the cabin site. It may or may not have been a nice break in a long cold winter. The Canadian military swooped down on them for more than a few days trying to recover whatever they could of the small atomic reactor that powered the satellite when it was in orbit. So much for northern solitude.

After our inspection of the cabin site, we paddled across the river opposite of Wardenís Grove and made camp. The site provided us with a magnificent view of the Grove and a wide view of the river valley.

Day 10, July 20th, 10:00 AM, Ice Scraped Point

We woke to cold and partly cloudy skies, ate our usual breakfast of a lot of coffee, granola and dried fruit. Once on the river, our next stop would be the Gap. Many of the historic places that we have read about are found in a fairly short stretch of the river. Once out of the Canyon, it is only a short paddle to Warden's Grove, the Gap and Hornby Point and his cabin site.As we got nearer the Gap the hills grew higher and sandstone cliffs appeared. The closer we got, the higher the hills and cliffs became until we found ourselves in another slowly narrowing canyon. As we continued down river, the hills got higher and slowly narrowed until we could not see down river. It looked like a box canyon. Paddling through a wide spot on the river, we looked at a wall of mountainous sandstone hills and cliffs. It looked like a dead end, totally closed off. We kept paddling until we got right to the "blank wall" and there it was, the Gap. The wall of stone opened up, the sky appeared again, and we paddled through a place we had been reading about for years. The Gap was exactly that, a small opening in a big river.

 

Once through the Gap, wind came up soon and was fairly strong the rest of the day. We paddled into the wind on weak or no current through long, wide, lake like stretches for hours. The river banks were sandy giant dunes and low hills and the river flowed through and over large long sand bars. We finally got to where the river narrows. It was boggy and marshy, but we found a flat nearly dry place to camp at a bend where the river pushes ice up onto a ridge. You could see where the ice had scraped the vegetation away and cleaned up this little point. Thirty plus kilometers, a long hard day and we had seen those historic places. What a great day!

Day 11, July 21st, 8:00 AM, Hornby Point Camp

We woke to mostly sunny skies and rising temperatures. Our target today is Hornby Point, about 30 Kilometer form here. Thatís where the boys starved to death. Bummer.Itís about 10:00 PM and weíre about a kilometer upstream from Hornby Point.

When we reached Hornby Point, it was mid-day, very hot and very buggy, even on the water. We pulled up on the point to pay our respects and rest for a bit, but we were getting swarmed so bad, we didn't walke to the cabin site. We saluted the boys from shore and hustled back on the water, trying to get a little relief from our antagonists. Buggy, buggy, buggy, even in the middle of the river.

That was thirty kilometers of the hardest, most difficult paddling that I can remember. We paddled pretty much straight into a VERY STRONG and gusty wind. Big standing waves made the canoe difficult to control- very hard. We scratched along next to the river bank most of the eleven hours, crawling and clawing our way along. The terrain is forested and scrubby, very unappealing, but weíre here and off the water.

Day 12, July 22nd, 9:00 AM

We woke to bright sun and calm winds, lying in the tent baking like beans in the pan. We canít stay in here any longer. Weíre still tired from yesterday but the sun is on the tent and itís stifling in here. It sounds like itís raining but itís just the black flies on the tent. The high temps really get them up and going. Weíll see where we go today.

10:30 PM, Mudstone Delta

We paddled forty kilometers and are nearly out of the Boreal Forrest. Iíll be glad to have the trees gone. It cooled off and we paddled easily in fast water flat water under clear skies. It was a delight. The air smells and tastes sweet, it is beautiful here. The river steadily widened and the banks became lower- we can see again. Out of the trees for good.

We are camped at a bend in the river on a mudstone shelf, clean as a whistle. The formation is alternating layers of stepped mudstone and slate. This was an episodically created small delta, turned to stone. The formation is the first stone or rock that we have seen for days and actually offered a little shade. The shelf itself was about fifty feet long and twenty to thirty feet deep, projecting right into the river and about a foot above the current river level. At the downriver end of the shelf, a small rock wall rose some twenty to thirty feet high. Thatís where I went to get out of the sun for a few minutes. That was the first time I was in a shady place for days, and itís been hot. It felt really good to get out of the sun. What a great day! Paul caught some small grayling fishing right from our campsite and I made fish stew.

Most of our meals are one pot meals. Our food consists of about fifty pounds of pasta and dried fruit and soup mix. I usually start with some soup and and throw everything else into, lintels, pasta, dried potatoes and fish. We eat most of our fish boiled in the soup or in something that might be like a stew. It depends on how much water boils off. Almost everything tastes good and there's not much to clean up.

We set the tent up on the rock slab and anchored it with some big rocks that were lying around. This was a sweet place to stop.

Day 13, July 23rd, Barometer Steady

We slept good on the flat mudstone and woke up to high clouds and cool temperatures. There was a little wind. Off we go. Six days and 190 kilometers to go.Itís 10:00 PM on Rocky Point. The weather held all day and we paddled through low marshy country on a strong current. The wind remained light to calm and it got very warm and buggy. We took most of our breaks and lunch in the canoe on the water. We saw a grey wolf watch us as we watched her as we drifted by and then go to her den on the top of the riverbank. We couldnít find a suitable campsite so we kept going until we got blown off the no name lake by a little thunderstorm. Weíre camping on a rocky bank 58 kilometers from Mudstone Camp. We have five days and 134 kilometers to Hoare Point, our pick-up place. Thatís doable.

Day 14, July 24th

We woke to overcast skies and warm weather, calm winds, bugs banging on the tent. We ate a cold breakfast and packed up fast to get on the water and away from the bugs. I didnít want to screw around with the stove or anything else; I just wanted to get on the river and away from the bugs.

 

Itís 10:00PM and we are cooking like beans in a pan.

 

The day steadily warmed and the wind remained calm. We paddled through a wide, slow, meandering river. The surrounding terrain became more northerly looking as the few remaining trees continued to thin. There are still a few trees but itís becoming mostly tundra and willow bogs. We saw a moose and caribou in the willows.

 

This camp became hellish as the sun lowered and cooked up the river bank to the maximum daily temperature. Itís very hot with lots of bugs. It sounds like rain on the tent. It was so bright at 10:00PM when I finally went in the tent I left my sunglasses on. We made a leisurely 33 kilometers today.

 

Paulís been taking "bushman" showers, holding a cup of water upside down on his head and letting it leak down over him to keep cool. Itís been blistering hotóno shade. I also taught him the "bug juice on the butt" technique for taking a dump. Life is good if you can take care of your basic functions without getting eaten alive. Thereís a little learning curve involved and you canít hesitate. Speed and confidence are everything.

Day 15, July 25th, 10:00AM, Chicks On the River

We woke to calm wind and bright skies, baking in the tent. We had to get out. We are going as slow as we can go. Itís about 100 kilometers to Beverly Lake. Weíre on vacation now. A few caribou are walking around us. One came out of the river right in front of the tent and totally ignored us and our camp. We were where he wanted to walk. He walked right through camp.On the river with a nice little tail wind, fairly good current and weíre going as slow as we can go. Itís a beautiful day. We stopped and fished a few times and at a high bank that had a rock cairn on the top, we caught a few grayling. I knocked the cairn down. It was new and it was meaningless. As I was cleaning the fish, I heard something upriver. Listening carefully I heard the unmistakable sound of chicks on the river. I called to Paul and told him to listen but he didnít hear them. Just wait, youíll see, I told him and went back to work cleaning fish. About ten minutes later two canoes came around the bend and down river towards us with three girls and a guy in them. The guy was totally silent and the three girls were chattering away nonstop. When I stood in the water I could hear them without any difficulty miles away. Their voices carried loud and strong right down the river. Two of the girls and the guy were from Rankin Inlet. They worked for the Inuit community there. The other girl was the guyís girlfriend from Toronto. They stopped and we exchanged brief pleasantries. They had been dropped off at the junction of the Clark and the Thelon and were going to Baker Lake. Most of the guided and/or outfitted trips start below the Canyon and go to Beverly Lake or stop short of that on the Thelon, depending how long the paddlers spend on the water. We waited for some time on shore and let them pass, not expecting to see them again. A couple of hours after we got back on the water we passed the Canadians on the bank having tea. They told us that they stopped every afternoon at tea time, broke out their stove and tea equipment and made tea. Stopping was a foreign concept to us. We just paddled, stopping only when we had to. I suppose thatís why we never saw them again. We were going as slow as we could and we were still faster than they were.As the day wore on, the weather deteriorated and became windy and wet. We finally couldnít go any further. We had been paddling directly into the wind and the wind and the current created large, wet, standing waves and very difficult paddling. We stopped and made camp on a high tundra bank with a spectacular view. It spit rain showers and rainbows, with good strong winds that kept the bugs down. Paul made fried crispy critters for ordourves and I made a big pot of fish stew. Overall, a very nice day. It was good to away from the trees. A small caribou walked up to me on the beach while I was fishing. They arenít afraid of people, just curious
.

  Day 16, July 26th, Lido Camp

We woke to calm winds and warm temperatures with the bugs banging on the tent. I donít snore and Iím not hoarse any more. At home, I snore and Iím hoarse all the time. This is the only place that I go where my allergies are absent. I can actually hum and sing a little, but I still canít carry a tune.

 It was calm and very warm almost all day. We paddled giant, long stretches of river banked by sand dunes on mirror smooth water. Quite a change from yesterdayís hellish experience. In the middle of the afternoon we came upon two kayaks and two canoes, eight people frolicking on a sand bar in the middle of a little lake. They were an outfitted/guided group, perhaps from Yellowknife or Baker Lake. The group was very noisy and not very polite. We tried to make some small talk but they pretty much ignored us. Kind of shockingly bad behavior. As soon as we passed them they were back in their boats following us. They stopped a short way down the lake at their pick-up point. The plane was coming for them.

A short time later we passed the Rankin Inlet group again. All those people in such a short time after not seeing anyone on any of our other trips was a bit of a surprise for us, but everyone has a right to be on the river. It's still a very big country. We paddled to the first big rapid before the Thelon Bluffs and camped. Paul caught a nice northern and I made "cranberry scones". We caught northerns all the way to Beverly Lake. This was the farthest north that we had caught that species. All in all, a very nice day. We are 30 kilometers from the end of the river and Beverly Lake.

 

 

 

 

 Day 17, July 27th, Rock Camp

We slept on the rocks. It was a very comfortable night. I donít snore any more. All my allergies are gone. Too bad I canít live up here. I breathe a lot better.

The wind blew all night. We woke to high clouds, high winds and a thin sun. This will be our last day on the river. We should reach Beverly Lake sometime today.

 Well, that was a tough day! The wind never went down and it was right in our face all day. It kicked up huge standing waves and the river banks offered us little or no protection. We scratched along a few feet from shore to stay out of the big waves and the worst of the wind. We saw a small herd of female and yearling caribou swim the river were we where resting in the afternoon. That was really neat. We made fifteen extremely hard kilometers and didnít get to the Lake. So much for our well laid plans. Maybe tomorrow. No bugs for two days!

 Day 18, July 26th, Windy Camp

We woke to moderate winds and cold temperature. Weíll see how far we can go today. Its fifteen kilometers to the Lake. That doesnít seem far, but sometimes 200 yards is a world away. Paul has the yips. Weíve got to go.

We scratched our way down the river paddling near the shore, as we did yesterday. It wasnít much better there, but is was worse farther out in the river. The standing waves were huge and the wind was fierce, right in our face. At one point we got out and lined the canoe three or four hundred yards in a particularly bad stretch where we completely lost headway. No matter how hard we pulled, it wouldnít go. It was as windy as yesterday. The wind blew my Yankees hat off in the water and it was so hard to move the canoe, we couldnít save it. Another casualty of the river.

 After several hours of very hard, slow going, the river turned north east toward the Lake with a high bluff on the east side, where we were hugging the shore, and a sand bar and a low bank on the west shore.  The bluff gave us some modest protection from the wind and we had four or five kilometers of fairly pleasant going. That was the first time in two days that we didnít grunt with every stroke. We reached the last big gravel bar before the river made a big ďUĒ, turning all the way back southeast into the Lake. We beached the canoe and hiked the isthmus to see Beverly Lake for the first time. It was Big, and it was Up. Giant waves crashed onto the shore and the lake disappeared over the horizon.

It was obvious that we couldnít paddle around Hoare Point and into the Lake where the River ended. We portaged the isthmus, about a kilometer, and made it to the Lake and our pickup point at the extreme west end of Beverly Lake. The shoreline was stacked high with giant piles of driftwood that had been blown up or carried in with the ice. It goes for miles. Everything loose or floating on the Lake and everything floating on the river ends up here, pushed high up on the beach by the wind, water and ice. More than several 55 gallon fuel drums were poled up on the beach, washed down the river or blown down the Lake.

Not long after we arrived, a lone musk ox walked up to us, and then ambled away, completely unperturbed. After we ate dinner, I was walking down the beach into the wind and lone white wolf came loping towards me with its head down, completely oblivious to me. It finally saw me or smelled me, some fifty feet away, backed up a few feet, put its head down, tail low and backtracked, making a big loop around us. Later, a yearling caribou walked through our camp. There probably arenít a lot of people down at this end of the lake to bother anybody. The animals did not seem to be aware or afraid of us. There is a ridge about a quarter of a mile from where weíre camped that was an Inuit camp. I found three or four tent rings, broken bones, and large wooden pegs, some which were still stuck in the ground and other detritus from a time long gone. We found other summer camps on the ridge above the river when we portaged across the across the isthmus as well. These people probably came here to hunt caribou, which are probably plentiful at the right time of the year based on the deep, well worn trails that are worn into the ground. We finished the last of three quarts of overproof rum and ended the ďriver part of our tripĒ. But it ainít over yet; weíre not out of the woods yet, as they say. All these expressions came from some place and always have meaning, sometimes more than other times.

 

Day 19, July 29, Animal Camp

 

The animals have appeared for us like automatons. Pretty much everywhere we go, some creature appears, just like Disneyland. But theyíre real and they are everywhere we walk. You ďEarn your turnsĒ here, like back country skiing. We worked hard to get where we are and weíre reaping a small reward. The price of admission is low, but the game is fairly strenuous. We woke to cool temps, high wind and rain squalls. We may be here for a bit longer. This is not good flying weather. Maybe weíll see a bear before weíre off the beach. Paul is out, but Iím still in my bag in the tent. He refers to me as ďthe tent whoreĒ, which I must admit is apt. Iíve spent a huge amount of time sleeping, dozing, and lying about. It feels good. We donít expect our ride will be here anytime soon. The weather is very much like our pick-up day on the Horton, cold, windy and wet.

11:30 AM     The plane is here! The trip is over!

The Beaver wouldnít taxi to shore because of the high winds and the numerous sand bars at this end of the Lake. The pilot didnít want to stick that plane in the mud and we didnít blame him. He gave us a choice of portaging back across the isthmus to the river which was more protected or paddling out to the plane, which was standing off shore about a half mile. We chose to paddle. And a hellish paddle it was. The wind was in our face and the Lake was up. We could barely make headway. The plane was trying to hold position by pointing into the wind, tail towards us, and the engine running at low speed. It looked to us like it was taxiing away from us- we just couldnít seem to get there no matter how hard we pulled. We finally made the plane, threw most of our gear into while banging off the float in the big waves. We tied a line on the bow of the canoe and got in, holding the bow line while the pilot taxied to a sheltered bay quite a ways away. I ended up standing on the float and fending the canoe off of the plane most of the way to shore. That was exhausting and little spooky, trying to keep the canoe off of the float and not fall in the lake- another challenge. After getting our gear stored and the canoe lashed to the plane, we took off and headed to Bobís fish camp on Dubawnt Lake. We flew the whole way back at fifty to seventy five feet off the tundra to stay out of the clouds. That would be the ultimate example of scud running.

 

Day 20, August 2nd, 10:00AM

We are stuck at Bobís fish camp on the north end of Dubawnt Lake. Itís been storming for four days. Paul and I took one of the boats out and caught a bunch of lake trout. The plane came and brought six guys, Valspar chemists and Paulís Lake Vermillion neighbor.

 

 

Day 22, August 3rd, The Fish Camp

Wednesday we boated to Outlet Bay, not too far from the fish camp. Paul caught a giant lake trout. We caught dozens of trout in the river fishing from shore. The weather sucked; windy and rainy.

Day 23, August 4th, The Fish Camp

Itís Thursday, hurricane force winds.

Day 24, August 5th, The Fish Camp

Friday, hurricane force winds. Weíre not leaving. This is a massive storm of monumental proportions. Itís even big for this part of the world. Itís not that big of a deal for us but the guys that came up here to fish canít even get out of their tents let alone fish itís blowing so hard. They spent a lot of money to come here to fish and it isnít happening. Too bad. Paul and I donít really care. Someone else is cooking and we donít have to paddle or portage. Life is good except Iíve run out of things to read. Iíve read all of my stuff and most of the books at the fish camp. Iím now down to reading some pretty crappy books that I wouldnít describe as literature. Iíll survive. Itís been storming for nine days. One day on the River, three days at Beverly Lake and five days at the fish camp. Everyoneís trapped in the bush. No one is flying, no one is moving. Itís now been raining without stopping for three days, really since Monday when we were on Beverly Lake that would be five days. Iím now getting like Paul. I canít sit and I canít lie around in my bag any more. Iím pacing and walking around outside in the storm. Thereís not much to look at here, especially in this kind of weather but Iím now taking long walks to nowhere.

We were just informed that we will be leaving tonight (HA!) or early tomorrow. The wind is still blowing at gale force, but visibility is up to one mile. Iíve been told by satellite phone that our business is in a shambles. Not much that I can do about that from here.

I donít think anyone is flying in this weather but we are packing our few remaining belongings anyway. Something to do. Itís still cold, windy and raining. The camp has become a quagmire

 

 

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 © 2009 Jim Rutzick