Trip Journals | The Beautiful Thelon
The Beautiful Thelon River, July, 2002
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Day 11, July 21st, 8:00 AM, Hornby
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
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
Day 15, July 25th, 10:00AM, Chicks On
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
Day 16, July 26th,
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,
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
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.
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,
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
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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