The Journal of Canadian

Wilderness Canoeing

  FALL 2003










In this issue

Front Page


Labrador Tragedy

Robert Service

Fall Packet


From the Editor


Back page




The peripatetic Duke Watson writes from Seattle on the A. P. Low expedition story in Outfit 111. Mr. Watson’s canoeing travels have criss-crossed the continent following many of the great historical routes. He has privately published his complete trip journal listings (in two volumes) which he thoughtfully provided Che-Mun with some time ago. We look at it from time to time when we think we have done a lot of canoeing only to be sorely reminded how much there is still to do!

“Written correspondence is not one of my favourite endeavors but I been motivated quite strongly to pass on to Che-Mun a few thoughts and reminiscences after reading Jim Stone’s delightful article in Outfit 111. My motivations are threefold.

“1. The three consecutive trips which I took in 1974 from midway on the Rupert River, along the upper Eastmain and part of the Fort George, and thence down the Kaniapiscau to Fort Chimo [Ed. Note: now called Kuujjuaq] were among the most challenging and rewarding of my numerous experiences in the north.

“2. Fascination with the travels of A. P. Low. Like Stone and Finkelstein, I poured over Low’s accounts in Annual Reports of the Geological Survey of Canada. Pertinent excerpts were reproduced and brought in our map cases. It was intriguing to read Low’s description for a given day, at the start of our travel days, and then follow his route, comparing observations about the country traveled through. So little had changed, for the most part, during the interval (81 years in the case of the Kaniapiscau section.)

“3. A comparison of our experience on Low’s Long Portage with that of Stone and Finkelstein so aptly related in Che-Mun. We seem to have had better luck in locating and following the trail than they, but after all was said and done, out portage time was nine hours, the same as theirs. We did it the easier (?) way by exploring across with relatively light loads; then, after a night’s sleep, doubling back and hauling canoes and remaining gear.

“The upper end of the portage (Stone-Finkelstein start; our finish) was clearly defined in 1974 and the lower half, although it required careful scouting, could be followed. Giving full credit to Stone and Finkelstein for their ability to “sniff out” portages, it would seem the notorious Long Portage trail has deteriorated significantly in the intervening 28 years between my trip (1974) and theirs (2002). It is quite likely that the Cree no longer use it, and that it has become and obscure rarely travelled route (although that was also the way we felt about it in 1974). I believe it probable that the blazes followed by Stone and Finkelstein in the forested portion are the ones we made to expedite our return crossing with canoes. (We found no blazes whatsoever.) 

“In summary, based on the Stone-Finkelstein description of Long Portage and several other examples, my guess is that the countryside along Low’s route has changed more in the 28 year span than in the 81 year interval mentioned above.

“My admiration for Low is tremendous, and it calls forth admiration as well for Jim and Max in their projected biography of the great geologist-explorer. I await its publication with great interest.”

We heard via e-mail and phone about several interesting trips this past summer which we will feature in greater detail in later Outfits of Che-Mun.

Troy Gipps, who runs a burgeoning Web site wrote to tell of his group’s impressive feat in retracing one of the great trips a century later.

“It was tough going at times ... but we did it. We retraced the 1903 route of Leonidas Hubbard, Dillon Wallace and George Elson from North West River to Lake Hope (upstream!), we then pushed on to follow the 1905 Mina Hubbard and Dillon Wallace routes through Smallwood Reservoir and down the George River to Kangiqsualujjuaq, Quebec.

“The 650-mile journey took our team 50 days to complete. Our three-man team set off from North West River on June 24th, reached the Hubbard Memorial at the junction of the Susan River and Goose Creek on July 4th and reached our only resupply on Orma Lake Road (40 miles north of Churchill Falls) on July 17th. We were joined there by a fourth team member. We then headed northwest, then north, through Smallwood Reservoir, over the height of land that separates Labrador and Quebec, through Cabot Lake and down the George River. We arrived at the village on August 12th.”

Troy has promised something for Che-Mun and will be updating his Web site soon with his impressive trip’s info.

We also heard from new subscriber Sylvie Michaud of Montreal who did the Payne (Arnaud) River in northern Ungava which the HACC did as part of a complete crossing of the peninsula in 1990. She wrote before and after her trip and was able to find the elusive (for us) Hammer of Thor. An impressive T-shape man made rock formation thought, by some, to be a beacon for Vikings who may have visited the area 800 years ago. We look forward to hearing more from Sylvie on that trip.

Dick Irwin, along with Carl Shepardson and family, called to promise an upcoming  trip report on his 55-day epic trip out of the east arm of Great Slave Lake and arcing back north west towards the Coppermine via the Lockhart River and Contwtyto Lake. Quite a journey!



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