The Journal of Canadian

Wilderness Canoeing

  SPRING 2004











In this issue

Front Page



Spring Packet


From the Editor


Back Page





Payne is Pleasure in Ungava

Part  1  2  3

Examining the ancient site of a possible Norse settlement near the end of Payne Lake.

I believe that it is necessary to put this hallucination in perspective thanks to the trip report of the HACC which told of their meeting with such a swimming polar bear in an eddy on the Arnaud. That event had made a great impression on me. [Ed. Note - On us too!]

The two following days consisted of multiple observations of the archeological sites of the Payne Lake. Thanks to a chart drawn from the site Tuvaaluk2 and article of Lee 19793,we located the sites named Brouillette and Gagnon, Cartier, Black Spruce, Michéa and St-Pierre. We visited each of them and also some which are not named. One of these features a rectangular stone of approximately four feet wide, set up in the medium of a smaller stone square. The thesis of Thomas Lee who first noted these structures on the Cartier site, is that these are of Viking origin. This thesis was hotly disputed by the majority of the archaeologists  at the time due to lack of evidence and it was a battle Lee would have with the scientific community over many years. Not being experts, all that we can say it is that to see these old remains, even if they were ‘only’ of Inuit origin, was very impressive.

After having finished our inspection of the many sites at the end of the long portage which cuts across the bottom of the large long V-shaped rapid at the outlet of the lake we set up our tent in a beautiful spot. Fabian left to go fishing  at the end of the rapids and had too much success. His catches were too large for our stomachs! For two days we dined on an assortment of fish including one lake trout of about 12 pounds and even, much to our surprise, an Arctic char.

What I had imagined several times and feared, occurred the next morning. We are awakened from our sleep by a black bear! The area is famed for its large number of good sized black bears. I will remember all my life the view of his leg in the shade at the end of the tent. We left noisily while trying to frighten him, but he hardly seemed impressed. He continued to observe us and didn’t seem scared. However, after some noisy pot banging and some menacing movements on our part (such as holding up the cayenne pepper bomb), he finally began to move on. Thus, despite all the precautions which we had taken (food arranged in the hermetically closed barrels, cleaning of the site etc.), this animal with the ultra sensitive sense of smell had nevertheless located us.

It was doubtless attracted by the odor emanating from the fishing tackle, because it had crunched and broken the rod. Two days later, we saw a second bear, even larger than the first, but fortunately it was on other bank of the river. This is why, we henceforth camped, wherever  possible, on islands in order to avoid such meetings and did not eat fish where we would camp that night. In spite of this “safe practice”, some days later we drew the attention of another animal with a very fine sense of smell. Before leaving the island where we had camped, we heard a cry which resembled a yap; it was a wolf which had found a fish that Fabian had left and let us know it. If it had remained quiet, we would never have seen it.

In 17 days, we made 170 miles. As this river is not difficult technically, we had all our time for making excursions and many hill hikes. We had many memorable impressions from our trip down the Payne. We saw the pounded paths of caribou, recent and ancient, which criss-cross all their territory. A meeting with Inuit guides, one of whom showed the way to us to be taken in the maze of the islands and the rapids located upstream of the Vachon River.






The Payne River (upper right) at the junction of the Lepelle River (off the right). Robert Flaherty headed up the Payne (from the right) and the Lepelle in 1912 on his traverse of the Ungava Peninsula. Veteran Che-Mun readers will recall a shot from the other side of the river in Outfit 62. The Lepelle is about 80 miles upstream from the mouth of the Payne River.

 Spring 2004         Outfit 116 

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