The Journal of Canadian

Wilderness Canoeing

FALL 2004



OUTFIT 118 & 119










In this issue

Front Page



Winter Packet


From the Editor

Canoelit I

Canoelit II

Back page





Y to K: Yellowknife to Kugluktuk

Coppermine Diary from Y to K

Tales from the Trip

By Carl Shepardson

Photos by Dick Irwin (unless noted)

Part  1  2   3

Delicate poling over black ice across Aylmer Lake.  

Week #1 (June 15-21): This is Sandyís first canoe trip and itís been a harsh introduction. The weather has been cold with an opposing wind out of the northeast almost steady for seven days. Dick brought a sail but Walter wonít let him use it, so he offered it to Randy. A nice gesture but except for two miles in Devilís Channel on Day Three it has been unusable. Anyway it has been tough going for Sandy being the only woman on this leg of the trip. It should be better for her once Margie gets here.

Weíve probably pushed a little harder than we should but weíve been up Great Slave Lake twice before, once for the Thelon and another time to run down the Back and we have a preconception of how far we ought to get each day, but with all the wind we are falling far behind the pace of our earlier visits. Previous trips up the lake were mostly calm but this information is not inspiring Sandy. This is our first trip with Walter and he is a fascinating companion, tireless, precise, and unflaggingly pessimistic but in a very good-natured way. He has mapped out the miles ahead and is growing a little dubious that we shall actually reach our meeting point with Margie on time, something that I am particularly determined to do. Two years ago I planned a similar strategy to meet her mid summer and was three days late. She and Tina spent the time waiting on a barren island wondering what had become of me, and Iíd rather not repeat that experience.

So far weíve spent one day in camp to sit out rain, freezing cold wind and whitecaps/ big waves. The last couple of days were less rainy but still not pleasant.  Canít wait for summer. At least there have been no bugs yet.

Week #2 (June 22-28): The wind continued strong against us, very hard work and still cold. We reached the narrows. The lodge was getting ready to open soon for the season and they treated us to a hot lunch. Past the narrows we started running into ice, but nothing serious.

The next two days were perfect traveling weather. It was my turn to cook and we stopped early at the pool where I had such luck a few years back. The fish were still there, swimming lazy circles on the bottom, and it was little trouble to pull out a 25 pounder for supper. Last week I caught only pike and grayling, which we threw back, but this week there have been a lot more trout. There was a lot of ice today but we were able to go around or bull our way through in every case. Our resident pessimist is now predicting we shall reach Lac de Gras on Day 40 to meet Margie 10 days late.

In general the north shore of Great Slave Lake is well wooded with mostly bedrock sloping shores and excellent camping. It is pretty country and we keep coming back to it even though we rarely see much wildlife here, just the occasional moose and of course lots of eagles. There used to be a pair of swans nesting in Devilís channel but we did not see them this year. The weather has turned calm and buggy now, which is better than last week, I guess (just in time for the long carries!).

On Day 12 we finished the 257 miles to Pikeís Portage and the next day we started the three days of carries to Artillery Lake, 28 miles away. The start of the carry is at a sandy beach and the first mile is steep uphill. We did two carries on Day 13 and the first was as bad as we remembered, perhaps 3 miles in length and going up about 700 feet. The trail is mostly dry except for the swampy parts and pretty well marked except for where it splits up. We flagged the trail in previous years with log pointers wherever it branched and with caribou antlers across the marshy section and these markers are still in place. Todd was sick last night and this morning I came upon him sound asleep under the canoe mid-portage. Day 14 can be summed up as 4 portages, 3 trout, 1 musk ox.

Week #3 (June 29-July 5): With the end of Pikeís Portage we pretty well left the last of the trees behind. We stopped to cut all the wood we could carry in the three boats and then crossed the tree line. Artillery is a favorite lake of ours. There are several outstanding spots to camp but the best is about half way up where a sand spit juts out from the east to a huge high rocky hill, which is a great vantage point for surveying the landscape. Wildlife seems more plentiful here and we have seen wolves, caribou, musk ox and even a wolverine in the past.

I havenít said anything yet about how great it is to have Dick along. He is the trip photographer, always running up and down hills to get the best shots. Also, he is a great cook, baking two loaves of bread in the evenings whenever he is on duty, as well as a hearty dessert. On his off duty nights he is an indefatigable wood gatherer, which is more of a trick now that we are on the barrens. Dick and Randy went hill climbing and have reported back that the next 20 miles of lake are completely covered with hard white ice from shore to shore, hmm.

July 2: Covered 13, 13 and 16 miles the last three days which sounds leisurely. However, we are pretty tired. We have had some good fishing and some nice weather but have spent hours and hours battling the ice, dragging, chopping, wading, poling, lining and even portaging.  We have been in and out along every nook and cove, following tight along the shore, grateful for any stretch that has melted back enough to dip a paddle. I would never have guessed it could take this long to traverse Artillery.

July 3: 15 miles. The Lockhart is extremely high but we are half way up to Ptarmigan Lake and Artillery, still frozen almost solid, is at last behind us. Itís been a cold windy rainy day and this evening Todd is out chasing musk oxen with Randyís camera.

July 4: 13 miles. Another extremely cold, windy and rainy day. The Lockhart was high enough to force two portages where in previous years we had been able to simply paddle up little rapids. Ptarmigan has a lot of ice but so far we are sneaking along the right hand shore, dipping into the bays following the edge of the ice shelf as we go.  Randy and Sandy are finding the wind extremely trying and we stopped early. It is hard for them to keep pace. Todd and I are estimating that Walter brought about 20 kilos of milk powder in his personal stash for this first month of the trip.

July 5: 26 miles, 1 musk ox. Perfect day. We paddled a lot of miles but got almost nowhere, hugging the shore as we wound in and out around the ice. Kind of a silly parlay after coming out on Clinton-Colden. We had promptly climbed a high hill to survey what we could of the lake. It was frozen from shore to shore and as far into the distance as we can see. So, a long discussion ensued as to which side (north or south) we should take. South is shorter, but there was some thought that if the wind ever came to break up the ice it would move in from the north, clearing that shore first. Last trip we used the south shore and the camping there is not particularly good. Anyway this time we elected with some dissension to try the north, despite the extra miles.






 Fall 2004/Winter 2005        Outfit 118 & 119 

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