(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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!).
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.
(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.
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,
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.
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.
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.