The Journal of Canadian

Wilderness Canoeing

    FALL 2004

WINTER 2005

PAGE 5

OUTFIT 118 & 119

 

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In this issue

Front Page

Expedition

Yukon

Winter Packet

Canoesworthy

From the Editor

Canoelit I

Canoelit II

Back page

 

 

 

We received this fascinating letter and photo from Bryan Greene a subscriber from St John’s Newfoundland.

“I read with interest Stewart Coffin’s account of his trip down the Naskaupi River in 1968, published in Chemun Outfit 114. I have spent some time on the Naskaupi over the past ten years and enjoyed Stewart’s description of the river before the Upper Churchill hydro development and dam at Orma Lake. It must have been truly a majestic river then. Stewart is correct in saying that the Orma dam has decreased the flow considerably. But the river is still eminently canoeable, still home to the caribou and geese that Mina Hubbard encountered in 1905. I just wish I had the opportunity to see it in 1968.

“My visits to the Naskaupi were essentially to retrace the Labrador Portion of Mina Hubbard’s and Dillon Wallace’s trips in preparation for a forthcoming edition of Mina’s 1905 diary. I found Mina’s diary very easy to follow in the field, her descriptions so detailed that her long portage routes around the lower and upper gorges of the Naskaupi, and even her campsites are easily located. George Elson’s diary is less detailed (George had less time to write!), but he sometimes provides a helpful description. I used the diaries from the Wallace expedition (Wallace’s, Easton’s and Stanton’s) mainly to help locate the old Innu portage route from the mouth of the Red Wine River to Seal Lake and the Innu route around Maid Marion Falls and the rapids below it. Wallace tried to follow those ancient portage routes rather than stick to the river, as Mina did, but he found they were overgrown and hard to find. They are still hard to find in thickly wooded areas but there are well-beaten paths in the many areas of lichen woodland north of Nipshish Lake.

Mina recorded in her diary for July 17, 1905 that she and George built a cairn on a hill above their campsite on Dorothy Lake to mark their first view of Seal Lake and the end of the long struggle up the lower Naskaupi. I was pleasantly surprised to find that cairn (a rather substantial affair as you can see) still in place after nearly a century in a very exposed location.

“My trips on the Naskaupi gave left me with one over-riding impression of awe at the skill and stamina that enabled Mina’s men to not only complete the trip in 1905 but to do it with grace and panache. Following Mina and George on the Naskaupi certainly makes one feel that it is not only the river that has diminished, that we are indeed “the dwindled sons of a race of supermen” as Stone and Finkelstein quote in their article on A.P. Low in Outfit 111.

“I enjoy Che-Mun very much. Congratulations on a fine publication.”

We also heard from Lawrence Millman, who knew Elliott Merrick and contributed some years ago to Che-Mun. He was a friend of the late Elliott Merrick.

You may remember me from Che-Muns past. Recently, I was browsing through a bunch of issues at Jack Gregg's house and I thought, what a splendid little publication -- I'd like to renew my acquaintance with it as well as its editor. So, first of all, here's a contribution in the form of a prose poem for some future issue:

GLACIAL ERRATIC NEAR OKAK BAY

For Elliott Merrick

All alone it stands, headpiece of the world, far from the teeming fellowship of moraine, rubble, or till. A palimpsest of grey-green lichen adds scurflike skin to its patina of bad weather. Its neck is joined to the cold Labrador firmament by a harmony so slight as to seem non-existent and yet so strong that nothing could break it, not even Atik-wapeo, the Caribou God. No other landmark graces these barrens, twenty miles wide from eyelid to eyelid, except this granite boulder balanced on scoured rock, deposited here by the last Ice Age.   Pariah and bulwark, it is an example of how to hold on to the austere bounteous earth.

Hold on, vagabond, or you'll perish.

“A couple of other things. The Lyons Press in the US has reprinted The Lure of the Labrador Wild by DillonWallace with an introduction by yours truly; it is the first title in an Arctic reprint series edited also by yours truly. Could you kindly mention this reprint of Lure in Che-Mun?”

 

BRYAN GREENE

George Elson's and Mina Hubbard's 1905 cairn still standing.       

 

 Fall 2004/Winter 2005        Outfit 118 & 119 

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