Tim's Log cont'd 

We would spend two days on the Echimamish River, headed upstream the whole distance of it.  The Echimamish, once described as a “glorified creek,” is almost like a natural canal between the Hayes and the Nelson.  In a couple of places there are old wooden wing dams, built by the Hudson's Bay Company, in order to float their York boats laden with furs.  The reason the river can be described as a natural canal is the incredibly short height-of-land portage at its end.  The famous Painted Stone Portage is about ten yards long and you literally paddle to the end of the Echimamish, get out of the canoe and get back in on the Hayes.  It is a rather remarkable hydrological phenomenon. 

Once on the Hayes, we were beginning to notice some of the differences between northern Manitoba, and the areas we had traveled in the past.  One morning I woke up to cook breakfast I realized that sunglasses were in order.  At 6:30 a.m. the sun was high in the sky.  It seemed to be up constantly and when it wasn’t up, long periods of dusk and pre-dawn would keep the sky light.  At the beginning of the summer, we figured it was pitch black for only three hours a day.  I had heard from those sections that had been to Labrador that guys would fall asleep with bandanas tied over their eyes so they wouldn’t wake up at 3:30 in the morning.  This trick proved very helpful.

Tim Ross in front of the remains of an old Hudson's Bay Company dam for York boats on the Echimamish River.



Photo: Tim Nicholson

Another major difference was the weather.  After the initial rain, the sun came out and stayed out.  We noticed that all the little tricks for predicting rain were out the window because it never really rained.  Only small little rain-laden clouds amidst blue sky would come overhead and drop rain for a minute or two before they passed.  We began to call these “rouge” rainstorms. "Rougebows” were the small rainbows they produced as they passed in front of the sun.  The end result was that, save an east wind, we could just about depend on good weather all the time.  The weather was so good, for so long, that the heat became a daily issue during most of the trip.  I finally pulled my wool jacket out of my backpack, and began rolling it away for the day each morning.

The Hayes gave us was our first real portage.  Robinson Portage is unique because it used to be a tram route for the HBC.  The York boatmen would load their furs onto a tramcar and push it along 1300 yards of steel rail.  Unfortunately, the area burned about five years ago and all of the ties were burned too.  Some of the rails still lie discarded in the bush, and the axle of the tramcar rests in the water at the trail’s end.

The upper Hayes gave us excellent practice for whitewater with small, pretty rapids and the occasional easy portage trail.  Travel was very straightforward and during this time the guys hammered down all of the skills that had gotten rusty over the winter.  

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