Tim's Log cont'd
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.
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
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
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
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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