View topic - From the Snowdrift to the Taltson - Part 2

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PostPosted: October 7th, 2014, 2:35 pm 
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PART 2

On the map, this drop took place in two sections, separated by a small pond. The first section was nothing dramatic – just a boulder-choked rapid in a small gorge.

First rapid

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At the end of the pond, however, the cliffs closed in and the river dropped out of sight.

Cliffs

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It zigzagged down a series of steep chutes,

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then gathered itself before pouring over a final falls.

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After one more small ledge, I was glad to find myself on a lake expansion that provided 11 km of uninterrupted paddling. The local eagle had demonstrated superior nest building skills.

Eagle and nest

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Easy progress continued, as the rapid exiting this expansion could be run – no ledge! It was a good thing, since the steep shoreline didn’t offer any kind of put-in possibility.

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Soon, though, things were back to normal.

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Bare rock outcrops continued to provide the best camping. There is very little “soil” along the Rutledge, and tent pegs were infrequently used.

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In its lower reaches, the Rutledge zigzags between lake expansions, flowing along narrow faults in the Shield bedrock. In places, the contour lines crowd in on the river, and I had been concerned whether portaging at river level would be possible. Bypass options – climbing out of the river valley – weren’t looking very good, given the thick growth in the young forest surrounding the river.

Where the rock walls drew back a bit, paddling was pleasant and scenic.

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When they closed in, portaging was required, often over difficult footing.

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The final falls and rapids above Drywood Lake initially looked like a real challenge. Fortunately, it turned out this stretch could mostly be paddled, with just two short but awkward portages.

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This tiny sand beach on Drywood Lake was the first one I had seen since leaving Austin Lake on the Snowdrift. The Rutledge is really a “bedrock” river.

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The neighbouring cliff was more typical of the topography.

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More narrow “squeezes” characterized the river down to Little Deskenatlata Lake. Fortunately, portaging – if slow and sometimes precarious – was always possible. The sticky rubber soles on my 5-10 wading shoes were a big help here.

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After resting in a quiet, water lily – filled pond, the Rutledge lost most of the remaining elevation to Little Deskenatlata by pouring down through a rocky gorge and over an impressive falls.

Lilies:

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Falls:

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It took some time here to scout and clear a portage through the thick young aspen forest on RR. Fortunately, machetes work very well on aspen. You can take down a 2 inch sapling with one swing – maybe 3 inches if the bugs are bad and your temper is starting to fray.

After one more open bedrock portage – no chopping required – I reached Little Deskenatlata Lake. It was a very smoky evening, and not much was visible except for the sun.

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The next day I reached Deskenatlata Lake. Here, for the first time, I saw signs of human habitation. At the mouth of Nelson creek were the ruins of an old log cabin, and signs of more recent use.

Ruined cabin

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Teepee frame at Nelson Creek

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A few kilometres further south, I stopped at the ruins of a more modern cabin. Here the local bears, not content with demolishing the cabin, had tipped over the outhouse for good measure.

Ursine vandalism

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The weather was now unsettled, and it took a couple of days, dodging thunderstorms, to reach the south end of Deskenatlata. Fortunately, good camping spots are fairly frequent.

Camp on Deskenatlata

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Sand beaches are now quite common. After a final short paddle, I found this one, a perfect airplane dock.

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Then there was nothing more to do but pack up and wait for a ride.

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Trip summary: 20 days, 287 km, 50 portages, 2 sore knees. It had been a challenging trip, but fortunately – except for smoky skies – unaffected by the fires which were ravaging much of the NWT last summer.

Thanks for reading.

-jmc


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PostPosted: October 7th, 2014, 4:36 pm 
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Very nice! :clap:

Thanks for posting.


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PostPosted: October 7th, 2014, 5:14 pm 
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Yes, thanks for posting! Beautiful country! Yet another area to add to a "maybe someday" list.


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PostPosted: October 7th, 2014, 9:50 pm 
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:clap:

Great TR JMC! And once again, congrats for doing the research and going off the beaten path, and showing us all the remote places that few paddlers ever go.

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PostPosted: October 8th, 2014, 11:08 am 
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Location: Beaumont, AB
Excellent trip report. Really enjoyed your photos.

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PostPosted: October 8th, 2014, 1:42 pm 
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Wowee, that is big water.
You have to love all the vast shield rock outcrops.
That eagle nest makes me wonder about all the weight being on one side of that dead tree.
Beautiful cascading falls. Some of it looks like demanding portaging or as you stated, awkward portaging. Some rain on those exposed rocks and things would be slippery very quickly. Good thing you had sticky soles.

Thanks for your continued exploration. You are the go-to person for route information. You need to be congratulated for all the work you have put in. Your trips stats are high in portaging compared to my summer trip, 30 days, 350 km, 1 portage.

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PostPosted: October 11th, 2014, 4:26 pm 
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This is an awesome report. I know it a lot of extra gear to carry but tell me you did some fishing.

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PostPosted: October 11th, 2014, 7:27 pm 
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Thanks for the replies, everyone.

PG, I must disappoint you - I didn't do any fishing, although I had my collapsible rod setup and some lures with me. I usually only fish if I'm windbound or ahead of schedule, and neither of those situations arose on this trip.

- jmc


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PostPosted: June 14th, 2015, 4:24 pm 
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John: great report! Looking forward to this summers exploit So!

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PostPosted: June 29th, 2015, 7:59 am 
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Another great trip, another great report!
From the topo, Rutledge River is unconnected to Rutledge Lake?

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PostPosted: July 3rd, 2015, 10:43 am 
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Location: Preeceville, Saskatchewan
Great trip. Thanks for sharing. In 2001, my wife and I paddled from the outlet of Lynx Lake to Whitefish Lake, and then over the height of land to the Snowdrift, down to our takeout at Austin Lake. Beautiful country. We had some portaging, but our trip was not nearly as challenging as yours! Again, thanks for sharing.


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PostPosted: July 24th, 2015, 4:37 pm 
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Thanks, Allan, Michael -

Allan, the Rutledge River is connected to the lake on the 1:50 NTS topo and the Toporama maps, as well as in real life. What map series were you looking at?

Michael, I read your description of that route in your book, a good read - I was looking for information on that stretch of the Snowdrift directly below Sandy Lake. The Sandy Lake / Thelon headwaters / Hanbury headwaters area is one I am thinking about for next summer.

-jmc


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