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PostPosted: March 4th, 2018, 5:20 pm 

Joined: January 22nd, 2005, 12:16 pm
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Location: Toronto
Journal of Moffatt-party participant Lanouette.
Post 4. 29 July to 7 August.

Copyright to all the following belongs to the Lanouette family.

Friday, July 29. Camp #21. Ptarmigan Rapid (upper end, east bank).

When I got up for breakfast at around 9:30 or so, I was far from a good mood. Art had tweaked me off when he got up because he had made such of a fuss getting up and dressing; and, when he left the tent, he hadn’t tied the netting shut, letting in a flock of noisy mosquitoes. I was the last one to breakfast, and when I got there, everyone else seemed to be in an equally sour humor. Art had been checking his maps and had found that, according to our current daily rate of travel, we had 60 more days of paddling to reach Baker Lake. This in turn led him to announce that from now on we were going to have to get up at six. Besides this, the oatmeal had been screwed up in the cooking and tasted rather foul, blueberries not withstanding. We were all out of sorts with everything in general, and, when Skip announced that we were using too much sugar, that didn’t help matters any. George and I banded together, Skip and Art took sides with one another, and Bruce and Pete remained silent and neutral as we argued. George, who had always been in favor of starting early, accused Art of being the cause of a great deal of delay, and Skip retorted that this was dragging skeletons out of the closet etc. It seemed to me that Art was too much in a panic because we were 5 or so days behind Tyrell, and I told him so—there was much grumpy bickering for awhile. The sun was out at the moment, though black masses of cold-front clouds were bearing down on us from the west. Finally, we just quit speaking to the “other factions,” and Art and I went about drying our belongings and the damp food. Art decided we should eat the wettest of the hardtack for lunch and dry the rest on the tarp—which we did. Soon, a short shower swept by, and I had to pull the tarp over my half-dried gear—Art repacked his personal pack in great haste and half dried. We ate, largely in silence, at around noon, and by 1:30 we were repacked, re-loaded and on the water.

By now the sun was out and our sour moods had lifted. But Art did make a miscalculation and we found ourselves at an impassably shallow rapids about a mile and a half on the wrong side of a large island. After retracing our course, we opened up a bag of dried apricots, and, after eating our ration of 15 apiece, we paddled back around the island and found the right channel. Frequently, as we paddled between two islands, we encountered swift currents, and had to be on the lookout for rocks. Earlier, before lunch, Skip’s canoe had struck a rock in the middle of the bay and it was now taking in a little water through torn canvass.

By three o’clock the sun was out in fine shape, and we took off our shirts. Soon after this, we came upon a beautiful esker and red-sand beaches. (Previous to this we saw a couple of trapper’s shacks a little farther south.) The esker, about a hundred feet high, formed 2 sides of a shallow bay, and because the day was so beautiful, Art decided to put in for awhile to take movies. What we could see of this elongated sandy mound was beautifully park-like. The sides of the hill were open and, upon them at intervals, grew beautiful tall white-spruce—it seems strange to find such nice trees so close to the limit of tree growth. The ground beneath the trees was carpeted with light green lichens and moss.

George went in for a dip, the rest of us either took pictures or wandered around, admiring the beautiful scenery. The esker itself stretched on for miles in a north-south direction, like an oversized railroad embankment to the north, I could see where the river had cut through the bank. An awesome view.

After about an hour, we went back to the canoes and paddled up a narrow part of the lake, with the esker on the west, and a rocky, gray shore to the east. The current was fairly swift in places, and we made good time, averaging about 4 or 5 m.p.h.

From where we stopped at the esker to Ptarmigan Rapids (so called by Tyrell because this is where he encountered the first Ptarmigan on his trip) was about 12 miles. Once we left this sandy, glacier-made, embankment behind us, we came into rather dismal, gray country—many boulders, some angular, some rounded. Also, the trees seemed to grow a lot thicker, if no bigger. At around seven o’clock, after sweeping down a couple of miles of twisting river, we came upon a morainic area. It was probably a terminal moraine, and, oddly enough, parallel to it, running N-S was another huge sandy esker. The moraine consisted largely of gray boulders and, without much soil on them, vegetation was sparse.

To the west we could hear the sound of Ptarmigan Rapids. Art wanted to inspect it before setting up camp, so we went down to its upper end to inspect it. We would have camped here, but the ground was too full of trees and large boulders. We paddled around awhile, and finally found a likely spot on the east bank of the easternmost channel. The place was rather rough and consisted of three small hillocks. We built the cook fire on one of them. It was rather cold that night after dinner, so we went to bed early. The skies were cloudy and a strong wind was blowing directly into our tent from the N.W. Late at night, we had a sprinkle of rain.

Saturday, July 30. Camp #22. Dubawnt River, just above the entrance to Boyd Lake.

Christ, did we get up early! Breakfast at seven, and after inspecting Ptarmigan Rapids more closely, Art decided that we would be better off if we portaged, especially because we knew that Tyrell had relied on one Indian to shoot his canoes through the rapids—this was an expert rapids-shooter-type Indian, who used to shoot the death-defying Laschine Rapids of Quebec on Christmas day—we decided not to fool with the Ptarmigan channel.

By 10:30 or so we had made the 18-chain portage from our camp to the foot of the rapids—our trail, partly through rock-strewn forest and swamp, was a caribou trail. Once loaded, we coursed down the river to the west, until we came to the esker. This one was really a monster. One of its hills was at least a couple of hundred feet high, so Art decided to climb it to get an idea of the surrounding countryside. Once at the top, you could see over 600 square miles stretching out of mile upon mile all around. The vastness of the landscape left us in awe. To the north, running N-S as far as we could see, was the continuation of the esker on which we stood. About 10 miles to the north, we could just barely make out another esker silhouetted against the horizon. This one ran East to West, and was just this side of Boyd Lake—we hoped to make camp somewhere on this esker.

The trees, especially beautiful tall white-spruce, were fairly abundant on the Ptarmigan esker. One tree in particular was more than 6 feet in circumference and must have stood about 120 feet high. Running almost parallel to the main esker were other lower ones just to the west. Many caribou trails could be seen, where the lichens covering the reddish sand had been worn away by their hooves.

At one little valley on the main esker many birds chirped in the trees as I walked by—Art went up after lunch to take movies of the birds but clouds blotted out the sun, and he had no luck. The rest of us lay around until he came back, drinking tea and writing or loafing. At around 2 o’clock we shoved off and paddled against a very stiff NW wind for most of the afternoon. It sprinkled on us from time to time, and we anticipated a good, cold soaking, but the rain eventually quit. Fortunately, the current was swift enough in most places to overcome the headwinds.

By now the lousy weather made us feel rather gloomy at times. It was cold too. Bruce got a reading of 47 degrees F while waiting for Art and Skip to inspect one rapid. While they were doing this, George and I, shivering like crazy, got partially out of the cold wind by lying down in a blueberry patch and eating berries. Everyone was cold clear through, and the prospect of swamping in this weather didn’t make any of us too happy.

We were now almost to the Boyd Lake esker. The country here consisted almost entirely of moraines and drumlins. Trees, although still fairly abundant in groves, don’t grow much on these grey, bouldery, lump-like hills. We knew that, in about 10 miles north, we would approach the limit of trees. This is really weird and strange-looking country.

We finally shot three very tricky rapids, and, as luck would have it, we all came through bone-dry, although there were several tense moments as we dodged submerged rocks or rode out fairly big waves.

Before we realized it we had come to and gone past our E-W esker. We are now camped on the south side of a moraine on the west side of the last big rapid into Boyd Lake.

Many large boulders make walking about in the dark risky—a good place to bust a leg.

Art, I, Pete, and George have pitched our tents on top of the moraine—a few shrubs shelter Art and I from a very cold North wind, but Pete and George are out in the open. Skip and Bruce were lucky enough to find a place to pitch a tent on the shore—I hunted half an hour to find this spot, and even so, it was so rocky we could not use it, were it not for our air mattresses.

Note: Since this morning our daily sugar ration has been cut to 7 teaspoonfulls per day. Each of us got a can, and from now on, we are to get our dole in these cans once every 5 days. This is making inroads on our consumption of tea and coffee, as, previously, we were allowed 1 teaspoon per cup (you could drink all you wanted) and 2 teaspoons per bowl of oatmeal. Now, at 7 spoons per day, I am putting 6 on 2 bowlfulls of oatmeal, and am drinking only one sugared tea.

The temperature of the river, at the surface is 57 degrees F. So far, the water temperature has remained fairly constant 58 degrees.

Sunday, July 31. Camp #22 (same).

Very cloudy and quite dismal most of the day. Sprinkles of rain during the late afternoon—followed by a few patches of dull blue sky for a couple of hours and then another lapse back into cloud cover. By 2 P.M., temperature had risen 3 degrees to 50, and by dinnertime, it had gone back down to 47 degrees F. Very strong winds from the north made it feel much colder out and also forced us to take a day of rest.

I spent most of the morning in the tent; writing—in the afternoon I went out on a hike and also to chop wood. For a place that is only about 6 miles from the tree limit, there sure are a lot of trees in spots; although there are also large open patches made up of large grey rocks embedded in clay and covered over with pale green lichens and other forms of small plant life.

We had fish chowder for lunch, made of 3 Grayling Bruce and Pete caught. For dinner we really went wild—we had glop and johnny-cake—Skip and I had picked some blueberries and tossed them in the cake—the results were most gratifying (and filling).

When I crawled into the tent at around eleven at night, I could see a bright, orange sky to the north. May just be a good day tomorrow.

Monday, August 1. Camp #23. Middle of Boyd Lake.

Sure enough—we got up at six o’clock to a much welcomed beautiful day. The temperature registered 47 degrees F at breakfast, but the sun was out and there wasn’t a puff of wind anywhere, so it was very pleasant and comfortable. Art was in a rare good mood, because now he was going to be able to take movies of the rapids and the transitional, semi-treeless zone we were in. By 7:30 we had broken camp and were on the opposite shore, where the sun for picture taking was just right.

By noon all pictures had been taken and we were on our way north once again.

Boyd Lake, which is about 25 miles long, is chock-full of small islands which are difficult to approach because of the shallow and very rocky bottom of the lake.

We stopped on a sandy little island, part of an esker which is being washed away, for lunch. We discovered, much to our annoyance, that 3 of the 12 jars of peanut butter in our canoe were broken and moldy. We now have about 10 jars left, as we were able to salvage some of the peanut butter that had not been affected by either mold or broken glass.

After lunch, Art took a few “stock shots,” and we were soon under way again.

By midafternoon we had paddled across most of the wide part of the lake and had crossed over the line on the map indicating the northern limit of trees. There still are quite a few trees around however, although they are definitely getting scarcer and smaller with every passing mile. Most of the islands on the north side of the lake are pretty barren—they are made up of great huge boulders set in clay and covered with small shrubs and lichens, etc. The trees grow only near the shores, and the horizon looks very flat, although no doubt, this is caused by the hills being long and of generally the same height.

By seven we were camped on a “U”- shaped island—our tents and fire are on the tip of the east leg. As with the other islands, there are some trees along the shores and low areas. We are camped up fairly high, among the boulders. There are many bearberries and juniper berries around here. The bearberries are bright red and the latter are black. In addition, I found a few blueberries, some “Arctic cotton,” fireweed, and birch bushes. The trees are all black spruce and very knotty and gnarled. There is also a berry up here that looks like a raspberry, except that it is yellow-orange and has much larger and fewer lobes – bitter tasting. There is the usual abundance of lichens and moss amid the rocks. (We have been seeing all the aforementioned flora for quite some time.)

As for bugs, the black flies and mosquitoes are really fierce. The flies are particularly bothersome, as they are so small they can get into shirts and pants through very small openings. I put on my long red underwear pants this morning, as I was expecting a very cold day, and found this to be pretty black-fly proof. A “T”- shirt under my outer shirt would also be a big help, but I have been too lazy to dig one out of my fathomless pack-sack.

George went for a dip right after we landed and had one hell of a time with the bugs while he was getting dressed afterwards.

The temperature this evening was 60 degrees F—we paddled all afternoon without shirts.
After dinner, I went on a tour of our island. There had been a heavy rain a couple of days ago, and I found some pretty fresh caribou tracks. One part of this island is well crisscrossed with reindeer trails, some of which are quite deeply worn.

I also found some rocks piled up by some Indian (probably Fred Toussainte, as these are his trapping grounds) on top of a huge boulder. As I was coming back to camp via a little grubby beach in the hollow of the “U,” I came across a set of very fresh bear tracks in the sand. The prints had not dried out where they had been exposed to sun, and I figure a bear was here yesterday or some time today

I got back to camp in time to take pictures of a very beautiful red, orange, and pale greenish-blue sunset. A warm front is now approaching us from the south and we may be in for more cruddy weather.

Art and I went to bed at around midnight—Art tried to paint the sunset in watercolors, but I guess he is not very satisfied with the results.

A cold wind from the north is now coming up.

Tuesday, August 2. Camp #23 (same).

During the night the warm front circled about us and a cold wind and driving misty rain woke me up at about 5:30—I stuffed my clothes into my sleeping bag to keep them dry, and the next thing I knew, it was almost nine o’clock on a cheerless early August morning. The wind and clouds are moving in from the NE by now and breakfast was a rather somber affair, especially since there wasn’t a full second bowl of mush for late comers and the half brewed coffee fell into a fire which had taken almost a half hour for Art to kindle (he finally had to use gas to get the soggy wood going).

After breakfast I stomped and squished about in the rain trying to find a decent tree to chop—finally found a few and brought them back to camp. We had to move our fire over to a more sheltered spot and, despite the frequent mists, we did not put up the tarpaulin.

Lunch: dehydrated soup and a pilot-biscuit and cheese apiece.

We sat huddled around the fire for most of the afternoon until Art, Pete, and Bruce decided to do some casting from the shore. Art was particularly successful, catching a 15 ½ lb. lake trout and a smaller one a few minutes later—the rest caught nothing. Once on shore, Art had to wrestle with his 39-inch monster to keep him from getting away—Skip meanwhile, was taking movies of the affair. Skip cleaned and steaked the big fish which, with mashed potatoes, fed all six of us quite adequately. I gutted the smaller fish and we will have hit for breakfast tomorrow.

As we were getting dinner ready, the sky revealed patches of blue and we all figured on a good day tomorrow. But now, as I lie in our violently flapping tent, the murky clouds and wind-driven mist have again engulfed us. Everything but the inside of my sleeping bag is cold and in varying stages of dampness. I have spread my poncho over the bag, in case it rains hard tonight. I have finished my first tin of tobacco and, except for about a carton and a half of American smokes, all I have left is one more tin. (Later) Art has just come back from the top of the knoll along the side of which our campsite is located—he and Pete found an arrowhead and a broken red quartzite spear point. I had seen a lot of chippings of white quartz on top of this hill on the first evening we were here, and am now kicking myself for not having looked more closely at this promising area.

Wednesday, August 3. Camp #23 (same).

Very restless and sleepless night. The wind shifted to the west and NW during the night and really picked up force. The tent fluttered and shook violently all night and rain came in and got in between my air mattress and sleeping bag.

We got up for breakfast around quarter of nine. It was sprinkling somewhat and the thermometer registered 48 degrees F.

Breakfast was extra good, as, in addition to our customary 2 bowls of oatmeal, we had fried filleted lake trout and a piece of bacon. Right after breakfast it began raining again and I crawled back into the tent, where I promptly slept until almost time for lunch. Everyone else except Skip went up on the hill to look for Indian artifacts—Art brought back many broken pieces of scrapers, knives, spearheads, and points.

Lunch too was a culinary delight—ingredients: one 5 or 6 lbs. lake trout (caught by Art last night after I had hit the hay), chopped into chunks and tossed into a kettleful of soup and rice. Then we had fried fish roe and, to top the agglomeration off, we had hardtack, cheese, and another slice of bacon. I made a real taste treat out of my “tack” sandwich by putting the cheese and bacon on it, and then laying it in the frying pan for a few minutes to let the cheese melt.

After lunch the rain and wind came bounding down upon us with renewed energy and, once again, we are all feeling rather glum, damp, and miserable. As I sit here writing this, in my poncho, the rain is practically beating right through the tent—I tried to dry out my sleeping bag for awhile, but it only got damper and more uncomfortable.

Note: We are now in a somewhat serious position with regard to our food supply. We have enough to last us for around 40 more days. This would be plenty were it not for the fact that, lately, the weather is forcing us into inactivity, as far as mileage is concerned. For the last week or so we have been having one good day for every 3 or 4 bad ones. When we were on the river, the wind, although annoying at times, did not prevent us from going on; but here on the lakes it doesn’t take much wind to make the going too rough for our “prospector” model canoes, laden as they are. From now on we are going to have to rely more and more on fish and/or caribou meat to supplement our rapidly dwindling supplies. On an average, fishless day our total food consumption has been as follows: Breakfast—6 cups oatmeal, milk (which can always be even more watered down than it now is), 18 teaspoons of sugar, 18 prunes, plus salt and coffee. Lunch: 18 pilot biscuits; 6 with cheese (quarter lb. per meal), 6 with peanut butter, and six with jam—dessert, if any, is either 6 small chocolate bars or 90 apricots. Dinner, the big meal of the day consists mainly of glop, which uses up: 2 lbs. macaroni, 2 tins bully beef, 1 can dehydrated vegetables, 2 onions (some of which are going bad), salt, pepper, and other condiments. In addition, we have usually been having chocolate pudding for dessert, although this has been somewhat varied on occasion by either having no dessert or cocoa.

Our biggest trouble is that not enough consideration was given to A) Inclement weather, of which we have had plenty ever since getting to the north end of Wholdaia Lake. B) Spoilage of food either through breakage or wetting. Lately, 2 or 3 tins of bully beef have spoiled and there will undoubtedly be more to come. Most of the onions are getting soft, salt and sugar have become lumpy because of dampness, three jars of peanut butter have “taken gas,” powdered milk has popped out of the cans, as has some jam, etc. Our original plan called for all such perishables to be packed in tin cans. But, because our supplies were so delayed, we had to scrounge around for whatever containers were handy. The “press-top” cans we are using for jam and powdered milk cannot take too much banging around or the lids pop off. The pack sacks are adequate for an occasional wetting, but if left sitting a couple of hours in a canoe with an inch or two of water on the bottom they are not too red hot. If these pack sacks were all new, like some of our personal packs, they would be damned near waterproof, but most of the food packs have seen much use.

Our latest plan is to have all the guys with fishing gear make a couple of casts during rest stops and when there isn’t much to do, as a supplement of fish greatly aids the diet, and besides, they are rich in protein. We may even do some trolling from the canoes as we go on. We will, it seems, definitely have to kill a couple of caribou. I am not looking forward to this, as I don’t relish killing non-carnivorous and harmless animals—besides, cleaning and preparing the meat will be a rather grubby, gory job. However, I do own the 30/30, and I guess what has to be done just has to be done.

We (Bruce, George, and I) have been plagued with rust on our firearms. The entire outside of George’s .22 is coated with rust, and every few days, I have to check my gun. Bruce’s gun case has worn out at the tip and his rifle is also becoming rusted. My gun (the last time I checked it), is in good shape, although the lever and rear peep sight tend to collect rust, especially where the bluing has worn off. I am the only one who owns any gun oil, and make sure that my carbine is fairly well protected. However, most of my oil has leaked out, and there is only a little bit left for the three of us. I am giving the others only enough oil to keep their guns in good working shape—they will have to use grease if they want to keep their exteriors from rusting. Boots, too, are a problem—everyone’s boots but mine are beginning to fall apart at the soles and my heavy stitching equipment has been seeing much use. Even my boots may begin to fall apart any day now, so I keep many fingers crossed.

Food, good old food, is now and has been for some time the main topic of conversation. It beats sex all to hell. George and I, especially, who are probably the two heaviest and therefore least satisfied eaters on the trip, keep thinking of all the things we could do with a million pounds of corn meal, some sugar, and a few other odds and ends. Neither of us has ever before shown any particular interest or concern with bakeries; but now, wow! There is no craving for fancy or frilly foods, however, just lots of plain, everyday glop with maybe a huge steak or smoked ham thrown in. Our capacity to consume is increasing and, after nearly every meal, we feel we could do it all over again--with gusto and abandon.

I once thought that a large variety of food was necessary to tempt the palate. I suppose that this is still true where all the food one needs is near at hand, but up here in the bush, we damn near quiver with anticipation every time someone mentions glop, hardtack, or oatmeal. I find myself longing to be set free on a mountain of raw bully beef—johnny cake, burned on the bottom as it is, nevertheless remains in our minds as the acme of culinary perfection. There is a lot of variety though, even in the oatmeal, when you get right down to it. Depending on many uncontrollable factors, we get our oats slightly raw, slightly too well done and, therefore, slimy; lumpy (if they have been wet), or, on occasion, just right. Our first bowl in the morning is invariably too hot, and the second bowl is always too cold. There is, however never quite enough sugar. So you can see why we shake with joy over the breakfast table. One never really knows what sort of a taste treat, what sort of an gustatory adventure, our ingenious cook has prepared for us that morning until one has scorched his tongue to a tender lump over the first huge tablespoon—take my women, take my goats, but for Chrissake, leave my oats!

More and more of our dreams are given to food—George is always dreaming of restaurants, but it seems the poor bastard never quite gets to eat anything—I am having better luck. This morning I dreamed I was at a church service in which little girls dressed in white showered the congregation with chocolate bars from the balcony. I managed to scramble over most of the old ladies and children and ran happily back to my seat, munching two or three chocolate bars at a time. As the service progressed, angelfood cakes appeared from under the pews, heavy and moist with a white but orange-tasting frosting. As the dream ended, I was before the altar, still attacking the cake, and the sexton had just run off with a gallon jug of apple cider I had the foresight to bring. George and Art were both squatted in small niches saying “I am a raven, I am a raven, etc.”

Our morale, as a group, seems to be pretty good. We all get along fine with one another most of the time, and sometimes we are most cheerful during the shittiest weather. On the other hand, prolonged dampness and cold tends to wear on us and most snide comments, retorts and arguments are likely to occur. There are times, when paddling under a gray sky, that I’ll swear that Art is loafing in the stern. I’ll spin around in my seat, only to see him plodding along at the paddle, same as I. At other times, especially after a full day’s paddling, I’ll get aggravated as one of the other canoes slowly begins to overtake us. I’ll paddle like holy hell rather than lose another inch to them. I haven’t been really conscious of it, but Art and Skip have noticed that I really pour it on whenever the prospect for making camp for the night looms.

Another thing I have noticed, in connection with the weather and food supply, is that on a bright, clear, sunny day we paddle happily onward, confident that we could get clear up to the pole if we had to. However, on overcast and gloomy days, we become preoccupied with the increasing possibility of getting caught and trapped by an early winter and running out of food. It is at times like these that Art and Bruce go over the maps inch by inch, figuring, in terms of degrees of latitude, miles, food or time, just how long before the end of the trip and whether or not we can make it with full stomachs. Naturally, everyone gets a different answer, and, when they re-check everything, they come up with different answers and are in no close agreement.

Today it is overcast, and, as I have written earlier, we are rather miserable. Each of us dreads the day when we will see snow mixed in with the goddam rain. Art is again thinking seriously of an all-night paddle if the wind and rain lets up, and there is a general grimness, mixed with outbursts of almost hysterical humor at times, as we sit huddled about one of the last campfires we will be able to enjoy, and watch the cold rain fall into our food bowls. On days like this everyone goes on about his business and we don’t see much of one another except around meal time.

Right now, the weather seems to be breaking—the sun is out—it is still blowing like hell, though. I don’t think we’ll be leaving here until tomorrow. Art is happily taking movies around here—some huge gulls are flying around camp, eating the fish guts we tossed out. It’s almost time for glop (my stomach tells me), so I’ll saunter down to the campfire in a few minutes and see how the rest of the world is making out.

(Later) After dinner we again talked about our food situation, the weather, mileage etc. Several possibilities and suggestions as to the future conduct of the expedition were brought up. Art himself brought up the possibility that we might be better off if we turned back, but this was a halfhearted suggestion and he got the expected negative answer from the rest of us.

The upshot of our talk was that from now on, there will have to be less time wasted and that every possible hour spent at the paddles will be that much more to our credit. Consequently, we will be getting up around 4:30 or 5 tomorrow morning and every other decent morning. Also, we may have to paddle in wet, rainy weather, provided that the wind is not too great. We have made 25 miles a day on lakes before and it is hoped that we will be able to do so with more regularity from now on. Our average lately has been a rather skimpy 10 to 12 miles per day, and, with earlier starts, there is not much reason to suppose that, barring rapids, portages, headwinds, etc. we could not squeeze out more precious miles.

We now have food for 40 days. It may take 30 days of paddling to reach Baker, but, if we have to waste 20 days because of weather, it doesn’t take too much figuring to see that we are in trouble. The idea is to get as much done on good days as is feasible, so that we will feel freer to take it easy on the many lousy days we are bound to encounter.

We are all sacking early tonight—the temperature in the waning, golden sunshine is 50 degrees F, and the skies are clearing in the North. A slight wind is still with us.

Thursday, August 4. Camp #24. Dubawnt River, 5 miles south of Barlow Lake.

Today was quite eventful for us—it began with Skip getting us all up for breakfast at 4:30 A.M. The early dawn was quite beautiful, but unfortunately a storm from the south soon had us all wishing we were back in the tents. The temperature at that hour was 47 degrees F, and, at around 6:30, as we were just getting ready for our paddle, it started to rain. We had been forewarned by an absolutely red rainbow to the south, but because we were all up and ready to go, we decided to try and get as far as possible anyway. Bruce, George, and I were wearing our ponchos, but the winds from the south and SW swept the rain right in through the sides and we were soon almost as wet as the rest, who had no waterproof leg coverings. It was damned miserable paddling, and, to make things worse, visibility was none too hot, so that we almost wandered into the wrong bays several times.

Finally, after following currents and getting into Dubawnt River once again, we shot a series of small shallow riffles. By that time Art could no longer stand the cold and wet, so, at 10:30, after 4 hours of solid shit, he called time out for a little “brew up” of hot chocolate on one of the sparsely wooded banks of the river.

We all sat huddled and shivering around our fire, drying out shirts, pants, and sweaters, and guzzling down steaming bowls of hot chocolate. By about quarter of twelve we were warm and dry once again, and the sky, although still overcast, showed signs of clearing.

At about 1:30, as we were paddling around a small point on the left bank of the river, we saw our first caribou! I guess Art and Skip were the first two to see them. There were two of them—they both had huge horns, and they stared at us until Art, who by now was in almost a frenzy of excitement, leaped madly out of our canoe with camera and tripod. At this point the two caribou disappeared over the ridge of the hill, and Art was himself out of sight.

The rest of us stayed on the rocky shore and, while waiting for Art, ate our lunches. Meanwhile, we had seen a herd of twenty or more caribou about a mile farther downstream.

When we finished eating, Art came back, and after he was through, we set off again, keeping a wary eye peeled for rocks in the shallow, broad river and for more caribou. All of us were in a state of nervous excitement, and this only increased as we saw additional little bands on the surrounding low hills and in the grassy spots along the river bank.

The country at this point reminded me very strongly of Nevada—very few trees and lots of barren, rocky hills near the river and looming up as ridges in the distance. For the most part, the river was quite broad, though shallow and very winding—the current was pretty swift and carried us along at a good clip. The river banks looked, in spots, as though someone has just gone through the place with a gigantic bulldozer. The rocks, mostly medium in size, were rounded and their pink and white composition gave them a clean and cheerful look. Here and there, at fairly close intervals could be seen groves of larch (tamarack) and spruce.

At several points we saw caribou swimming across the river, and once, we headed off two of them and got as close as a paddle-length from them, while Art, in a happy frenzy, ground out his film.

At around 5 o’clock we heard a large rapids and decided to camp at its head. The sun was out, as it had been for a couple of pleasant hours, and we pulled in to shore in an eddy only a few yards from the noisily rushing white water.

This was our first day of real travel above the tree line and all of us were greatly impressed by the rugged barrenness of the country. A few yards north of camp rose a low, rocky hill about 25 or 30 feet high. Extending to the north from the east side of this hill was a sand and rock, wave-cut ridge also about the same height. Behind this ridge, and to the west, spread a vast basin or depression dotted with a few groves of spruce, tamarack, and birch. Here, we soon discovered, was a herd of 50 to 75 caribou ranging in size from fawns no bigger than large dogs, to huge bucks, as big as a horse. Art almost had fits of delight as he scooted up the hill with camera in hand. Before setting up camp, the rest of us walked downstream on the shore to view the countryside. We walked well below the crest of the ridge and downwind to not to startle the herd.

I walked further downstream than the rest, came to where I thought I would be opposite the bulk of the herd, and cautiously crept up to the top of the ridge to get a good view of the animals as they grazed.

As I came up over the crest, I suddenly spotted a yearling calf grazing about 30 feet away. He looked at me for a minute or so and then trotted off to rejoin the rest. As I walked slowly along the ridge, the caribou noticed me and immediately they all stared at me and then moved calmly away from the ridge and to the west. They seemed quite tame; most of them were very curious and would not move away until getting a good eyeful of we humans. If one made a sudden move or gesture, however, the whole herd would panic and trot off at a pretty good clip.

After a few minutes most of the herd moved off and, as I was preparing to descend to the shore, I saw on the opposite bank, about a half mile away, a huge, pure white figure—an Artic wolf. It seemed almost as big as some of the medium-sized caribou. I called out excited to George, who was upstream about 300 yards away, and he came running toward me. It was then that the wolf noticed me. He stood still and looked in my direction. I howled a couple of times to keep him from moving off before George saw him, but, once he had seen me, he loped off into a patch of trees and George missed him. George and I both half walked and half ran back to Art and his camera. As I thought things over, I began to wonder if maybe this was an albino caribou and not a wolf because of his size. But because I had seen no horns, (both male and female caribou have horns, although those of the female are much smaller and slenderer) plus the fact that this animal had loped off rather than gazing curiously at me, convinced me it was a wolf. As it turned out, Art too had spotted him and had taken a few telephoto pictures of him.

Before we reached Art, both George and I caught a fleeting glimpse of white as the wolf disappeared over a saddle in the hills to the east.

It was a rather excited group that gathered around the cook-fire for glop that evening. We had really been given a royal welcome into Canada’s barren country—complete change in scenery, herds of curious and tame caribou, and, to top it all off, the sight of the great white Arctic wolf.

As we sat around the fire, after eating, a small fawn grazed to within 200 feet of us. We watched him in silence until he moved off out of sight. A beautiful sunset a little later was enhanced by the presence of small groups of caribou that came to within a few feet of the tents—Art got good pictures of them silhouetted against the reddened western sky.

After most of the guys had gone to their tents I played my harmonica until only a few glowing coals remained of the fire. It was almost midnight—cold too; Bruce’s thermometer registered 39 degrees F—I was soon in the tent, crunched down into my sleeping bag.

Note: Tyrell had seen his first caribou on Carey Lake, about 40 or 50 miles to the north. Their herd was so large that he and his men had been able to walk right in among them. We found “our” herd to be a bit more wild, although if they could not smell you, and if you did not move, the animals would come up to within a few feet of you. Apparently, like deer, the caribou cannot see color and, if upwind, decide that you are a rock or a tree, as long as you remain motionless. At this time, most of the horns are “in velvet,” and the winter coats are only beginning to come in, making the animal’s hide rather mangy and scraggly. The caribou, if standing or lying quietly, are quite hard to see because their blotchy hide is almost the color of many of the rocks in this area.

Most of the animals we have seen travel in small groups ranging from 3 or 4 to about 10. However, there are also larger herds.

Caribou ankle-bones click quite audibly as they walk about—because of this I have been able to hear caribou long before seeing them. Caribou smell rather like cows, although their scent is not nearly as pungent. Most cow caribou have small horns. The head and snout of these animals is rather thin and long—they remind me of anteaters with truncated snouts.

The Arctic wolf is usually white and grows quite large. He is not given to roaming around in packs, and prefers to forage for himself alone. Only rarely do you see more than one Arctic wolf. This animal follows a herd about, waiting for a chance to bring down a straying fawn or a weak caribou.

With a herd of caribou in the vicinity, we notice a lack of blackflies and mosquitoes around camp. We found this a welcome change from our fly-infested camps farther south and, if only for this reason, we hope we to accompany many more herds.

Friday, August 5. Camp #24 (same).

Art had planned to get up early if the day had been nice, so he could take more pictures of the herd. He also had high hopes that the white wolf would return—he had gotten distant shots of it, and wanted something closer. But the day was gray, cold, and quite a wind blew over the plain from the southwest. George had forgotten to give his watch to Skip so we got up around 11:30. The temperature was 47 degrees F at noon and we had a brunch of oatmeal and 6 grayling which Pete and Bruce had caught at the head of the rapid.

It had been decided a few days before that we would need some caribou meat to stretch our supplies of food a little longer, and now that the day was a bad one for traveling, we figured that this was as good a time as any to shoot some fresh meat. By around 1:30, Bruce and I had gotten our rifles ready—small patches of lighter clouds convinced Art that he should try and get movies of the hunt—every now and then we got a slight drizzle of rain.

This was our first caribou hunt and, not knowing what the reaction of the herd would be when they heard shots, we decided to play the thing quite cautiously. The bulk of the herd was grazing about 3/4s of a mile away from camp, to the south, along the shores of the river. But, every now and then see small groups from the north headed down to join them, so we decided to strike off to the northwest to intercept them as they wandered down to the main herd.

This proved unsuccessful. There was very little cover on the plains, and small groups were quite a bit more cautious than when in a large group, so we came back to camp after a few minutes and headed for a grove of trees southeast of the camp.

It was tough trying to stalk with Art along; as we had to think not only of getting to our game, but also we had to wait for a caribou to walk along a ridge, to wait for the right amount of light, etc. Every time Art would set up his camera, we would move off to another spot--picture taking was poor at best.
I had decided to let Bruce do all the hunting. I wasn’t fond of the idea of shooting a harmless, defenseless, caribou—the whole business smacked of shooting Prancer, Dancer, Donner, and Blitzen in a rain barrel; I went along only to back Bruce, if a wounded animal started to escape.

We finally reached the northeast end of the grove and started walking south. There weren’t many trees, and those that did grow were quite short. Tall, waist-high grass grew in parts of the grove. Suddenly, as we were walking through the rustling dry grass, we saw about 10 caribou walking slowly along on top of a small hill about 75 yards to the south. We crouched behind a dead log and waited for the right animal to come along. We had decided to shoot a “spike-horn” as, at that age, they are still tender and not yet as infested with botte flies, liver-flukes and other parasites. Also, a spike-horn is not as likely to be attached to its mother as a fawn, nor is it old enough to breed.

Finally two “spikers” in a row came up over the ridge-top through the trees and were well silhouetted against the dark sky.

They both paused to look around for a few seconds—I worked the lever on my gun and saw the dull, bronze-colored 30/30 shell slide into the breech. I pulled the trigger, setting the hammer at its half-cocked, “safety” position. Bruce flipped the safety on his bolt-action 30/06 and aimed from a prone position; I was crouched behind him to his left. Art was somewhere behind us—we did not check to see if he was ready or not, because the animals had begun to move on. A loud shot rang out—nothing happened—the caribou stood stock still, looking around them in all directions, as they had been taken completely by surprise. Bruce cursed and worked the bolt, ejecting the still smoking casing, and sliding round #2 into firing position. He was quite excited and kept repeating that he had the sight right on one of the caribou and didn’t see how he could have missed. He fired again—this time I thought I saw the hindmost spikehorn jump a little, but I guess I was wrong; they both moved rapidly out of sight over the crest of the hill.

By now Bruce was really excited and was cursing his aim and saying he didn’t see how he could have missed—neither did I, but I figured that he very definitely had a good case of what is known as “buck-fever.”

We both got up and walked rapidly through the remaining trees and up the cleared slopes of the rise. We didn’t expect to see any caribou for miles around, but as we came to the top of the rise, we were both very surprised to see 10 or 15 caribou, ranging from some fair-sized bucks to small fawns, standing around, looking at us. Bruce again leveled his gun at the nearest spiker, which couldn’t have been more than 50 yards away. We were both standing. Some of the caribou began running away—I yelled at Bruce to shoot before they all disappeared—he did. This time his shell hit one of the spikers in the side—the poor animal jumped a little, turned around, and started to trot off. I was very angry with Bruce for missing such easy shots and only wounding one of the spikehorns, and, as Bruce was frantically working his bolt, I cocked the hammer, took aim, and squeezed the trigger. The deer went down—my bullet had broken its backbone at what would correspond to just above a human’s hips. The animal got up on its front two legs, trying to drag itself to safety. I ran up to it and put a second bullet through its neck to cut short its misery. When I sliced the throat with my knife to drain the blood, I noticed the dead caribou had deep blue eyes. I felt totally disgusted with myself and went off to sit down under a scrubby tree while Bruce went back to camp to get the others. Art, who had missed the shooting, came up and took movies before Bruce went back.

George and Skip, meanwhile, had been trying to rope a caribou near camp. They came over to where I had propped up the warm carcass to make it drain better. George dove right into the job and was soon almost completely soaked with blood and entrails. I helped hold the young doe awhile until she had been gutted and a hind-quarter severed. I took a hunch back to camp and hung it on a tripod. By the time I got back, the grisly butchering job was almost done.

That night we had caribou stew—my appetite was way below par.

At around 10 o’clock, when we hit the sack, it was 44 degrees and still cloudy.

Saturday, August 6. Camp #25. West shore of south Barlow Lake.

The day, weather wise, didn’t begin in too promising a way. It was cloudy, windy, and cold at around six o’clock when we got up. Luckily, however, by the time the sternmen had looked the long rapids over, the cloud cover began to break, although it remained quite cool and very windy for much of the day.

The rapids were more than a mile long and we ran it with no trouble, on the left side, close to shore. From here on down, the river was rather swift as it twisted and turned and there were many short rapids. We ran all of these without any trouble, although an extremely strong NW wind made steering quite hard. Wind-blown waves made things a little hairy at times because they overrode the telltale waves made by submerged rocks. Despite the quartering wind we made pretty good time on the river, thanks to its swiftness and, by noon, we were within a couple of miles to the outlet into Barlow Lake, at the head of a short but violent rapids that had to be scouted from shore. We ate our lunch of customary hardtack in the shelter of a small grove of dwarf birch, and then shot the rapids—Art took movies of this one, as he had with the long one in the morning.

When we finally entered Barlow Lake it was nearly impossible to make headway against the strong wind and occasional violent gusts. Most of us would have preferred camping rather than wasting time and energy fighting wind and wave. Art, however, wanted to keep on going, which definitely pissed me off. The shores of the southern end of the lake were quite flat and the waters off them were very shallow. We paddled until about 5 o’clock and managed to struggle upwind for 4 or 5 miles. At one point Art and I had a few sharp words, when I told him we ought to quit screwing around and make camp. We paddled on in silence after the outburst, until we came to a hill on the west shore overlooking the lake. The hill was the highest in the vicinity; about 75 to 100 feet high, and its shore was flat and shallow. Art picked a lousy landing and I got my feet wet while unloading the canoe, which, after the afternoon’s paddle, didn’t set me up in any happy frame of mind.

Before unloading, though, we all climbed the hill and found quite a large old Indian campsite. The place was littered with quartz and quartzite chips—Pete found a beautiful scraper, and the rest of us unearthed several good projectile points. I found two arrowheads that afternoon and made up my mind not to show them to Art, as I wanted to keep them to send to Bill and Mary. One point was a beautiful, small, elongated, white, bird point and the other was quite a bit cruder.

Art saw a couple of caribou and tried to take pictures of them, but they spooked and beat it before he could do anything about it. He accused Pete and me of scaring them and I told him that if anything had scared them it was he, running around trying to take pictures of them. (Actually Pete and I had been out of sight of the caribou, looking below the ridge for artifacts).

Soon after unloading, George hung out the meat and soon it was covered with houseflies. Hungry as I was, my portion of broiled steak was not relished—the meal left me less than satisfied--and I later chomped down 16 ounces of chocolate.

Before sunset, I went up on the ridge and found two slate objects of about the same size and shape (although flatter) than “lady-finger” cookies. One had a series of X’s carved on one side. No one knows how the Indians used these; they may be a valuable find—if not, they certainly are unusual. When the sun got too low to search for artifacts, I hiked westward for a couple of miles. At one point I came across a herd of about 30 caribou; these seemed a lot wilder than the previous herd and kept a good distance away once they spotted me.

I did not get back until quite late. By that time my mood had improved somewhat and I showed Art my finds. He kept them and put them in the sample bags. Damn! Immediately I kicked myself for relinquishing the artifacts and determined not to do so again.

Sunday, August 7. Camp #26. South end of the west coast of Carey Lake.

Got up at 6 A.M. to a beautiful, clear and almost windless day. After breakfast, Art, Skip, and I went up to the top of the hill—Art and Skip wanted to get more caribou shots, and I wanted to look around for more Indian artifacts.

While Art and Skip moved off to the southwest to look around, I stayed up on the top, looking around in the sandy spots for more stuff, but without success. Once, a lone caribou grazed to within 100 feet of me. I took its picture and also pictures of 4 or 5 others that were quite a bit farther away. However, I am not too sure that these pix will be too good, as the caribou blended right into the
By about nine o’clock we were on the water, and, soon after, most of us had removed our shirts to get any tan we could pick up. After about 45 minutes of paddling, we heard the low but distinct throb of a giant bomber, as it cruised out of sight, in the bright skies. We tried to locate it, but it was too far away to see either with the eye or Art’s field glasses.

We paddled onward after a cigarette pause. The country we were now in differed slightly in that we noticed ancient beaches and wave-cut benches on the sides of the gently sloping hills in the vicinity. I had remarked to Bruce the previous evening, as we stood on the ancient Indian site, that many of the rocks looked as though they had at one time been submerged—now I could see that my observation had proved correct. In some places, we noticed that the water had stood at 4 different levels. The hills would rise gently to a flat terrace, or bench, and there would frequently be a beach or sand deposit along these benches. Then the hill would continue on upward until it came to another leveled terrace, and so on. The tops of some of the hills and ridges were flattened out almost like buttes—it seems
At around 11:15, as we were passing a small point on the west coast, Art noticed a tree that had all its lower branches trimmed away. Tyrell mentions this tree in his 1893 trip—the tree, trimmed almost all the way to the top, is called a lobstick, and is an Indian guide post, showing that he is on the right route.

On another neck of land, on the east shore, and within a half hour or so south of the lobstick, we saw a huge skin-drying rack, erected by some Indian.

Art got out of the canoe to take pictures of the lobstick, while I sat around, smoking.

When Art got back in, we had a slight fuss because he wanted me to climb overboard in the calf-deep water and drag the canoe off the rocks on which he had pulled it. I was sitting in the bow, which was pointed out into the lake and I was damned if I’d get my feet wet as long as we could get the canoe off any other way with paddle or pole—finally, mumbling in anger, Art got out of the stern and pushed us off—we did not speak to one another until well into the afternoon.

We ate lunch while adrift on the lake. A gentle wind from the south pushed us several hundred yards in the direction we wanted to go.

The afternoon was almost totally uneventful—we saw one or two caribou along the shore, but we figured we may have missed seeing the great main herd Tyrell talks about at this point in his journal.

At about 5 o’clock we came to the end of the lake and entered the river once again—the current was swift and at one point we had to get ashore to look over a large rapid.

When Skip and Bruce ran it, they hit a large wave and took in a lot of water, so that they had to unload and dump out. Pete and George had slightly better luck—we were the last to run the long rapids and Art, taking no chances, portaged his 86 lb. camera box, before we tried our hand at running the rapid. We took in several splashes, which amounted to a gallon or so of water, but it was not serious enough to warrant unloading the canoe, and we kept on paddling.

Bruce and Skip were pretty wet. We had been paddling a long day and had made over 20 miles and we wanted to camp PDQ, but Art wanted to get to Carey Lake (there are about 5 miles of river between Barlow and Carey) and so that’s where we went, passing up several beautiful campsites. George was pretty fed up and told Art so—Skip and Bruce were soaking wet, Pete wanted to camp—I didn’t say a word.

We finally found a fairly decent spot with a small beach just as we came into Carey, and pulled up there. Art and I had another altercation about where to unload the supplies, and we soon had camp pitched.
After another dinner of steaks and mashed potatoes we all cut out additional pieces of meat and smoked them to have for lunch the following day.

The sun had almost set by the time Art and I took the canoe out and went across the river to look at a couple of interesting hills on the east shore.

We could see some old tent stakes on the shore, and, as we walked inland, Art found a stray spear point. There were several old beaches nearby, and the rocks sure looked waterworn. We found nothing else, so I gathered some of the old stakes to use for firewood, and soon we were back in camp.

I went to bed quite late.

Directory for the items of Lanouette’s journal.
The limit of 60,000 characters required eight posts.
Post 1 of 8. 16 June to 1 July. ... 81&t=46535
Post 2 of 8. 2 July to 16 July. ... 81&t=46555
Post 3 of 8. 17 July to 28 July. ... 81&t=46557
Post 4 of 8. 29 July to 7 August. ... 81&t=46561
Post 5 of 8. 8 August to 20 August. ... 81&t=46610
Post 6 of 8. 21 August to 2 September. ... 81&t=46696
Post 7 of 8. 3 September to 10 September. ... 81&t=46737
Post 8 of 8. 11 September to 16 September. ... 81&t=46738


A literal mind is a little mind. If it's not worth doing to excess, it's not worth doing at all. Good enough isn't.  None are so blind as those who choose not to see. (AJ)

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