Day 1
  Day 2
  Day 3
  Day 4
  Day 5
  Day 6
  Day 7
  Day 8
  Day 9
  Day 10
  Day 11
  Day 12
  Day 13
  Day 14
  Day 15
  Day 16
  Day 17
  Day 18
  Day 19
  Day 20
  Day 21
  Day 22
  Day 23
  Day 24
  Day 25

Canoeing the Kazan River

Kasba Lake to Baker Lake

Northern paddling Adventure #7

25 days, 560 miles, Jul 2001

Ray & Jenny Jardine

2001-07-25 page 16 of 25

Day 16

Yathkyed Lake

We set off at 6 am, bundled in extra clothing since the morning seemed quite chilly. The wind was light and directly offshore - exactly the direction we wanted to go. We paddled out to a group of three islands, and passed through the right-most gap. By then the wind was piping up, and the seas were starting to thrash a bit so we resorted to Plan B: paddling northwest to the mainland rather than island hopping and cutting corners. From the mainland we hopped a wide gap to the east, followed the shore around to the jump-off point and paddled east to the next large island. Rounding the north point of this island, we saw a lone caribou. Apparently it had been sleeping or resting, and seeing us at close range it jumped up, had a good long pee, put its nose in the air and trotted off. It was the first, and proved to be the only, caribou we sighted on this trip.

The boisterous winds of the morning were starting to calm, so we made a beeline for the distant point of land and paddled to its eastern side. From there we made a 2.5 mile jump, angling northeast, across a large bay. Then we followed the coast with a few shortcuts across wide bays.

All in all, it was a day of big, open water. Eventually we landed ashore at the base of a huge, narrow peninsula, looking for "Tyrell's Portage." Navigation in this area was confusing at best. What we saw on the land and what we saw on the map failed to match. We had cut the final bay on a compass bearing. All land here is extremely low lying, and because the water is so high on the gently sloped tundra, the shoreline is very difficult to make out from the canoe. We landed where we thought the portage started, according to the compass more or less, but nothing looked right. But just to be sure, we hiked ten minutes inland, in the direction the compass indicated the portage went, and lo and behold we found a very large body of water, meaning that we had indeed found Tyrell's Portage.

Hiking inland, in the direction the compass indicated, to find Tyrell's Portage. Here we looking back at our landing with our red canoe.

Preparing for the portage, Jenny arranging our gear in three loads.

Dragging the canoe.

Distances across the empty tundra are vast, but appearances can sometimes be deceptive. What looks like a formidable portage to the next piece of water is only a fifteen minute hike over the horizon.

Jenny arranged our gear in three loads, one of which she lashed to her pack frame. I readied the canoe for dragging. And so with she carrying her pack and me dragging the canoe, slowly and strenuously we plodded across the swampy muskeg. Because of the hummocks and stunted willow, the canoe was much harder to drag than across tundra. But we took it slow and steady, and made it across to water's edge in about 15 minutes. Returning for the second load, we each shouldered our packs, lugged them drenched in sweat across the portage in a cloud of mosquitoes. And here again the waders saved the day. Portage finished, we loaded the boat, set off, and with a great deal of concerted swatting massacred our bloodthirsty entourage and reduced its numbers nearly to nil.

Keith spotted us from a distance and pulled alongside us in his outboard. He cut his engine, and we enjoyed an hour's chat, drifting across the lake far from shore. He's spent the past 15 summers living in a small cabin on the lake's shore.

As we were making way into the next large body of water, there came the sound of a motor boat approaching from the south. Soon a fellow arrived and stopped for a chat. Of European descent, bearded and scruffy, he looked almost like a part of the landscape. I had the feeling the conversation would be most interesting. And indeed, we talked for over an hour, while the wind blew us gently more or less in our intended direction. In a rough Scottish accent he introduced himself as Keith Sharp. A bear of a fellow minus a few front teeth, he had lived in the general area 30 years, and at Yathkyed Lake 15 summers. He said the water was about a foot higher than he had ever seen it, the result, he thought, of persistent east winds holding the water back in the lakes. We asked about the bears. He said they are no problem at all. "Aklak" is the native term for grizzly bear, and it means something like "scares easily." He said the bears take one look at you and run the other way. If one does come around, make a lot of noise and this will frighten the animal off. Keith said Yathkyed Lake is full of whitefish, which he asserted is the only type of fish you could live on exclusively, year round. Try to subsist wholly on Lake Trout, and according to him you would be dead in three months. The difference between the two fish is that the whitefish is a bottom feeder, and takes in certain minerals that trout do not.

Keith knew the entire area like the back of his hand, and he told us many of its wonders. He lives in Rankin during the winter because he likes the sea and enjoys whale hunting. He's shot two polar bears ripping into his tent. His base here on Yathkyed Lake was behind the huge island at the very north end of the north bay, still ahead of us. It is there because the float planes can land on windy days. He invited us for "coffee and a bite to eat," but his place was off our route, so we ultimately bid him a fond farewell.

We asked Keith to take our picture, and handed him our camera.

Jenny and I finished paddling the west shoreline, very tired now from a long day of open-water paddling. At the north side of the island the lake channels and becomes a river once more. The current there caught us off guard and we suddenly found ourselves dodging small rapids, shallows and rocks, zooming past at an alarming rate. Running rapids while fatigued is not the best plan, since the fatigue affects one's judgment and slows reactions. We barely made it past one boat-grabber having misjudged the angle of the current's flow. We paddled hard nearly to the eastern bank, and then ran a bit of a precarious stretch that had our adrenalin pumping. Then we waded and lined the boat along the main stretch of rapids shown on the map, and truly these were substantial, at least in high water. Paddling another 15 minutes, we pulled out at 7:30 pm on the right bank and made camp on a nice patch of tundra. Paddled 39 miles today!

At the end of another long and highly rewarding day.

Camp # 16

The story has 25 pages. This is page 16.
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