Paddlers hit goal after tough week on water
By Randy Johns
And SP staff
Bill Layman and Tom O'Rourke made it to Wollaston Lake this week, 18 days after
leaving La Ronge.
Week 3 wasn't easy for the two marathon canoeists, as they had to make a series
of tricky portages on the series of lakes that link to Reindeer and Wollaston
lakes. O'Rourke is paddling with Layman to Wollaston Post, where he will be
replaced in the canoe by Layman's partner Lynda Holland, who will complete the
55-day trek to Hudson Bay with him.
Layman was ecstatic when he and O'Rourke reached Wollaston Lake, which is about
435 kilometres north of La Ronge by road. (La Ronge is about 350 kilometres
north of Saskatoon.)
"What a trip to get here," Layman wrote. "It's 1 1/2 hours by
plane or 18 days by canoe. I'll take the canoe any day."
Layman might not have said that earlier in the week during a series of portages.
Some went really well, some not quite as well.
There was one day when he and O'Rourke only traveled about 10 kilometres. "And
it was a long, hard day at that. We got a bit of a late start, getting up seven
(a.m.). The section of the river from where we camped to the portage is gorgeous.
With a large unburned esker on our right, we wound our way up toward the old
Hudson Bay Company trading post. We had to line up five tiny rapids. It was
very easy, but time consuming."
Along the Portage
Then there were the portages.
"The portages between the first three lakes were great, short
and easy to find. The one from Lake 3 to 4 was a real pain. Partly
our fault, as the trails takes a hard 90-degree turn right at the
point as you enter what appears to be a huge muskeg. I missed it
completely and knew immediately that I was off the trail. "What
should have been 250 metres turned into about 500 metres."
"These roads were originally opened by Svein Sigfusson in
1944," Layman writes. "A big-time commercial fishing and
freighting operator, Svein had crews as large as 100 men working
at any given time on Reindeer Lake.
"Fish was in great demand due to war-time shortages of beef, and Reindeer
and Wollaston had lots of fish.
Svein's crews freighted the fish to the railhead at Flin Flon and he pioneered
most of the winter roads into Northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba and into Ontario.
Then the two hit Wollaston Lake.
"Wow! Some day. It was hard times 10. But now, sitting the kitchen tarp
on one of the nicest little sand micro-beaches I have ever seen, it is easy
to forget the all-day slug.
"It's now 8:30 and we have just finished curry, with fresh garlic and
ginger no less. An Eatmore bar for dessert and I am going to crash and sleep
the sleep of a little child."