Like last year, the last leg of our trip was on Hudson Bay. However, whereas last year we paddled on the open coast, this year we had about 70km to cover on Richmond Gulf. Somewhat surprisingly, we found the open coast a lot more hospitable. The Gulf is plenty big enough to be easily windbound, but lacked the canoe friendly landings of the open coast. Whereas the coast had big beaches separated by some rock points the Gulf required some decent crossings of a couple of kilometres and was characterized by high cliffs with few landings #foreshadowing.
Rather than follow the Rellot all the way to the Gulf, we did a short portage over from Rellot Lake. We camped at the portage, arriving mid-afternoon, and were stuck there one extra day due to heinous weather.
First view of Richmond Gulf
Big cliff, little tent. Freshwater side of the portage to the Gulf.
View of “The Castle” at the Gullet, where the Gulf meets the open coast
After one day on shore the winds calmed, and we decided to try the early morning strategy – up at 5am, on the move before 6:30.First stop was on Ile Cairn to fill a waterproof duffel with water from a river source. Unfortunately it was a really low river, and although we thought we went up far enough at the time, our barely palatable cups of tea later in the day let us know that we hadn’t quite attained pure fresh water. Blech.
Anyhow, we covered about 20km by lunch, set up camp early and chilled out for the afternoon.
The next day we started with the same alpine start strategy, covering about 20km and then pulling off in our anticipated camp site on the western shore. It was a pretty nice paddle, with a northwest headwind that came and went. A highlight was finding a small waterfall, 100% untouched by salt water, tumbling down a cliff into the ocean. We took advantage to dump out our brackish water and refill the duffel with gloriously fresh water.
The weather was starting to take a turn for the worse as we pulled into shore, with the fog rolling in fast, the rain starting, the wind increasing, and the temperature dropping. Lovely. Set up the tarp for a bit of shelter while we dined. Although we had every intention of staying put, we decided it would be prudent to check the forecast (thanks for satellite texting us the weather Dad!) and consider moving if South or East winds were forecast, which could easily pin us down.
Forecast was for strong SE winds by midnight… damn. Pretty much guaranteed to be stuck if we stayed put, so made a thermos of tea, packed up the tarp, and hit the water again. Immediately wondered if we were making a mistake given the overall miserable conditions, but once you’re on the water it’s hard to turn around… It was an interesting paddle because it was kind of the opposite of what we expected, in terms of easy/hard parts. We’re used to big headlands being the biggest obstacles on windy days, whereas here the points were ok, but the wind came whipping down the steep valleys katabatic style straight onto the water, so those areas gave us a run for our money.
All told the conditions weren’t huge, but the combination of fog, rain, cold, and wind turned it into a real death march. The wind direction was hugely variable as it wrapped around different landforms, but was predominantly a headwind, and the last few km felt like a particularly torturous treadmill.
We ended up pushing straight through the 25km to the take-out. We were hoping to camp close to, but not quite at, the take out to avoid camping at the end of the road. But as previously mentioned, decent landings are few and far between, and we also didn’t want to pick a spot where we wouldn’t be able to launch in a SE wind, which further narrowed the already limited options.
So yeah, we pulled up at the access road in the early evening, fortunately at high tide so we didn’t have to hump the gear across a mudflat. Conor was on the edge of hypothermia before we landed, and I started to disintegrate as soon as we stopped and weren’t paddling hard anymore. We set up the tent as quickly as possible, running (literally) around to find big rocks to peg it down in the wind, and then dug into the food duffel to pull out granola bars for supper. Satisfying. We were thankful we’d make the thermos after lunch!
Dear Diary, next year we’re going to Mexico.
The positive impression we got of Umiujaq was further solidified this year, with lots of people checking on us to make sure we were ok (trucks cruise the 10k from town frequently, so presence was known quickly). Our visitors included a couple of elders that we met last year, and the mayor. We could have easily had a place to stay for the night, but as we were all set up and had warmed up we were happy to stay put for the night and get a ride into town in the morning.
And to end the post, one of a mini series of Conor giving the space cadet tourist wave. It makes me laugh a lot given the backstory, but it would lose something in an internet retell… so you can just chuckle at the picture, and ask me in person for the story if you’re curious. Although it’s probably not that funny if you weren’t there. But it’s my blog, so my picture choice. Peace out.