For the past year I was fed by Jason with pictures and stories of how beautiful the East Arm of Great Slave Lake is. I was listening about numerous islands with big, red cliffs, beautiful rivers with various waterfalls, people living off the grid in the middle of nowhere and the picturesque community of Lutsel K’e. It was time to check out this land of the cleanest and deepest fresh water in the world for my self.
Two weeks ago we went camping in the East Arm of the Great Slave Lake. We took a morning sked flight to Lutsel K’e (Air Tindi has scheduled flights to the community every day of a week) and there we met with Barry, who offered to take us on his boat to one of many islands, where we could camp for two nights. Barry’s wife was insisting on not going too far, since in Chipewyan language August is called the month of the wind, and the weather can change drastically. We decided that they know the lake the best, so we would be OK with whichever spot they chose for us.
The East Arm is the most beautiful part of the Great Slave Lake and is a part of the soon to be Thiadene Nene (the Land of the Ancestors) National Park. This area is famous for its reddish geological formations, long fault block escarpments, immense archipelago of islands and the cleanest and some of the deepest water in the world. There is the Christie Bay on this part of the lake, which is the deepest fresh water in North America.
Barry, his wife Gloria, her brother Pete and the two of us got on the boat and our East Arm adventure began. We took a longer route along the shore, where we saw the big faults in escarpments and many eagle’s nests. When we got to one of the bays they shut down the engine and started looking for a moose to fill their freezer but with no luck. We went back on the open water and Gloria forced a fishing rod into my hands. I had never been fishing before, so I wasn’t sure how to use it. Yes, that was one of those moments when I felt clumsy and stupid. My moves were clunky and I had no idea what I was doing. Gloria was insisting on me trying to fish for the rest of the day, so I had to overstep my disaffection and kept trying. It payed off and I caught a fish for the first time in my life and not just the only one, but two of them!
At the end of the day we had a late lunch/early dinner together over a fire. Guys went to cut some wood and Gloria showed me how to make a nice spruce base underneath our tent. After that we sat next to the fire and talked. It was like a little lesson of living off the land connected with traditional knowledge. I had a chance to listened to stories which explained why protecting this vast area is so important for the Native people. The whole lake with its majestic islands, cliffs and rivers has been occupied by various groups of the Northern Athapaskan people for thousands of years. It provides them with plants and animals, which are necessary for their way of life, but it is also filled with historical and spiritual sites. There are many legends connected directly to the sites, like the one about T’sankui Theda, the Lady of the Falls. Each summer people from different communities gather together on a beach next to Old Fort Reliance, on the very east tip of the lake. From there they hike to the falls on the Lockhart River to tell T’sankui Theda their wishes.
After the meal we were left alone on the island. We had all night and all of next day to enjoy the silence and solitude. It was a great and uneventful escape from the civilization. On Tuesday evening we could feel in the air that the weather was changing. In the middle of the night we woke up to the sound of heavy rain and wind, and it continued through the middle of the next day. We were planning on catch a plane back to Yellowknife that afternoon, but because of the wind the lake got very rough and it looked like a sea. Barry couldn’t come to pick us up after lunch like we had planned and we had to wait, humbled by the powerful lake conditions, until the weather improved to get back to Lutsel K’e. Looks like the Mother Nature decided to give us a little lesson too.
If you want to learn more about East Arm and Thaidene Nene National Park, check this link.