Its's 6:00 pm and
one of those days when the Tundra Godess has smiled on us - warm temperatures,
fast current, and enough wind to keep the insect plague away.
We are now camped on a peat field 20 feet above the river. The view from
the "kitchen" is a half mile wide thread of blue water racing
to taste salt water. The far shore - and this one - is a solid wall of
yellow gravel fringed with fields of tundra birch and willow. Looking
downstream , I can see the next rapids where it curves around a point.
Several gravel islands sit mid-river.
I can smell Bear Creek Brownies baking. Coffee is just done and I have
a cup waiting. It is an early day as we quit at 5:30. We didn't make a
lot of miles, but we had the "Three Cascades" to portage, line
and run today.
The first drop is shorter than the second but it is a sight to behold.
A ledge of red-brown rock runs at an angle across the entire river. When
you approach the portage on river right the ledge unfolds to your view
as you paddle into the apex of the angle. The start of the portage is
right beside the falls. The short carry has you right beside the river
so you can see and hear the whole display. Quite wonderful.
The second makes the first pale by comparison. The river has cut its way
through the soft rock, leaving behind many steep-sided high islands of
harder material. The first drop is as wide as the river - say 200 odd
meters - and kicks up a fine spray. When you paddle into the portage all
you can see is a "horizon line" with the mist supsended above
it. Where the river is squeezed between the rock islands it is a white
We carried to the first logical put-in. This is the same place where we
ran the remainder from in 1998. But the river is quite a bit higher this
year. So we scouted all the way down to where we could see the third drop
- more of a very major rapid really. Some tricky parts for sure today.
Far harder than the last time.
The first move was perhaps the worst. The main current is fast and the
waves huge through this section. Five to six foot waves race along at
over 15 mph. There is a huge boulder near shore. To run it on the outside
and then power into the shore again is do-able but it would be tricky.
I wanted to try it but Lynda wisely talked me out of it. I knew we could
do it but there was no "Plan B" if we screwed up. To line along
the shore would be real tricky as well, as there is a train of 3 1/2 foot
curlers that are right tight to the shore. Too close for comfort when
you are lining. Way to easy to get the boat caught sideways in the hole.
So we decided we would paddle down from the first eddy and then portage
up and over a point and put back in again.
We got the boat loaded and then started edging down along the shore. I
had a plan that I hadn't told Lynda about. "Do up your spray cover."
I had to yell to be heard over the roar of the rapids. "Why? We're
carrying." "Just do it up. Now paddle. Hard hard hard."
We punched the wave train. The first drop felt like we were on a ride
at the fair. Then Lynda vanished for a second as we forced our way through
the first wave. I could hear her scream like she was on a real scary roller-coaster.
Then 3 more waves. Bam bam bam and we were through. And we didn't even
take on that much water.
Another 250 meters of lining - one spot REAL tricky where the eddy we
were trying to get to was re-circualting right back into a keeper. I had
to hold the back of the canoe straight while Lynda hauled the front throught
the eddy fence. Then one more paddle thorugh an "S" turn between
a rock island and the shore and we were ready for the last move.
You have to do a full front ferry from river right to river left. If you
screw up you go through the third cascade. You might live. Probably not.
It's an easy ferry except that on the far side there is a ledge that's
hard to get past to where you start the portage. The option here is to
ferry below the ledge but that puts you kinda' close to the real big stuff
at the top of the rapid - easy 6 foot waves. I scouted the move from the
boat and we dropped below the ledge and into the eddy with meters to spare
before we would have been anywhere near the rapid. A perfect text book
move, if I do say so myself.
After 3 quick casts into the eddy, lunch was the best - we both agree
- trout we have ever eaten. About 8 pounds. It fed us for lunch and now
again for supper with curry and couscous. Bear Creek Brownies for dessert.
Lynda says they are 11 on the 10 scale.
Now how could it get better? Well, what about the Peregrine falcons at
Tyrell Cliffs? Ho hum I can hear you yawning. Well try this. On the far
shore after lunch we did a front ferry to the right bank to see ... to
see .. Maybe I'll just tell you tomorrow. Ok ok ok .... 27 muskox grazing
right by the river's edge. When we tired of watching them - they just
couldn't seem to quit watching us - we paddled away only to find another
fellow out on a gravel bar, having swum there to see us perhaps?
Also of note. We lost our binoculars. Right at the top of the bank where
you scramble down the the river after the portage at the second cascade.
Pout pout pout. I will have to get the word out on the Canadian Canoe
Routes web page to see if someone can find them for me. Oddly we were
just reading last night where Tyrell lost his telescope. He asked his
gude Kakoot if he could find it.. Two years later Mr. "Des Chambeault"
of the HBC sent them along to Tyrell. Maybe I can find Kakoot's great
Also of note. Laval Tremblay is ahead of us somewhere and we think it
was his Red Royalight we found on the rocks at the portages. Not so interesting
except that if it is him, it's our old Novacraft Prospector. I'm sure
my new one and the older one would yak up a storm about the way I've treated
them. But in my defense, I give them lots of play time in the rapids.
Enjoy . Life is way short.