It’s Friday folks and that means one thing.
The #getoutside2019 blog series is back. Brought to you by the distinguished gentlemen of Paddle In, ManCamping.ca and Revelry Outdoor Equipment Co. This time around we have Jim Baird – Adventurer. Talking about paddling, bears and a really big portage.
“That’s a tough river. No one paddles that one,” the Quebecois float plane
dispatcher blurts over the phone. We already knew that from our research. Other than the late Herb Pohl in 1999, the last people to travel the East Natashquan by canoe were probably indigenous Innu in the 1940s.The thought of traveling such remote country was unsettling, but as Pohl himself wrote about this enchanting river, “I can resist anything but temptation.”
In early August my girlfriend Tori and I load gear and our sled dog Buck into a float – plane. This would be Tori’s longest, toughest, and most remote trip to date. We’re both feeling a little anxious. Buck, on the contrary, seems cool as a cucumber, napping until the plane touches down on Lac Fontenau. We’d spend the next two weeks traveling some 190 miles back to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.
One of the reasons so few paddlers have
attempted this route is a brutal six-and-a-half-mile carry around a 150-foot waterfall and the gorge it thunders into. We reach this crux on day five and decide to skip the traditional portage. After bushwhacking around the falls, we run three miles of very pushy Class II-III white water, with Buck standing tall on the Spray Deck like a giant furry hood ornament.
To our delight, rapids are followed by 12
miles of shallow swifts, which we would have missed if we had made the long portage. I wonder whether more people would paddle the river if they knew the portage isn’t necessary. Turns out, it’s not that simple. The next day we’re faced with another massive canyon. This time there’s no question—it’s a mandatory portage. What’s left of the trail is horribly overgrown and littered with burnt and fallen trees. Tori tells me several times that it’s the last canoe trip she’ll be coming on. I hide the Personal Locator Beacon, on the off chance she would think to summon a chopper. The carry takes us 18 hours. Days later, as we eat our dinner on a picturesque sand bar, a hulking black bear bursts out of the bushes. Buck charges straight at it, barking wildly, and the big bear spins in its tracks and bolts. Tori is frozen with terror. “Don’t worry, it’s not coming back,” I tell her, trying to sound like I believe it. The next morning we watch the bear pacing the opposite side of the river. Tori hasn’t slept much.
Our last night is spent camped in a beautiful site near a 200-yard wide
falls. We settle into a soft pebble beach and watch a dancing display of
Northern Lights. Tori sits with Buck and me, soaking it all in. It hasn’t been
easy, she says, but it sure has been wonderful. Maybe there will be another canoe trip after all.
Thanks for following along. As always those of you who’d like to participate in the blog series just drop us a line here. We love reading your stories and sharing in your experiences.
Don’t Just Go Outside …… Revel In It
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