Ahead, the river poured over a ledge and dropped down to our level and the current rushed toward us. By sticking close to the side we inched close enough to the short fall, then got out and climbed up rocks near the edge. Between them, we pulled our boats, gear and all, up a fast stream, jetting between the rocks, not quite deep enough to keep us from scraping our hulls.
A hundred meter paddle past the rapid, just before the Windigo Dam, a big blue sign said, “portage ici.” We took out at the boat ramp and began carrying the boat and gear along the dirt road up the hill. Nobody was about, and we stopped frequently for raspberry breaks.
Just after launching, under torrential rain, my line twitched and I pulled in a pike.
It seemed as though our map had been made before Hydro Quebec built the dam. The water flowed over islands marked on the map and into bays marked as valleys.
Without any settlements marked on our map for a long ways, we stopped to ask what lay ahead in Fergesen, a cluster of three or four houses with a dock. A small ferry that took a handful of passengers up and down the river was disembarking, and the captain told us another village lay about ten kilometers ahead.
At the end of our day, we found it. From the water, we only made out a few boats tied up on a small beach or to a crumbling, uneven dock. But we heard music in the distance and saw a plume of smoke that suggested a fire.
We followed the sounds up the road. Between two hills, six houses with enormous lawns spread out around dirt crossroads. The only house in use welcomed us to drink beer and join their fire. The family, on vacation, talked about their own fishing in the area and let us cook ours on their grill. The mother asked us what we’d eat first when we returned home.
I said, “Salad. We don’t really get to have salad on our trip.” Erin agreed. Our hosts made us a big salad.