We didn’t dare let the current catch us without scouting first. Our beach camp looked out over an inlet from the river with a strong current branching off the main one and following the river’s edge.
As soon as our boats left the tiny beach’s eddy, we were whisked around the inlet to the other side, and with urgent timing, backpadled to stop the boats at a rocky slope and took out. There was just enough room beneath a ledge to secure enough of the boats on land.
We needed to get a view of the river ahead. We climbed up into the woods and followed a parting in the forest-floor moss over a great stone floor. Just as the moss closed in on the path, we stepped under a couple of branches and out into an open space where the stone beneath our feet swept into the river.
The river rushed through a narrow channel toward a drop ahead. Looking across, we made out a few tiny inlets with eddies. I wanted to get a better look at the rapids. We hiked along a ledge above the river, and constantly tried to decide if we were on a portage trail, perhaps a continuation of the one we took the day before. But as we approached the falls, we became sure of two things. We were not on a trail. We could not paddle down those falls and hope for anything but catastrophe.
Erin saw one of the small plastic hanging flags besides one of the inlets on the far side. She’d found the portage trail.
We hiked back to our boats and crossed the rushing river at a strong ferry angle. Once across, we paddled close to shore until the second tiny inlet where we’d seen the flag. We found a pond the length of two kayaks connected to the river by a narrow opening. At the far end of the pond a steep muddy bank descended into a marsh. Above, we thought we saw the trail.
I climbed the bank, and slid back into the pond. Erin may have been amused. But we made our way to the top and found a thick forest. We pushed through it, exploring, looking for the trail with great difficulty.
We searched above the bank of the river with no luck. We returned to our boats, tried again, returned to our boats again.
If we cut directly into the woods away from the river, we found wide mostly stagnant stream running parallel to the river. It would be hard work to take the boats down the stream. In some places it was more than deep and wide enough, but in others rocks or logs would make paddling impossible.
We followed the stream to a deadend, hiked a little longer into the woods, and found a trail marker. The trail was old, and underused, but much better than nothing, and would work. We followed it back to the far side of the stream on one end, where it continued back toward the upper rapids where we’d failed to find a portage the day before, and down to a cobblestone like beach beneath the falls. Grass grew between the flat stones, and a lake spread out carrying the roar of the rapids.
At the top of the portage, we paddled out through a slit into the marsh at the bottom of the muddy bank, until they would go no further, then pulled them over the last of the marsh to the dead end stream on the other side. We took out the gear, carried the boats over some stones that crossed the stream, paddled 10 meters or so, and then pulled them up to the path.
The portage was long, and took us over a hill through the woods. We made two trips for gear, and another for each boat. After the four legs, we collapsed on the stone beach exhausted. Wouldn’t it be nice to make camp there for the night, but it was too early in the day, so we snacked, loaded out kayaks, and put in.
Calm water, and then around a bend we arrived at Rapides des Cedres. Water flowed smoothly under a bridge, but there, forced to narrow, it rose into an exciting waive train. We bounced down with delight, no rocks or or shelves to destroy us.
The river moved us along, and the time to make camp approached. A cabin on stilts stood where a large stream came into the Bell. We found a nice spot of grass to pitch the tent on, but a sign beside a wildlife camera said we were not welcome, and we still had a few hours of light left, so we continued on. Besides, the house was locked.
Back in the water a fish jumped ahead of us. I tried to trail my lure where we’d seen it, but no bite.
Around the next bend we found another house. It was not locked, but filthy inside and out, with garbage everywhere.
We continued paddling, and started searching the shores for anywhere we could pitch a tent. Night approached. I paddled the left shore, and Erin the right. I found a spot first. A beaver had feld a tree, and the wood chips along with animal trails down to the water, kept the foliage at bay.
As I pulled my kayak in, and Erin crossed the river, I felt a snag on my line. Most likely, the water grass had the lure, but as I worked the reel and pulled the line to get it in, the line and lure swung out into the deeper water. A pike had my lure. We fought and I reeled it in, but just as Erin went to scoop the big guy up with the net, he snapped, freed himself of the lure, and disappeared in an instant.
Erin and I climbed out of our boats into the grass toward the site, peeled leeches off, made camp in the tight space, and slept.
GPS coordinates: 49.02601, -77.15741