About a mile past launch the water roared around a sharp bend in the river. We paddled as close as we dared, and then scouted the corner. If we got really close to the rapids that might pull us to our doom, we’d be able to cut across the rocks for a fairly easy portage.
We found a small notch in the rocks that we could take out at. If we missed it, the current would pull us into doom. I would paddle both boats, one at a time, while Erin waited atop the rocks. To make sure I’d see the notch from the water, I stacked some stones nearby.
The water pulled me down river, I saw the stones late, and pulled into the notch barely in time. It looked different from the water than it had from above. Erin helped me get the boat out onto the rocks, and I walked back upstream to do it again.
The second time I was ready for the notch, and pulled in early. Too close to the side, an eddy pulled me onto some shallow rocks facing almost upstream. I backed out, and without enough time to turn around in the rushing current, backed into the notch where Erin waited for me.
We got the second boat out of the water and began the portage across the enormous boulders. Where we walked along the edge of the forest, we found a thick growth of saskatoons and ate the perfectly ripe berries of deliciousness.
We piled our boats and gear at a small beach just below the rapids.
Light rapids followed. Erin suddenly had trouble maneuvering, because my lure had caught her stern toggle hold. We pulled together and I freed her as our boats were moved swiftly into slightly flatter water.
After separating, bigger rapids came, almost too big to safely paddle down. We stopped halfway through the run and climbed onto a rock to get a better view of the wildness below. We saw that we’d likely find a way through closer to the center of the river, so we paddled out with our noses upstream, and then turned around to aim for the center of one of the river’s V’s. I almost made it. A rock I hadn’t seen clipped my stern hard when I fell onto it from above. My boat would leak slightly at the wound until I could repair it.
But then we were through; Erin faired better than I.
The next set of rapids were fierce, too big to try, so we looked for a portage trail. We found one, maybe, but it was so underused we couldn’t get the boats through. A wide swath of rocks spread some 150 meters or more from the edge of the main river to the woods, and small streams and ponds meandered between them.
With a combination of walking in water, pulling ropes from the rocks above, and paddling we worked the kayaks down mini rapids and over small waterfalls until we had to portage the rest of the way. Climbing small to medium rocks is always hard going, the constant up and down and search for safe footing while carrying the heavy portage weight is an exhausting challenge.
We passed under a tree between a couple of larger boulders, and found a spot to repack our boats and launch from low rocks.
The river curved around a large bend. A wide, low, rocky island stood across the bend from us. Behind it waited a dry riverbed, split off from the running water, that would be our next and largest portage.
I fished as the river rushed us around. We wanted to take the island on the inside, but the water moved fast between rocks and then down a small shelf. The main body of the river on the outside moved much faster and deeper, but we weren’t sure we’d get to our portage going that way.
One of the rocks caught my lure, and I pulled over just before the stream ahead got nasty. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t free the lure from the shore, so holding onto a rope that Erin had the other end of, I climbed well into the strong current to free my lure, and succeeded without dying, though having gotten away with something incredibly stupid, may be the worse for it.
We then did some combination of walking and flying down the stream to the where we could park and portage. The main current went to the right of Ile Interdite. The dry river bed cut a mile long path to the left of the island before meeting up with the current. Were we to paddle instead of hike, a series of death rapids waited for us.
We took the boats out on a pebble beach, changed into warmer land clothing, and began the day and a half portage.
Two loaded duffel bags and hands full of dry bags, and two kayaks, we repeated the 3 legs every 100 meters or so. At first, we climbed over small rocks. Ponds freckled the alien landscape, and as we got farther down we would hear or see small streams moving beneath the rocks.
After a few legs, we found an enormous flat rock, easily the size of a football field, and pitched our tent. At the top of it, some blueberries grew in the woods. After hot rice and lentils we climbed into our tent for well earned sleep.
Check out pictures here!
GPS coordinates: 50.936548, -78.210106