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Day 3

Starting from the 1992 campsite, the first portage is on the right at the end of the long skinny campsite lake.  The portage is 600 yards.  On this trail one must abandon a linear, world view as its architect followed a meandering compass (perhaps he had the compass balanced on his axe as he plotted the course).  I am assured the goal was “sure footing all the way,” but this one requires a keen eye for blazes as the road is winding, and the spruce upon which to lay a blaze sparse.  If you lose the trail with your first load look for a ridge of granite to your right (northeast).  The far end of the trail is a steep descent down a hillside.  The sphagnum moss does not grip tight to the earth below and the slope is choked with Labrador tea.  The combination makes for tangled ankles.  I found that a switchback path was the most fruitful.

We marked this as the start of the Moon River in those years.  But this is an error.  The river actually has its nascent beginnings far upstream in a western branch that originates just west of Lac de la Marée’s southern finger.

Run and line the following 6 kilometers around the horseshoe bend.  There is a campsite on the north shore at about 74° 42’ West (6 kilometers downstream from the portage).  We continued on past this site in 1992 and 1993.

A long lake-ish section (18 kilometers) follows the narrow, campsite channel.  The river runs through steep hills here that sometimes close in on its course as tall sheer cliffs.  We camped at the southwest end of this long stretch, on the east shore of its last bay across from a steep-cliffed 1650-foot mountain that rises 700 feet from the lake.  This is a nice, albeit tight, flat-rocked site.  Several of the tents pitched out on the point and took a “taxi” to and from the kitchen.

Portage on the Moon River

 

 

Photo: Bill Seeley

Day 4

This morning Steve employed some trickery to light a fire under the sleepier tents. We had promised a double run of bacon (salted and smoked, so it would last the duration). Steve called out that there was only extra bacon for eight campers.  There were only eight campers in 1993 (ordinarily Keewaydin travels in groups of 8 – 10 campers and two guides).  The boys caught on to the ruse, but not before they had raced down to breakfast and “comparison-counted”.

The first portage of the day begins at the south end of the campsite bay and walks 100 yards into an east/west pond. The portage is on the west side of the creek.  We had trouble finding Steve and Ted’s blazes in 1992, but found it to be an easy bush.  Walk east of south out of the lake and just try to miss the pond.

The second portage is a 1000 yarder and takes out from the south shore of the east/west pond.  It begins up a steep hill into a crowd of alder.  Fall off to the right at the top of the hill and traverse an open, mossy plateau.  The trail then descends to the creek, crosses a roughly fashioned windfall-bridge, and climbs away from the creek before descending back to the Moon River at the long back bay due south of the east/west pond.  The walk back for second loads affords an excellent view of the campsite mountain to the north.

There is a nice campsite high on a sloping granite outcrop on the south shore a couple hundred yards from the portage.  A mile or so downstream where the river narrows there are three marked rapids on the 1:50,000.  I have a fourth marked on my maps just upstream from the creek that flows in from the north, but it is not mentioned in either of my journals (must be the “Kenneally maps”).  In high water we ran the first two.  We lined the second in 1992.  The last must be portaged as it is choked with rocks at the bottom.  There is a very narrow path, and I thought long and hard about it both years.  But it requires a sharp cut to the left at the bottom that would depend more on the flow of water than an agile pull, and seemed ill-advised in our cedar-canvas vessels.  The portage is on the left before turning the bend to the rapids.  It was very overgrown, but there were old, thick, yellow paint-blazes on the exposed granite, akin to markings found in the White Mountains.  It seemed a long time since anyone had been here, but these were rather permanent (and odd) markings for the Cree to have left.

We were windbound just past the islands in 1992 (two kilometers past the portage) and camped on a sandy spit on the north shore.  The site is marked by a large 15-foot-circumference boulder under which we put the kitchen.  I left my axe here in 1992 and retrieved it in 1993 when we stopped, this time for lunch.  This was an old and overgrown campsite in 1992.

There is a Cree camp on the north shore in a large east/west body of water at about 75° 01’ West.  The 1993 campsite is 13 kilometers downstream at 75° 04’ West, on the north shore at the top of a straight, two-kilometer, southwesterly narrows.  This is another terraced granite jack pine "park" at the base of a tall granite hill (1350’ on the 1:50,000). 

Day 5

Lift over the falls ½ kilometer below the campsite.  Either side will do.  If I recall correctly there is ample exposed, sloping granite to facilitate this.  There are several rapids to run below this.  We were able to run the right shore of the rapids at the elbow a kilometer below the falls.  The next significant obstacle occurs where the river bends sharply 90° to the NE, 6 kilometers downstream from the campsite.  We ran the right shore again.  In shallower water both of these rapids would have to be lined.

There is an island liftover a kilometer downstream from the 90° NE bend at about 75° 07’ West.  My maps indicate that we lifted over the following rapids two kilometers downstream in 1992, using both shores, and ran it in 1993.

We camped midway across the ensuing east/west lake-ish section of river (five kilometers from the 90° NE bend) at a shallow rapids formed by an island narrows in the river.  It was a short day in 1993 and we had hoped for a fish dinner (to no avail). 

Day 6

There is one portage in the narrows two kilometers west of our campsite.  It is a 100-yard liftover at the beginning of a kilometer or so of pick-and-choose horseraces and “technical” rock-dodging.  The rest of the path to the Rupert is clear.  We had lunch at the islands in the confluence.  The Kenneally maps mark a campsite on the north shore, five kilometers from the confluence.  We did not look for it in either 1992 or 1993.

We camped on a long thin peninsula on the south shore at the top of the first marked rapids (on both the 1:50,000 and the 1:250,000) at 75° 24’ West.  The peninsula also serves as the portage past the rapids.  Approach this portage carefully keeping close to the south shore.  The current is much stronger here than anything yet experienced on this trip, and, if one misses the eddy, the rapids below features a haystack the size of a VW bus.  The rapids is marked IV on the F.Q.C.C. maps.  The campsite/portage eddy is long, narrow, and easily reached.  Steve and I always erred to the side of caution, as this was something of a magnitude more dramatic than anything our lads had experienced before with the camp, and perched ourselves on the shore with throw ropes in hand to howl instructions.  The campsite itself is quite nice.  It extends along the point and is open, with plenty of granite for a kitchen fire.

Don’t forget to walk out to the end of the point and sit on the granite ledge above the surging VW-sized haystack.

 

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