The Adventure Continues...
We headed down river again. The weather improved and actually got hot! Every day we encountered long rapids with big water and no portages around them, requiring hours of scouting.
About 10-15 miles from our planned take-out site near the bottom of the river, we came to a long rapid that Steve and Joe determined we couldn't run. There was a railway trestle for the Quebec North Shore & Labrador Railway (QNS&L) there, and beneath it a ladder and stairs that led to a road at the top of the gorge. We decided to portage everything to the road and somehow get a ride from there, down to the take-out where we were to meet the bus for the ride back to Temagami.
Steve and Justin took off, leaving their loads with us to portage. They walked 20 to 25 miles to the nearest town on the St. Lawrence River in search of transportation for us and the gear.
The rest of us began the portage. The ladder to the stairs was about 100-feet up the side of the gorge. It was reached by taking a narrow path along the cliff face. Once there, we hauled everything up the 30-foot ladder by rope. This was backbreaking work. At one point, a rope hauling a canoe broke. Joe reacted fast, grabbing with two hands the bow thwart of the falling canoe, not only saving the canoe, but those below it.
The portaging continued in more traditional fashion up the 30 flights of metal stairs. The whole portage almost all day. We camped at the top without Steve and Justin. And we just crashed into our sleeping bags.
The next morning, as we broke camp, Steve and Justin came flying up the dirt road in a U-Haul truck, dragging a dust cloud. We got everything inside the back, shut the door on ourselves and rode down the road in darkness. In an hour, we were at our take-out spot at Hwy 138 and the Moisie. We unloaded the gear and Steve returned the rental.
The next day we paddled to the spot where the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the St. Lawrence River meet to do a little whale watching. No whales, but it was awesome looking upstream into the St. Lawrence River and east to the sea.
The next day the bus to Temagami arrived extremely late. In order to make it back in time for our scheduled arrival, Steve had to spell the bus driver so we could drive all night. I remember waking up in the dark, seeing Steve at the wheel in the gloom, his hat on backwards and the orange glow of his cigarette. Thanks to him, we made it back to the island on time.
It was one of my best summers because we had a great section, great staff and guide, and an unbelievably adventurous trip. It was just awesome to be part of such an adventure at 16 years of age.
Dylan Schoelzel, 1/13/00
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