The McPhayden Challenge Cont'd 

As we floated downriver, propelled by the surging power of the McPhayden River, the weather turned to fog and freezing rain. Even though it was freezing cold and we wanted to stop, we had 5 days to get to the road and 150 kilometers left all filled with rapids, lining and portaging.

The weather hindered our vision, so around lunchtime, we paddled up to a rapid that started on a sharp bend in the river. At first, it looked small, so we didn’t bother to scout it.

Soon, we were to discover, we were wrong . . . 

The line of canoes started on river left, picking their way to the right. As we got further down, more water came into the river, really pushing the canoes faster and faster downriver. The faster we went, the more rocks we encountered, it seems.

“HOLY SHIT!” I yelled. My arms could barely keep up with the extraordinary power of the rising river. The boulders looked impassable. But it was too late now; we were headed towards a wall of rock. All we had endured, all we had learned and gained from this trip was put on the line. Our resistance to the bugs was impertinent to the concentration we needed. There was no way our finely toned muscles could fail us or our perfectly executed paddle strokes steering us downriver could falter. There was no margin for error. One slip up could cost the entire section. When I come to think about it, 
"That's me atop the Caniapiscau mountain. It took about 40 minutes to climb. And since it was one of the highest peaks around, the wind kicked up and we were relatively free of bugs. We built one of those little rock piles that the Inuits used to mark trails on the tundra. It will probably be there the next time a Keewaydin section goes there. We could also see campsites and the river for up to three days back."  Reed Ryan

Photo: Reed Ryan

the entire trip can be reflected in just this one moment; traveling through skyscraper rock formations adorned with pine and tamarack, caribou racks in our boats, black flies buzzing around our leathery skin, and working hard to get where we needed to go. When my bowman, Rob, and I reached the wall, we managed to find a way through. We paddled as hard as we could to get across to river left, where the opening was, my arms almost failing to steer the canoe downriver.

The McPhayden Challenge Cont'd ...

 

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