The McPhayden Challenge Cont'd 

The commands came without thought or consideration. I yelled, “draw!” then “crossdraw!” and Rob paddled accordingly. Our boat maneuvered 90 degrees around the first boulder protruding from the increasing current. As soon as the second obstacle came and we turned right, the third boulder popped in front of us and we had to turn left. My wooden paddle of pine felt as if it was bending so much from the brutal power of the river that it would break any second. But it didn’t. The last two came as quickly as the first, maybe quicker. The bottom of the rapid was tranquil and placid, almost uncomfortable compared to the rapid we had just conquered.

A winter camp, possibly Montagnais, on the Rivičre du Fromage in Quebec.



Photo: Reed Ryan


Rob and I probably didn’t even need to talk to each other: we both knew what should be done and when. We were not two separate canoeists paddling in the same canoe, but a pair of paddlers acting as one unit, our practiced strokes coming simultaneously and as synchronized as water ballerinas. We had been together so long we knew what each other should be doing.

We made it through the rapid without incident. That was fortunate, because if any of us had got into trouble, our food, canoes, and bodies would have been out of service. Since help was at least 150 kilometers away, we would have surely have been in dire straits.

A birchbark teepee at a campground on a Montagnais reservation along the St. Lawrence River. The section slept in this one on the way to Labrador. Left to right: Dylan, Dana, Jeremy.




Photo: Reed Ryan

With this new confidence, Section B of Keewaydin tackled the remainder of the McPhayden River with ease. To pick one moment in this experience to be defining, which is what the trip has to be addressed as, is impossible. It is the culmination of events that led up this moment that defined my expedition, and therefore this moment. The entire atmosphere and attitude portrayed by the trip came out in the rapid. The self-confidence that I achieved during the course of my experience will stay with me my entire life, influencing the decisions I make. The Keewaydin way, that of helping the other fellow, is not only imperative in challenging situations, such as this, but in life. So I guess that is the underlying lesson I learned this summer. Life is a series of rapids you have to overcome and by helping the other fellow, and vice versa, you can get down each one without bumping any rocks.

                    Reed Ryan, 2/2/00



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