Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Bloodvein River - Part 1 No Two Alike
Some hate them with a passion, and others enjoy them as a break from paddling. Some avoid them like the plague, and others purposely seek them to take them further into solitude. Yes, they are portages. It is a key element in the overall experience of canoe tripping, don't you agree? Despite the multiple feelings surrounding them, frankly if you do end up portaging, they can quite often be the most poignantly impressionable part of the trip!
Portages, - either lov'em or hate'em
Our experience with 2 portages on the Bloodvein left Lisa and I just that. Unforgettable memories. Portages on our trip were for the most part straight forward and uneventful. The map marks the location, the distance, and on the topos, elevation gain or loss that can help you prepare for the inevitable. Well except for the one I accidentally read on the map backwards and couldn't figure where the heck it was!! (we were at the brink of a massive class 3-4 rapid holding onto flooded trees as the boiling water tried to pull us in! - oops!)
Wet portages are not new to me. Whether its wet from stuff falling from above (which includes snow) or from the accumulation of water down below. I don't think anyone relishes the thought of getting wet when they don't have to, but if that's the only way through, you're going to get wet whether you like it or not.
Some of the best scenery on canoe trips are found along
portages. Don't miss out on them!
Early on day two of our trip, we came upon an innocuous looking 400 meter portage. It was wet and mucky like most we had already experienced. No cause for concern except when we came down to an area where the forest canopy gave way. Looking down the 'trail' as far as we could see was dark murky water tightly enclosed by thick alders. Dreading what lay ahead we slowly plodded forward hoping it wasn't as bad as it looked. What Lisa and I both feared begin in earnest, - it kept getting deeper.
As the cold dark water rose steadily up our legs, we then had to blindly navigate hidden roots and debris down below. I was both amused and annoyed that this was a portage! I started to even question if the portage was already finished. (I knew it wasn't as we'd hardly gone 100 meters on the trail.) A canoe could have helped right then but it wasn't with us on our first carry. Watching Lisa ahead I could now see the bottom of her barrel pack in the water. Was it going to get any deeper?! At this point, rather than carry my Pelican case (which contains all the camera gear) I just floated it alongside me.
Struggling along with our arms above the water, we mutually decided to go back for the canoe as it was ridiculous to continue any further like this. The only problem was that there was no place to put our gear. Forging ahead as we were now up to our waist, we finally found a mound of rock off to the side which we pushed through the alders to get at. Dropping off the packs we both shook our heads, chuckled at our luck and waded back into the water.
Here's a little snippet of the lovely wet portage!
After getting the canoe, we did end up 'paddling the portage' a short distance to dry land where we then continued portaging the normal way. The short 200 meters through the flooded trail certainly was not long in any respects, but in terms of depth, it was the deepest portage both Lisa and I have ever been on. I'm not certain whether it would have gotten any deeper, but we were happy not to find out as it was still early in the morning and the water was pretty darn cold.
Dragging the barrels on top of the water was easier than
trying to lift the heavy things into the canoe!
So why would a portage go through a deep flooded trail like this? I'm pretty sure at one point it didn't, but based on the topography it was probably just another soggy trail. Although I can't be for certain, I pretty sure the culprit was a beaver. I am always amazed at the ingenious feats these rodents are capable of, but that day I was unimpressed. The only other thing I was upset about was not being able to get more amusing pictures of the fiasco! Hopefully,...next time? Unforgettable memories were already being created even before getting on the river!
What next!?! More to come!
- We have since heard from others that had gone through this portage. Lucky for us as it came up to their chest for them!!
Nope, that isn't the river, its on the other side! That in fact
is the portage around a big rapid on the Bloodvein!