Woke up at 6. It was not too cold last night, around 0 degrees. I slept warm. There was 4 inches of new snow overnight. The morning was heavy grey overcast with a blustery NE wind blowing down the river. I did the usual morning routine. Write in the journal and broke camp. I waterproofed everything and securely tied down every piece of gear. I had my hydroseal outfit on, neoprene socks, gloves and helmet. Shoved off at the bottom of the rapids and off I went. There was blowing snow, the water was very black, contrasting the snowy landscape and the snow covered shore ice that crept out into the river on both sides. It was a treacherous surroundings, stark and extremely beautiful. The danger was the black water because it covered up rocks and if I hit a rock midstream it could take my life.

Woke up at 6. It was not too cold last night, around 0 degrees. I slept warm. There was 4 inches of new snow overnight. The morning was heavy grey overcast with a blustery NE wind blowing down the river. I did the usual morning routine. Write in the journal and broke camp. I waterproofed everything and securely tied down every piece of gear. I had my hydroseal outfit on, neoprene socks, gloves and helmet. Shoved off at the bottom of the rapids and off I went. There was blowing snow, the water was very black, contrasting the snowy landscape and the snow covered shore ice that crept out into the river on both sides. It was a treacherous surroundings, stark and extremely beautiful. The danger was the black water because it covered up rocks and if I hit a rock midstream it could take my life. The ripples gave away the hidden rocks when the current was flowing. The danger was the calm section of quiet water where these rocks hide out. So I moved, slowly, carefully, fully aware of the surroundings and somewhat relaxed. If it wasn’t for the shore ice this place would be fairly safe. It was possible to reach solid shore only in a few places and if I spilled it would be hard to get the canoe up on the shelves of ice. So I was respectful, humble, and very careful. It certainly was better than hauling. It gave my body a break but it was very cold and cramped sitting on my knees with my center of gravity as low as possible on the bottom of the ice cold canoe. Whenever I have been in these cold dangerous waters, places where human experience has rarely visited, there are always Canadian geese. They are at home in those places of icy cold waters. I could clearly spot their long and curved stringy necks, like fiddle head ferns at first bloom in the spring. I continued paddling or just drifting, observing this foreign world. All the time my feet were freezing, my knees so cramped and cold I wanted to get to shore to stretch them out and get the blood moving in my feet. Several hours I stayed close to the shore ice, always aware of the futility of trying to get on the thin ice if I tipped, but at the same time admiring the beauty. The NE wind blew hard downstream, carrying snow with it that seemed to make the moving water even more black and sinister. The current picked up later, not too fast, but the hidden rocks now had ripples and tiny eddies behind them. Ahead was what looked like a small rapid. It looked harmless and as I paddled above it in the eddy behind a small island I checking it out. I decided to run it on the south side since the current flowed into land which had eroded the shore ice and I figured if I tip the current would push me to shore rather than out in the middle where it would be impossible to get on the ice again. It looked like just a gentle sweep down. I chose a route through sluices and the current was not going too fast. The black water hid the rocks. Suddenly my day, my life, changed. It happened quickly, silently, there was no warning. I hit a rock. It swung the canoe around at a right angle to the stream. I was stuck solid to the boulder size rock. It got me almost in the middle of the canoe, slightly closer to the stern than the bow. The current started to push the upriver side of the canoe into the water. I balanced it by leaning downstream to keep the canoe from capsizing. It was firmly stuck. I tried to paddle forward, it remained stuck. I tried to rock the canoe gently. I was impressed by how lodged it was on the rock. I will never forget the gurgling sound as the water passed under the canoe. At one point I tried to step on the rock, but that changed the balance of the canoe and it started to flip up stream into the current. I was stuck on that rock for a long time. For a long time I looked at my death. At first I whimpered. It was the solace of my life preserver that calmed me down. My biggest fear was drowning in these black waters and being swept under the ice. But, I had my life preserver and I knew that would not happen, that death would come relatively easy in this cold water, I would simply go numb and freeze. I remained calm, the world around me was clear, crispy clear, the sound of the gurgling water shouted out to me to the seriousness of the moment. All along my mind is trying to problem solve my self out of my situation. Everything I tried failed but then I extended my paddle as far back of the stern as I could, using it like a rudder to catch the current. I had an exceptionally large paddle blade. I simply extended it. I didn’t try to paddle. Eventually the current worked on the paddle giving me enough traction that it slowly spun the canoe backwards enabling it to slip off the rock and move stern first down the river. It is still hard to think about this. Last night before i went to sleep i critiqued the whole incident, all the details, in order to get to sleep. i think i would have survived because the reason i made the run on the south side was that the current moved into shore forming a shore eddy. so chances are i would not be washed back to midstream. i had everything thoroughly waterproofed and tied down. i was as protected as i could have been for cold water emission. It would have been a miserable experience. This took the fun out of the day and I viewed the cold water with greater respect and greater fear. I never panicked, I worked thru my fears my mind remained clear and serious.

Later the river froze from shore to shore. I had a difficult time getting ashore. At first I tried to break through the weak ice on the South back but to no avail. Then I paddled across the river, breaking ice at times and finally made land fall on the North side. I had lunch and didn’t exactly contemplate my rock experience rather I tried to shut it out from my mind. The 4 inches of snow was sticky and it was the usual situation. i could barely budge the canoe. i managed to make a mile, exhausting myself and quit for the day at 3. i took a long ski down the river, which was fun, and i observed all the signs of weak ice. it didn’t get above freezing but the sun had heat and thawed the freshly fallen snow. i will get up early and hopefully it will be good hauling.

Over and out

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