This July 2013 will see me do the remote Notakwanon River in Labrador. I will be leaving my home in Guelph on the morning of Saturday June 29. No sense saying early in the morning, because I will probably be up most of the night packing, as usual 😦
I plan to drive to somewhere between Montreal and Quebec City that night. I will stay at 2006 Kia Magentis and then finish at Sept Iles on Sunday June 30 in the afternoon or early evening. I will then stay overnight again at 2006 Kia Magentis. On Canada Day, Monday July 1, I will load my gear and board the 8AM Tshiuetin Train for a 12 hour ride to Schefferville. Tshiuetin RR were kind enough to donate my passenger fare. I plan to hook up with Air Saguenay and weather permitting, fly out in the morning (Tuesday July 2) to the headwaters of the Notakwanon. I expect to be on the river for about 12 days and another couple of days on the ocean. I will need to get enough fresh water before I hit the salt stuff. Everything will depend upon water levels, portages, my two fully torn rotator cuffs and my two knees each surviving four knee surgeries and the weather. I will celebrate my 60th birthday during the trip. Wow, hard to believe, but the mirror doesn’t lie!
I plan on spending a few days in Natuashish, to see some very good people I met during our school exchange trip in 2008 (Centre Wellington DHS in Fergus, Ontario) and later on an additional return visit to Fergus/Guelph in 2009. The Innu are amongst the nicest people I have had the pleasure to know. My last two dogs came from here. They were/are as gentle and loving, as are the Mushuau Innu themselves. I am excited at coming back and seeing my many friends and many that I have made through Facebook.
Philip Earle (CEO and President) of Air Labrador has been kind enough to offer to fly me and my canoe back to Goose Bay, where TST Overland Express will generously take my canoe back to Guelph for me. Air Labrador will then graciously fly me back to my car waiting at the Sept Isle train station.
Besides the wildlife, the gorgeous scenery, the miles of white water, I think I am most excited about the prospect of being able to raise some money to give back to the community that billeted our students in 2008 and shared so many positive experiences with them. I am also exited at the arctic charr fishing and figuring out how I am going to negotiate the portaging around the falls and the Atlantic Ocean down the coast.
Slept in car outside of Montreal Saturday night.
Stopped in Quebec City, went over to Laval Pepsi Stadium. Ran into Benoit Drouin.
Coached Benoit as a LB in football at Waterloo a long time ago. What a fluke!
Got into Sept Iles late Sunday night. Doing last minute e-mails and this update.
Still need to do final packing in morning.
Hopefully, train not affected by fires in Wabush/Labrador City area.
Great drive up here. North shore of Quebec is beautiful!
Try to check in Monday night from Schefferville, otherwise, not until get to Natuashish.
Met train and arrived at Schefferville. I was greeted by Patrick from Air Saguenay.
Stopped at snack bar for soup. Checked in at float base camp for the night.
I noted there was lots of snow on the mountains and was not having good vibes. I neglected caution in lieu of commitment to the trip.
I sorted and repacked everything Monday night at the base.
Tuesday morning July 2, we had breakfast and loaded the Turbo twin otter. A larger plane than needed, but all that was available.
We took off to the Notakwanon River. The trip was over an hour and a half. There was lots of snow on the mountains and noticeably more as we headed further east to the river. The water was very very white from above. The rapids were long and unscoutable from shore, due to their length.
We headed to a lake like enlargement in the river, which Air Saguenay appropriately named “Jack Lake”.
I unloaded the plane and said good bye.
I loaded the canoe and put on the spray deck.
The current was very, very strong, even in the flat areas.
I hit the first set of rapids and the boat handled very well.
Due to the high volume, the spray deck seemed to be of little consequence.
The canoe went down under the water and continually filled with water.
I pumped out the water frequently and found myself becoming more obsessed, with the water getting in the boat than the “road ahead”.
I ran 4 very long sets of rapids and realized the water was high and very fast. Pushy is the best term. A loaded canoe (heaviest at the beginning of the trip) plus the weight and unbalance of the water was not a good combination.
I went around an island and was before a large rectangular rock. This rock stuck out of the landscape in an almost “sacred” manner. I remember thinking, I should offer some Sema to the rock. It seemed as if it were the guardian of the upcoming rapids.
I had a difficult time going back against the current and wind in trying to line up a suitable track for the next set of rapids. I was now several hours on the river. I remember thinking, perhaps I should make camp at the “rock” for the day and just relax and fish and enjoy the beauty and solitude. I then typically thought, …….”maybe one more set of rapids”.
Not a good decision. These rapids were longer thanany of the others. I could not see any end and they were deep, with many ledges. I made it down about what seemed like a kilometer. I was tired and the rapids were very strenuous. I had a boat filled with water and there was no end in sight. I made a poor decision to go down one more ledge to eddy out and pump out the water.
When I tried to do this, the weight of the boat and water was too great and I could not set up the eddy out properly. I ended up pinned.
The rest is too long a story but I made it out and to Natuashish the next day.
I visited the Health Centre and spoke with the director, Kathleen Benuen.
I stayed overnight and caught up with a number of great people such as Christine Poker, Agathe Riche and Sebastien Piwash.
I also met many of the students who had taken part in the exchange trip of 2008. Many recognized me just walking in the streets.
Unfortunately, my already poor right knee started to swell up and I was in great pain.
I love Natuashish and I love the people, but I had to leave to seek advanced medical care. I went to Happy Valley – Goose Bay Hospital.
It was not a positive experience. I then flew back to Sept Iles, the next day, through the courtesy of Provincial Airlines. I ended up in Sept Iles Hospital and had emergency knee surgery, the rest is history.
I have already began to make plans to return to Jack Lake in the summer of 2014. I will do so much later in the summer and be more cognizant of the water levels. I learned a lot and reinforced a lot. I simply made some poor decisions. I was too committed to doing the fund raiser than listening to the river. It was talking to me and I did not listen. I went too early.
I would like to acknowledge everyone for their support this year and I will complete the trip next summer.
I will collect all of the pledges and submit them to the Natuashish Health Unit.
Everyone will receive a T-shirt as promised.
It was a pleasure to be able to help out and I hope to raise more for next year.