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  • August 4, 1997

    Peter Brewster writes:

BREWSTER  AT THE CONFLUENCE OF THREE CHANNELS, GEORGE RIVER: This is where the George becomes a river.
     Until now, we have been travelling through a series of small and large lakes, connected by swift little riffles and a couple of small chutes as the river gathers steam.
     This, if you will, is the point of maturity. You can look at the flow and see the huge river that we'll ride north. The boy becomes a man; the George becomes a major waterway.
     The process has been rather like watching Ontario's Hwy. 401 on an early weekday morning. Commuters trickle onto the main highway from secondary roads, joining the growing rush until at Toronto, with all 16 lanes just cooking along, you have full flood.
     We are camped high above a stunning, boiling chute of white water, at the end of a hot, buggy portage of about 600 metres, preceded by another hot, buggy portage of about the same.
     We hauled most of the gear around, but Geoff elected to line and run some of it with the 20-footer partly empty. Definitely less sweaty, as the day is considerably warmer than yesterday and we did not have ice pellets for lunch.
     At the end of the first portage Peter Scott and I had a most humbling experience that, thankfully, did not turn into disaster but could easily have done so.
     Put it down to a little carelessness, perhaps a little rustiness of the first day on whitewater. Either way, we both knew how close we'd come to a nasty dump and exchanged glances that said it all.
     We were putting in after the first carry, and were a bit too close to the main flow. In the brief seconds it takes to settle into the boat, the river sucked us backwards into the flow. A considerable amount of water came over the gunnels, enough to make the canoe wallow and be unresponsive. Once water starts moving INSIDE the boat, you have to move fast...but the water won't let you. We eased back into the eddy saying prayers and breathing heavily. Bailing followed.
     But it didn't ruin a good day. The paddling was much easier with gentle winds, and the feel of moving water makes your blood quicken and paddle lighten. A bald eagle cruising above a small bay was a bonus, as were a pair of ospreys on a nest. No caribou today, but the rafts of hair the herds shed as they cross the river could be seen floating in the eddies.
     Geoff took time out to work below a rapid with a rope and heavy magnet. The gamble, a longshot, was that this was where Dillon Wallace dumped and lost his gun in 1905 It didn't pay off, but trying was the thing.
     Below the campsite, where the falls bottoms out, two more channels come together. On our 1983 trip we arrived here by one of those channels, taking it as a shortcut (and it likely was). We also avoided the portages. But today was a day to seek history if we could find it.
     The wind has dropped, and the bugs are really quite spectacular. The smell of onions cooking comes to me well-laced with the delicate tang of Deep Woods OFF! Tonight we'll sleep well.

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