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  • August 5, 1997

    Geoffrey Peake, Chief Guide of the Hide Away Canoe Club (HACC) writes:

    GEOFF PEAKE   There aren't many responsibilities that go along with being Chief Guide of the Hide-Away Canoe Club, but without a doubt the most important is scouting and running the rapids. For months I have stared at maps, read trip reports, historical journals, and tried to massage my memory for details from the last trip to give me an accurate picture of what we will experience on the river. In the end though, none of that matters until you hear the roar of the rapids and see the whitewater ahead and you must decide--do we run it? Do we portage? Which side? What did we do last time? The speed of our travel and our success on the river depends on answering these questions -- Quickly.

      Geoffrey Peake sits at the laptop in his Woods bug jacket and writes his daily log. The cases carry our electronic equipment and a bottle of malt whisky. Michael Peake photo

     From the very first stroke today it was clear the river was much larger and faster than before. Within 15 minutes we had nearly covered over 3 kilometers, as the current, swollen 2 feet above its normal level, rushed headlong downstream, drawn by gravity and it's inevitable journey to the sea. As Guide, my boat is the first to run through. The process of scouting a rapid begins even before you see it. The quality of the sound in a rapid is very important. The larger the rapid, the deeper the roar. Listening carefully allows you to reliably gauge how steep the rapid is. Canoeists talk about Gradient when describing rivers. Gradient is simply how many feet (or metres) a river falls in a certain distance. The steeper the gradient, the tougher the rapid. The other factor is flow--the larger the river, the more difficult the rapids. Today the river has both a large flow and a good drop.
     My first view of a rapid usually confirms what I have heard. If it sounds too big to run the next question is whether we can line it or not. Lining allows you to lower your boats on ropes down drops that are too steep or sharp to run. If lining looks too risky, then the final (and least preferred) option is to portage. Today we employed all three of these options. The most challenging (and rewarding) of these, however, is in the running of the rapids.
     Today we covered 35 kilometers. In that distance the river dropped over 60 meters-- most of that runnable river. Because of the great number of rapids, it is highly impractical to scout all of these in advance. What this means is that decisions must be made on how to proceed as you go. This can be quite challenging if you are already engaged in dodging rocks and waves, but experience makes this easier. The one cardinal rule to remember is: AVOID ALL ROCKS.
     Tonight, though, we can forget the stress of the rapids and enjoy another excellent dinner. Tonight is one of my mothers home cooked casseroles that David dehydrated on a food dryer. Simply add boiling water and Voila! instant dinner! Tonight, we've earned it.

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