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  • August 5, 1997

    Peter Brewster writes:

BREWSTER  ON THE GEORGE: This day could not started in more appropriate fashion. We were camped - if you've been paying attention - where three channels came together to form the main river, although some might argue that one channel was already showing signs of dominance.
     The fitting accompaniment to this collision of natural elements was the clash of cultures being played out beside the water.
     At breakfast, I ate Dave's exceptional whole-wheat pancakes laden with sour cherries, while before me a herd of caribou forged across the river, the kids swimming hard to keep up with the older females.
     And behind me, Mike Peake conducted a 15-minute inerview on the Bell Mobility satellite phone with Terry McLeod on CBC's Summerside, beamed out to the East Coast live at 8.a.m. Talk about mixed blessings.
     Mike was asked how he felt our solitude was being invaded by the abundance of high-tech stuff we have with us. He felt only a little, but then he's a computer enthusiast and something of an electronic gadget nut to boot. I actually enjoy the rotary dial party-line phone at my cottage.
     The extra equipment IS invasive to my mind, and as we ran the long rapids of the upper George today I was thinking over the two 28-day trips we made in the more remote, less forgiving Ungava peninsula above the treeline. All we had along was an EPIRB (emergency locator) which nicely removes the urge to call home, or (as we did this a.m. in tandem with the CBC interview) check how Donovan Bailey fared in the World championships.
     NOT calling home in no way denotes a lack of interest in how loved ones are doing. It rather goes to why we do these trips in the first place. And besides, if there was a problem, what the hell could you do about it?
     But I digress, which is what this river has doing on occasions today. We have negotiated a number of splits, trying to gauge the flow of a river at least half a metre above normal. Islands always present that left or right dilemma, and our only yardstick is that in 1983 we ran almost ever rapid on the left side.
     But it's 14 years and a lot of beard grizzle ago, and no one's memory is as accurate as it ought to be.
     What is certain is that the George is one big, brawling, powerful waterway that does not reward any slip-ups.The water is very cold. Clearly the lack of warm weather that affilicted Ontario this spring was a big hit here, too: and as Fall slides in it will not get any warmer.
     We have camped tonight on a rocky, moss-covered island in amongst a series of channels and bays. The river is quiet, but of course the roar of water is evident in the distance and we'll rejoin it tomorrow.
     The evening is warm, as the day has been - too warm for the portaging around a substantial falls and the dragging and lining that broke up our paddling rhythm. The bugs, mosquitoes and black flies, could be described as intimidating in the still air. Supper will be taken in the tents, where no matter how fast one exits and enters the bugs buzz and bite too.
     Where is the cold wind I wrote about two days ago?

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