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Guide's Report

By Geoffrey Peake

The thrill and danger of rapids

Sunday, July 29, 2001


Campsite: Korok River 58º 37.11'N, 64º 27.35'W
Distance Today: 33 km
Total: 254 km

The Korok River express finally kicked into gear this morning when we finally loaded up and headed off for our first day of downstream travel this trip. The river at first winds its way through high sandy banks, moving at a respectable pace over gravel shallows. For comparison's sake, I recorded that we traveled more in that first hour of travel than we had in the previous three days.

The weather today was hot and windless -- the kind of day blackflies and mosquitoes dream about. For the first little bit we had to paddle with our bug jackets on, the ultimate irritation when all you want to do is look at the scenery. Eventually, we lost our flying friends and were able to lift our nets and enjoy the view.

The Korok drops swiftly in its upper stretches -- one third of our total drop to the ocean today. One of the disadvantages of a river that flows west is that for most of the day you are paddling directly into the sun. On flat water this would not be too much of a problem, but when running rapids, especially long, shallow rocky rapids that go on for miles, you really need to see where the deep channels. Sean and I are usually in the lead, so the task of finding the best route falls to us. The sun was reflecting perfectly off most of the rapids today; Sean lent me his expensive Italian-made sunglasses that cut the glare and made finding the deepest channel considerably easier.

Just before lunch, we ran a particularly steep chute that required the use of spray covers. Mike grabbed a great shot of Sean and I plowing through the waves -- a lot of bailing required after that one! Although the rapids are exciting to run, there is always a background element of fear and worry -- these rapids in particular are filled with lots of rocks to wrap your boat around; you can't avoid hitting some rocks, you just can't hit the really big ones. Overall, we are fairly cautious when it comes to running rapids. With all this high-tech equipment, we really couldn't afford a prolonged dunking of our stuff.

I'm up late baking bread tonight -- we're trying to get onto the water a bit earlier so as to have the sun at our backs for the first part of the day. It has finally cooled off a bit now, although I can hear the mosquitoes outside as a low sustained hum. It's hard to believe just three days ago we had wind chill temperatures well below zero. Today you could have almost fried an egg on the rocks. For the most part we are cold weather canoeists. I'd be happy to have it hover around freezing for a few days myself, if it would get rid of these bugs. Tom Stevens is loving this weather -- he was paddling in shorts for a bit today (to even his tan out) and actually went swimming just before lunch.

We still have about 100 km to tidewater; I'm hoping we can put in a good day tomorrow of maybe half that distance. Here's hoping for a bit of a breeze tomorrow too...

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