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Guide's Report

By Geoffrey Peake

Blackflies winning the war

Tuesday, July 31, 2001


Campsite: Lower Korok River 58º 39.06'N, 65º 24.71'W
Distance Today: 38 km
Total: 322 km

I didn't wake up in a tent this morning. I woke up in a kiln.

The sun's rays blasted full force on our little structure a bit before 6 a.m., and within minutes the temperature soared inside. The morning progressed more or less as usual -- we ate, packed up, and started paddling. It took us about half an hour or so before a slight breeze came up and we were able to finally lift the bug nets off.

The lower Korok winds through a wide well-treed valley of larch and black spruce. Today, on the one short portage of the day, the trail wound through a thick stand of spruce -- reminiscent of northern Ontario.

The rapids today were bigger and more challenging. The Korok continues to grow in size in the last miles before Ungava Bay. For those who are unfamiliar with rapids and how canoeists run them, rapids are generally graded on a scale from 1 to 6. Grade 6 is considered practical suicide (although they can be run by experts under "ideal conditions only") and grade 1 is, as you might imagine, is easy. Somewhere in between the two is where things get tricky. Although there are many factors (water level, temperature, etc) that can change the grade level rating of a rapid in any given season, the rate of drop and type of drop (rocky, ledge, large standing waves) are the most important.

Although we have been using the trip report from another party that ran the Korok, and have a good idea what the grade level of any given rapid will be, we don't really know whether it is runnable until we have a look first. Generally, our limit for running is probably grade 3, which usually requires a lot of manoevring around rocks and going through large standing waves. Most of the rapids on the Korok fall into the grade 2-3 category, and today we had lots of both.

The morning run was fine, and managed to run everything without too much difficulty before lunch. After lunch was a different story. The last rapid of the day was a long grade 3, about a kilometre long, dropping at a good clip and heading right into the sun. The glare made it difficult to see the difference between the standing waves (the good waves, no rocks) and the holes (the bad waves, big rocks). We ran the first bit of this, sticking close to the shore and eddy hopping our way down, and I went ahead to give the rest of the route a good scout. About this time the blackflies came out in full force. On the BQ scale (bug quotient) we had about an 8 (out of 10).

Everything went downhill from here because all the while I'm walking ahead trying to scout the rapids but I cant see a damn thing because the sun has made the river a hopeless mass of glare and I really don't want to walk all the way to the end of the rapids because the blackflies are crawling all over my hands and face and behind my neck and I can feel them under my shirt and pants because those little @#$%!* find a way through even the smallest crack or hole and I can't keep my headnet on otherwise I won't be able to see the rapid and as I'm walking down to the end of the rapid I fall about half a dozen times because the rocks are so incredibly slippery it feels like someone has freshly oiled them and all the while the blackflies are flying into my ears and eyes and I'm trying to see the rapids and concentrate on the best way to run them but these bugs are really driving me around the bend and making me want to just walk back to the canoes and head down the rapid without scouting because that's the fastest way to get away from them but there's still about half a kilometre of rapids left and it looks pretty steep and without walking to the end there's no way of knowing if we can run it and... well, I think you get the idea. We ended up lining down the rest of that rapid, and the bugs were affecting everyone.

We paddled until late this evening and the bugs just got worse. Landing on a sandbar after sunset (the time when blackflies usually go to bed) the BQ factor jumped to a 9. It would have been easy to just crawl into the tents tonight and just skip dinner. This is where the magic of the Quartermaster's casserole comes in. We just gave it a good soak and cooked it up -- ready in about half an hour. Andrew found a bunch of dry wood and we lit a huge fire and took turns burning the blackfies off of our sleeves by holding them above the flames -- this was all out warfare now, and the blackflies were winning. Gradually the heat from the fire and the cooling night air cleared all the bugs away and we were actually able to sit outside and eat without problem.

Anyway, that was our day looked like today. We still have about 50 miles or so to go to George River. The transportation committee (The Governor and Brewster) worked hard today trying to find someone in the town to pick us up at the mouth of the Korok, as we are worried we will not be able to make it there on time. Although I would prefer to paddle the whole distance ourselves, we may just have to face the fact that we can't quite make up for that four day loss at the beginning of the trip. So far, we still have no firm offer for a ride, but there are some possibilities. For the moment, we are still paddling our way to town...


360 pix

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