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Daily Trip Log

By Peter Brewster

Bears, icebergs and blazing sunshine

Saturday, July 14, 2001


 SAGLEK FJORD: One of my favourite literary paragraphs I owe to Patrick O'Brian, author of the wonderful series of books about the Napoleonic naval wars.

 In The Letter of Marque, O'Brian's complex creation Dr. Stephen Maturin philosophises that "More tears have been shed of over prayers that were answered than those that were not."

 Sorry, Doc. Ours prayers for clearing weather were answered this morning, and though we were sorry to leave the great folks at the Hillbilly Ranch Bar and grill in Happy Valley (Hi, Linda. Hi, Velma) we have no complaints about finally making it to the Labrador coast.

 It was a spectacular arrival at about 6 p.m.. The clouds and Scottish mist of Goose Bay prevailed most of the way , over Davis Inlet and Nain, until suddenly, with dramatic effect, sunlight bathed the burgeoning Torngat Mountains and lit up the icebergs sailing just off shore.

 The Air Labrador pilots, Kevin Hann (namesake of a Toronto Sun colleague) and his sidekick Sean Wilson brought the Twin Otter in low over the U.S. early warning installation here at the mouth of the fjord before landing on the strip.

 Caribou, some with very recent young, scampered away, before turning, full of curiosity, to watch us unload.

 A black bear scooted up a loose scree as we portaged the outfit a kilometre to the ocean.

 Claims were made of a seal sighting.

 And just out from the wind-blasted, ice-sanded rocky shore a substantial berg bobbed.

 All this under a clear, sunny sky that brings the earth tones of the Labrador rock to life like acrylic.

 The heady rush that always attends the first wetting of canoes on a trip caught everyone in its grip, and we paddled away towards Torr Bay.

 I am writing in unaccustomed luxury, seated on a little folding chair I picked up in Summerside which straps neatly to the side of my day pack. Geoffrey started this chair thing on the Winisk two years ago, and the one he brought along then was coveted throughout the trip. It IS nice on the back, and I will, given time, get over the thought that I ought to parking my butt on a rock and suffering a little.

 Before me, the view is nothing short of stunning. The sun is just a glow above the snow-streaked hills to the west, and we are camped on a patchy of springy moss.

 The Woods Coppermine tent, in green and gold, sits nicely beside the North Face VE-25 and Himalayan Hotel,

  A driftwood fire, nursed by Andrew and eagerly fed by Tom, who loves heat, is producing potatoes, fried onions, thick slices of corned beef (we'll eat the heavy stuff before that 15-mile portage1) and Mike just brought me a steaming mug of tea.

 The temperature has settled nicely at about 5C. and will no doubt nudge the freezing mark. One of two ambitious mosquitoes are out and about, but not enough to bug anyone.

 Another bear brightened our two-hour paddle, and that situation will require some vigilance. We have been warned of the bear density here, and early signs are that no one was exaggerating.

 It would be grand if the weather witches stayed out of this area for a few days so that we can make up lost time and get off the ocean with lots of leeway for the portage and Korok River descent.

 And now that beef, onion and spud mixture is ready. Don't mind me leaving, do you?


360 pix

(This expedition is dedicated to the memory of Angus Scott, the prominent educator and canoeist, who died tragically last week. Angus was the father of our regular travelling companion the Rev. Peter Scott, whose capable presence we will miss dearly this trip.)

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