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Daily Trip Log

By Peter Brewster

On the right track

Sunday, July 22, 2001


 UP THE PALMER RIVER: Just when you think that this wonderful area has shown the best it has to offer, another bend in the river produces more magic. Tracking upstream today, wading in water so clear it is almost not there, it was hard to keep an eye on the business at hand and not on the sun-bathed mountains.

  And then, when the water is not clear, it's an aquamarine so deep, so vivid it takes the breath away.

  The deeper pools, on the many bends or behind the larger rocks, have a gem-like quality. Sun slicing through to the sand and multi-coloured stones of the riverbed lights them like a liquid-crystal display.

  There are a few large char, easing their way upstream. They bolt from the intruding canoes. None are in spawning colours yet. The silver of the Labrador Sea is still on their flanks.

  Under a blue sky, and after a day in camp yesterday, the track line doesn't feel heavy and the water temperature is entirely bearable.

  Of course, that sun helps. But we, on the east side of the mountains, lose it early. Right now it is 6.30 p.m. and the valley is in shadow. Ahead, glimpsed round yet another huge, sweeping bend, there are snowfields, and vertical rock walls moistened by weeping runoff, all bathed in the remnants of the glow.

  Everyone's looking forward to long, sunlit evening over the height of land in Quebec on the Korok.

  When the warmth goes -- it was about 20C (70F) but with a cool wind most of the day -- the mercury drops rapidly. I'm wearing fleece jacket, wind shirt and a toque I bought in 1983 at Pangnirtung on Baffin Island after a hiking trip in Auyuittuq National Park.

  Tom, sitting nearby, has on gloves, and if I could type in them I'd be doing the same.

  On the massive rock formation to my right, just across the river, there is yet another waterfall tumbling many hundreds of feet. The scale of things here fools the eye and perspective: some of those chutes and drops in that torrent are enormous. There are thin walls of water likely 25 or 30 feet wide, but from river level, they look like perfect miniatures.

  What has remained unseen are the many high lakes, some quite large, that produce the falls.

  The size of the mountains, the scale of Nachvak Fjord, is very much a part of what is so overwhelming here. Time and again on the ocean we would look at a crossing, or at a point of land ahead, and only by Geoffrey checking and re-checking the large map could we believe the distances.

  The Palmer River valley is, by general agreement, the most impressive scenery this group have enjoyed in 20 years of tripping.

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