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Daily Trip Log

By Peter Brewster

You can't get there from here

Wednesday, July 25, 2001

PETER
BREWSTER

 OVERLOOKING THE PALMER RIVER: We're camped tonight, after a truly villainous day of portaging, on top of a small mountain.

 Don't ask.

 One of the joys of tripping in genuinely remote areas is finding a route.

 The main one we are on has, of course, been done before by a handful of people. But exactly which non-existent path they followed at this juncture is anybody's guess.

 Certainly, when our tracking in a cold rain came to a very picturesque halt against two waterfalls in a pretty little gorge, it did not seem reasonable to portage following the riverbed.

 It seemed more logical to gain elevation over a high ridge to get to the next lake in the chain that is strewn along the Palmer.

 Who knew?

 The ridge went up and up. The going was brutal. Thigh muscles screamed. Geoffrey performed heroics doing extra carrying trips and helping stragglers. We hauled the entire outfit up 500 feet in elevation over two kilometres of very rugged going.

 Finally, at six, hunger and thirst dictated a decision to halt here. There is water from yet another tumbling fall. Enough dead dwarf willow for a supper fire.

 And if you stay low behind the canoes, or huddle in the tents, the wind chill doesn't really feel well below zero (It is. The forecast for Saglek Bay tonight was -12°C in the wind and 35 knot gales.)

 However, there are compensations. We are above the height of land between Labrador and Quebec, over which we must cross eventually, and the view is remarkable. To the west, the narrow lake we were aiming for and various snowfields on the tops. To the north, a wonderful narrow valley, more a long gully really, disappearing in to the mists with a stream running through it.

 The peaks we have been admiring so much are ... well, closer.

 The Palmer is far below, and the irritating thing is that while we know that we likely have taken the hard route, if you look down it is near impossible to see how a way close to the river would have been doable either.

 It is a time for rum and hot chocolate while Geoff bakes apple muffins for a late night pick-me-up.

 Yes sir, we're 'livin' high tonight.


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