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  • Sunday August 1, 1999

    Guiding write

    Geoffrey Peake writes:

    One of the things that I do when I write my daily journal is omit a lot of the small details that seem too trivial or unimportant to mention. I realize that some of these details may be of interest to some of our readers, and so today I will write a sample Guide's Log as it might appear in my personal journal.

    DAY 2: Sunday, Aug 1
    RISING TIME: 7:00 AM (Dave) 8:30 AM (Guide--I hate rising early and besides I went to bed about 12:30 AM by the time I was finished doing the journal, etc., etc.)
    TEMP 8 AM: 9 degrees C. (48 degrees F.)
    WEATHER: Overcast, light drizzle, NW wind 15 kph, clearing by sunset
    MENU: Breakfast: Oatmeal
    Lunch: Bagels, cheese, salami (tofu wieners for P. Scott and me), P.B and jam.
    Dinner: Basmati rice, tuna, veggies

    On the river at last! Rapids on the Winisk. -- Michael Peake photo --> to photo gallery

    Although every day has a similar flow and routine, each day will often have several features that make it unique, and these tend to be the things I'll mention in the daily diaries. For example, today was the first day of running rapids, and, as such, usually has a certain amount of anxiety about it. Those first few sets often set the tone for the rest of the trip, and I try to take special care with them because an upset or swim would be a bad omen for the trip.

    We hit the water at 10:30, not the most impressive starting time, but the first few days tend to be chaos in the packing department, until we get the hang of where everything is and how to best fit it in. This morning we are especially careful to waterproof everything well; its much more relaxing to run rapids when you're not wondering in the back of your head if the satphone or battery system will get ruined in an upset.

    We approached the first rapid cautiously then, working our way down the left bank in the slower water. We had two factors in our favour though: High water and warm water. Water temperature plays a big part in deciding whether or not to make a run. In 1990, on the South Nahanni, I remember the water was somewhere around 5 degrees Celsius, an excruciating chilly temperature--especially without a wetsuit. In contrast, the Winisk is a balmy 14 degrees, and felt a damn sight warmer than the air today. High water is also a blessing (not to be confused with flood conditions, which are definitely NOT a blessing) because many of the rocks are submerged, and side channels normally unnavigable become open, increasing your options as you paddle downstream. Today we noticed a fair amount of vegetation under a foot of water or more, caused by the almost daily rains that have been falling in this region for the last 6 weeks or so.

    We slipped through that first rapid on the far left, clipping a few rocks in passing (the boats tend to ride pretty low in the water for the first few days). For the rest of the day we worked our way through many small rapids, most nothing but fast water. We paddled mostly in silence, talking only to point out features on the water, or to engage in idle conversation. Today's topic dealt with Eagles and Ospreys. Today we saw quite a few Eagles (nearly a dozen to be exact) and the question was posed, which has a larger wingspan, Bald Eagles or Ospreys?. Well, everyone had an opinion on that, and I opened the question up further to include Golden Eagles as well--Tom threw in Turkey Vultures for good measure. So I ask you, before you read any further, rank the above in descending order of size.

    We had to wait until we made camp before we found out. Once dinner was underway, and we had sampled some of the evenings Boisson (our almost-nightly drink of lemonade and rum) Peter Scott dug deep into his pack, producing a rather well worn copy of Peterson's classic Birds of Eastern North America, that has accompanied him on nearly every trip since 1982. He rarely brings it out, but tonight was one of those nights. My feeling was that Golden Eagles were the largest, followed by Bald Eagles, Turkey Vultures, then Ospreys. Peterson's said that while Golden Eagles are TALLER than the Bald, the latter can have a larger wingspan. (up to 8 ft. as opposed to 7 ft for the Golden). After that, in order, it is the Turkey Vulture (6 ft, wingspan) and Osprey (5 ft)

    Our paddling distance was about 30 km today. While it was not a particularly difficult day, I always look forward to setting up camp and getting all comfortable after a day of wet feet. My first chore once the packs are on shore and the boats emptied, is to fire up the stove and boil some water for tea. My special treat for the last two nights has been a cup of Starbucks Chai Tea with soymilk. While not quite as tasty as the real thing, there is not (to my knowledge anyway) a Starbucks in the near vicinity, so I figure I'm doing the best that I can do. The clouds moved off this evening, and we were greeted with a rich golden sunset. The perfect end to a day on the river.

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