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Tuesday August 3, 1999 - DAY 4
Things are getting wet
Geoffrey Peake writes:
Last night before finally going to bed, I started my first batch of bread for the trip. I am not a big fan of crackers or the sorts of dense breads that keep for weeks, so that means that we have to use some sort of fresh bread. Normally I let the dough start a slow rise throughout the night and bake it during breakfast. Now those of you who followed our George River trip in '97 will remember that the prime piece of equipment that makes bread a reality, a folding oven, was inadvertently forgotten. I resorted to making pan-fried bread, which is very good, but sometimes does not quite have the same flair or convenience that a good loaf of bread has.
On this trip, we ensured the oven would NOT be forgotten. As I emerged from the tent this fine morning, somewhat groggy and disheveled (I hate mornings), I asked whether someone could assist the poor old guide by setting up the oven for baking. Michael kindly volunteered, and within a few minutes had assembled the folding aluminum box to a state of readiness on a stove. Almost as an afterthought he looked over at me and said "where did you put the grill?"
The grill fits into several grooves on the inside of the unit, supporting whatever is to be baked inside. The oven is functionally useless without it. I glared over at him, a wave of apprehension building.
"Don't ask me! You're the one who packed them last."
During our final packdown in Pickle Lake, Mike had come across two grills, and had tucked one away with the oven. Or so he said. At this point, a hush fell over the camp. David, as quartermaster, stepped into the discussion at this point.
"Look, I know they're around in one of the packs somewhere." As Quartermaster, David bears the ultimate responsibility for all gear that is lost or forgotten. At least, this is what Michael says. Ten minutes later, after thoroughly searching every cubic inch of every pack (David is meticulously thorough, almost to distraction), our Quartermaster opines that maybe he hadn't seen those grills after all. Michael, acting in his role as Governor, immediately sacked him as QM, and demoted him to the Junior Executive (a rather lonely committee that, past and present, has only ever had member: the Reverend Peter Scott).
Not to be defeated by the situation, the former Quartermaster set to work fabricating a replacement grill using just the raw materials at hand. He set upon the folding plastic sink (I'm embarrassed to say that we even have one--NOT MY IDEA) and removed the two metal hoops at the top and bottom. He carefully straightened these, then with the help of vice grips, cut them into four equal lengths. After studying the oven for a while, he formulated an appropriate method for bending the rods to fit into the slots. Michael joked that all he was missing was the machinistspi lathe to shave those few extra microns of excess metal away. Well, to make a long story short, David did indeed fabricate a replacement grill that was so impressive, the Governor re-instated him as Quartermaster (at a lower pay rate, though), and I could get on with the business of baking bread. I would have to say that David's creation is superior to the original.
Anyway, I digress. Today was an excellent day. The rapids started just below camp, and we worked through them at a slow and steady pace. We were able to run, line, or carry over everything today, but there were definitely some tricky places. One of the best indicators of how difficult a rapid is the physiological reaction my body undergoes. A dry mouth is common before most rapids that require some degree of risk and challenge, whereas, a knot or tension in the stomach usually indicates a rapid where there is a reasonable chance of swamping. On this first rapid below camp, I had the next level above this, the desire to make, how shall I put it, an urgent trip to the bathroom. This was not so much because of the difficulty of the rapids, because, in truth, with all this high water most of the rocks are flooded out. No, the reason for my nervousness was that, unlike the George River trip, we were not using spray covers. With the heavy loads that our boats are carrying, and the rather delicate and sensitive gear like computers, satphones, etc., it's no wonder that I wouldn't be a little nervous about getting some of it wet.
Well, despite doing our fair share of bailing today, we were able to run most of what we saw--and we avoided doing ANY portages today, a big relief with all our gear. The character of the river has changed. The Winisk seems stronger, faster, and has a more definite personality now. Itpis hard not to like a river that gives you lots of runnable rapids and very few portages. And we still have yet to see anyone else yet.
Tonight we are camped just past Baskineig Falls, on another smooth rock ledge with a panoramic view of the rapids. The weather remains consistently inconsistent. Showers come and go with little warning. Right now as I write (Oh my God--12:30 am! I really need to get some sleep here...), the incessant roar of the river is rising through the trees. One of the reasons I like writing at night is so that I can say whatever I want about the others on the trip and they can't do anything about it. Seriously, even though we say we are having this 'high tech' canoe trip, the everyday mechanics of our routine is not much altered by it. We do not have the time or battery power to even check our web site out, so most of us have not even seen any of Mike's pictures yet. In some ways you, dear readers, know more about what is happening on this trip than some of us do.
Before I sign off, I want to say that Michael will be on CBC radio's THIS MORNING tomorrow in the first hour, and it may be rebroadcast later in the evening. So If you have your radio turned on tomorrow, tune in. One other big worry--our main computer is not functioning right now. It may have got a bit damp earlier. All this tech stuff is so tenuous--one minute it works, the next it doesn't. Also, we are finding that we are barely keeping even with our power demands. I'm hoping for a nice sunny day today to get things back on track. Otherwise, you might not hear from us for a day or so. It's hard to say what will happen. On a river, every day is an open book......
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