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Wednesday August 4, 1999 - DAY 5
Things are getting wet
Geoffrey Peake writes:
I, too, like Peter Brewster, am enjoying the afterglow from that excellent fish chowder this evening.
Unlike Peter, though, I was also able to partake in the apple crisp that was not ready, alas, after most everyone was in bed. In the absence of others, the onerous task of taste-testing this dessert (to see if it met the rigorous standards of the HACC) fell to Michael and me.
Oh, the things we must do for the good of the trip! Michael pronounced it one of the best ever--a bubbling blend of apples, apricots and cranberries, topped with a thick layer of oatmeal, butter, and sugar, lightly spiced with cinnamon. Apple crisp always ranks high on our list of favorite desserts. And the best part is that, because Mike and I were tasting in the line of duty, the portions we had this evening will in no way diminish from the amount we get tomorrow. (this was Mike's reasoning anyway)
Today, we finished off the last of the 'portages', although we have yet to do one. It's not that I have anything against portages. I've done lots of them in my time. They're actually an excellent way to stretch your legs after too many days with your bottom stuck to a canoe seat. I just don't like portaging around perfectly good rapids we could just as easily be running. The trick is to know when a rapid is runnable or not, and, as Chief Guide, the task of scouting and finding a route usually falls to me.
Although the process of scouting may appear to be a random and haphazard one, there is method in the madness. Usually by the time we have reached the start of a rapid, we know a great deal about it already. The first clue is sound. How loud is the rapid? How deep is the sound? Usually the louder and deeper the sound, the bigger the rapid. Really big rapids or falls (like Virginia Falls) have an unmistakable deep rumbling that is audible for a great distance.
For example, today when we approached Rough Rapids, we could hear from above a deeper rumble that indicated a steep drop, but not deep enough to be a falls. I stood up for a second to gain a better view of the rapid. (yes there ARE times when it is fine to stand in a canoe) I could see two possible routes down the river--one on each bank. The left shore looked runnable but a little rocky. The right side had lots of water, but a ledge system ran out from shore across most of the river, and I couldn't tell if there was enough room for us to pass close to shore.
We lined the first chute, and paddled closer to the final drop. Tom and I paddled ahead first to check it out. The water here was swift but shallow, so we were able to get out, standing in the current holding the canoe, and glance ahead at the drop. A barrier of several rocks and a large tree was blocking a clear entry to the run. Tom neatly disposed of the tree down the rapid, leaving me to ponder whether we would be able to manoeuvre around the rocks then cut back into shore, literally within inches of the bank, to avoid the large foaming wave created by the ledge.
This is always the hardest part, because it relies on your personal judgement. Usually you get a gut feeling on whether or not you can run it, and itpis always best to listen to this feeling.
In this case, my "inner voice" gave us the green light, so we hopped back in the boat, paddles flying back and forth in the water, and Whoosh!, it was over in a flash. We'd managed to hit the route exactly as planned. Then came the post-rapid high, the euphoric feeling you get after any high-risk activity is actually over. We did a quick eddy turn into shore, grabbed the cameras, and watched the other boats follow down, knowing that, this time, WE wouldn't be the ones to go swimming.
Not all rapids demand that amount of scrutiny.
At Seashell Rapids, we all lined through the upper chute together, and ran the lower section within a few boat-lengths of each other. Many other rapids we run without even having to stop and scout. It all depends on how they sound as you approach them.
Anyway, we must have done something right today, because we're all here and everything is dry. There were many reasons to be euphoric tonight--not the least of which is the fact that we were able to find away around that computer problem of last night. Yes, our "main" computer is still not responding (anyone have the number of Apple's tech support? :)
And for a while today it looked like we wouldn't be sending any more pictures, as Mike's digital camera disk was not working on the backup computer. Anyway, this evening, it decided to start working. Thanks be to God! Mike lit up one of his prized Cuban cigars to celebrate our small technological victory today.
For now, anyway, we're still onriver, and online.
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