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  • Thursday August 5, 1999

    Peter Brewster writes:

    Mile 90, Winisk river

BREWSTER There's an odd feeling about my feet tonight: They're dry.
     The one good pair of boots I bring on a trip have dried out, and tonight there was no need to switch to my neoprene camp slippers after we set up the tents and ate.
     The river has changed.
     Here, at the 90 mile mark, we are settled for the night on the south side of the Winiskisis River, about half a mile from where it joins the Winisk. We paddled up the side stream looking for an old campsite that was marked on our map, and whether we have actually found it, or simply the remains of an early hunt camp, isn't clear.
     Either way, it's a pretty spot, high above a clay bank and surrounded by what are likely the largest spruces for miles around.
     The terrain here is extremely lush, with moss carpeting the ground, tiny ferns that seem to float above the forest floor, and green Old Man's Beard, like Spanish moss, hanging from the trees.
     The Winisk's transition from a tumbling river of the Canadian Shield to a still fast-moving but flat waterway happened after last night's camp.
     We had excellent digs beside a decent swift, with a small rocky island just off shore and pickerel on the edge of the fast water.

    Using some Old Man's moss which grows in the spruce trees, the Hide-Away Canoe Club decided to have a Yosemite Sam lookalike contest. -- Michael Peake photo --> to photo gallery

     Yesterday we butted heads with a northwest wind, and the same stiff breeze was in our face all day under a hot sun. The rain squalls that are a feature of life up here still arrived unexpectedly, but with less intensity than the downpours of Monday and Tuesday.
     As the river flattens out, the willow along the shoreline is thicker, if that's possible, and the poplar trees are now in pockets, along with a few birches, instead of being a prime feature.
     A gentler river, wide at around 200 metres and shallow, but with enough flow that without that headwind we could have rafted up and drifted along at maybe 3 to 4 mph.
     Our 20 miles - and yes, I know this is metric country but on a river I still think in miles - seemed to pass quickly, with wind-burned faces around the cooking fire the only evidence of some hard slogging.
     As we pulled into the mouth of the Winiskisis, a bald eagle took off from the shoreline on the north bank and went up into a nearby tree. It seemed to me it had made a kill, but we could see nothing but the bird watched us closely until we camped.
     Eagles are the enduring memory so far. To see a bear - unless one walks into camp as happened on the George River in Northern Quebec two years ago - or a moose wepill have to catch one at the river drinking.
     The bush is a green wall hemming in the river, and that won't change for several days.
     The world begins and ends, it seems, on the water.

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