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  • Friday August 6, 1999 - DAY 7

    Halfway point

    Geoffrey Peake writes:

BREWSTER Tonight we are camped about 115 miles below our starting point of Webequie, and halfway to our proposed finish at Peawanuck. The river has settled down in character the last few days. The steep drops and falls that characterized the upper river has given way to a steady and unyielding flow that is working its way toward tidewater around 3 km/hr. I must admit that I have seen more Eagles and Osprey in the last week than on any other canoe trip. Around every bend there seems to be another bird of prey perched patiently in the trees, watching us pass.
      This morning, just after we launched, an Osprey who was circling in the sky ahead of us, made an abrupt stop, pulling its wings in, and dropped like a stone to the water. Its talons made an abrupt SLAP! on the water's surface, and, behold, the bird flew off with a small pike in its grasp. A bit further downstream, two eagles made lazy circles above us, each in different directions, circling around and around, passing within inches of each other. I heard the sound of the wind rushing through their wings as they crossed overhead. The large populations of both Eagles and Osprey point to the abundance of fish, their staple food supply, in the Winisk.
      The weather continues to be sunny and cool, although we have had some form of rain every day thus far--this explains why the river levels are high this year. Today we paddled by a long section of burn, most of it many years old. Up here, fire can be an incredibly destructive and commonplace hazard. (not this year though) When the forests get dry, the combination of wind and searing heat produces fires that burn with a rage usually reserved for the inner circles of hell. The slow growing spruce can take many years to re-establish itself after these fires. The large burn we saw today was almost 30 years old, with no sign of spruce having made much progress through the dense poplar and alder overgrowth.
      This year we have a new piece of equipment that is causing a bit of controversy: a water filter. This is actually the first time ever we have ever treated or filtered our water. Oh, I know there are probably many of you who unfailingly treat your water on all of your trips--better safe than sorry. But we take pride in going to places where the water is still pure and unadulterated. Most of the rivers we have paddled have few roads, settlements, or even people living on them. In over 20 years of camping, the only occasion I have ever suffered from any ill effects of water was on Trout Lake (North Bay, Ont.) in 1978. This year, with worries about Webequie ruining the waters of the upper Winisk, we finally gave in and bought one of those pump-filter units. There's only one problem with it: the water tastes bad.
      Now I have no doubts that the water is properly clear of all harmful bacterium, algae, bugs, and all that good stuff, but (pardon the pun) it's a bit hard to swallow bad-tasting water on a canoe trip. Now I don't know if this off flavour is just the residue in the cartridge that will wear off with time, or if this is how it's supposed to taste, but the water has a definite flavour and aroma of chemicals. So far Tom has been the only one to religiously use it all the time, but then Tom is also the one who always remembers to put his sunscreen on, to brush his teeth, and he has managed to wash himself every day. The rest of us tried the filter for a few days and then quit. Tonight I tried adding the carbon filter to see if that would help, and it did. But the water still smelled like swimming pool. The best tasting water is still the stuff straight out of the river. There is a certain irony to bringing a water filter on trip that produces a product that tastes worse that the most disgusting city water you've ever tasted. Do you think we're doing something wrong here?
      I won't go into the problems we've been having with the technology part of the trip, except to say that we are having troubles sending pictures at the moment and hope to have the troubles fixed soon. For those who think that we sit around all day playing on laptops and surfing the web, think again!. The reality is that I write my rough copy on paper to save computer time, and surfing the web at 4800 baud would bankrupt our battery supply in short order. Computer and phone time is always tight, and there never seems to be quite enough charging hours in the day. So, as I said a few days ago, none of us have even seen the site, we just trust that all this stuff makes it up there, thanks to the busy people at CANOE. We take great pleasure in reading your questions and comments that are forwarded to us, and appreciate your feedback. Keep your questions coming and we'll answer them as best we can. Well, it's quite dark now, and someone is snoring quite loudly in the tent next to us (it's probably David). Time for me to get a little shut-eye myself.
     PS: Quote of the Day: Peter Scott, who has a fondness for throwing out thought-provoking quotes, offered up this one to the group: "Most men live lives of quiet desperation" Henry David Thoreau
     PPS: The other men (myself included) live lives of overt desperation.

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