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  • Saturday August 7, 1999

    Peter Brewster writes:

    Alone in the wild

BREWSTER MILE 145, WINISK RIVER: We stroked off 30 miles today, without much effort and with our friendly neighbourhood headwind in more or less constant attendance.
     Decision-making on a camp site for the night was aided by a huge and ominous black cloud to the west, and we just got the tents nicely set up when the heavens opened.
     In 20 minutes the rain had stopped, and the sun is now streaming down on camp.
     And what a camp it is. And how the fluctuating weather mirrors the changing scenery along this river.
     We're settled on the south end of a large island, sheltered well by willows towards the V where the current splits around us, and to the north by a high bank and trees.
     Yesterday, when I did not write due to some technical difficulties that have been dogging us, the canoes slipped all afternoon through narrow channels where trees trailed in the water and there was considerable evidence of fresh beaver activity.
     Today, after long scenic views down a widening river, we entered a series of islands just before the very pronounced right-angle bend in the river that is the main feature of a map of the Winisk.
     We've been told via e-mail that our scenery will change once again as we go north-east, with limestone cliffs and yet more islands.
     Bald eagles are still everywhere, and as we pulled in here tonight a pair rose up greet us, one of them settling in the top of a spruce and shrieking loudly.
     One of the most obvious features of the terrain of the last 10 miles is the amount of burned land. You can see where the fire that raged through here some time in the last 20 years jumped the river and torched the north bank, leaving in some places a sharp line between charred trees and older growth.
     We still have not seen any large animals, but were surely close to one at lunch. A loud whuffling and snorting, accompanied by branches cracking, was definitely not Dave snoring after eating. I went to investigate, but in the dense bush could only hear the moose (or perhaps a woodland caribou) moving out.
     We are now down to one laptop, as the Mac G3 got some moisture it didn't like and has quit. So much hangs on the Mac 5300C I'm typing on. Battery power too is a worry, and this machine is giving us about 40 minutes before its battery needs charging.
     Luckily, there has been enough sunshine to keep the solar panels humming and the main battery charging, but one day that is grey from start to finish would make matters rather tense.
     Right now I hear a combative discussion going on about where the pasta has been stashed - but there's a counter move afoot to break out the rum and lemonade for a boisson, the traditional voyageurs' end of day libation.
     I'm supporting that, in case you're wondering.
     Yes, I think I'd better go out and supervise this.

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