Sunday, July 6, 2008

Day 2: Le portage de mud

I had ended day 1 just short of the Carseland weir, glad to have found a nice campsite, and not to worry about the weir until the morning. There was a portage route clearly marked on my map, and by signs on the river depicting a stick figure powerfully hoisting a canoe over its head. My plan for short portages was to load the canoe onto the trailer that I made. This consists roughly of a couple 16 inch wheels from a bicycle trailer built for children, attached to two lengths of electrical conduit reinforced by a simple frame of wood. Two foam blocks rest on top of this contraption, and holding it down in the water I can position the canoe over it, attach it securely by means of straps, and then roll the canoe out of the water.

With some effort I was able to pull the boat out over the ramp, and just keep it under control as it descended the other side. The water on the other side, far from being the relatively clear and clean water from above the weir, was here still, overgrown with algae and a fetid stench. In little pools of mud around the water could be seen tiny, writhing worms, as red as blood and surely blindly groping about for some host to parasitize. I was a little too late in grabbing the bug spray, and had a swarm of mosquitos securing first meals for their equally evil offspring. Having to wade in this water to remove the wheels was not pleasant, but I eventually got back in the boat and hoped to leave this area behind.

Slowly paddling over the currentless water, I could see no clear channel out, and then checking my map, realized that the exit must have silted over with mud from the recent flooding. My wheels would be useless there, so there was nothing for it but to shove and pull the canoe through a useless forty foot, winding ditch in the mud. I would push until it would not push any more, shove one side to re-align it, pull until I could not pull any more, and repeat, until I was at last out into the clear, moving water.

I decided to stay at the Wyndham-Carseland campground that night, since I was told I would need permission from the Siksika to go through the next section of river. I figured this would be easier if I had some kind of "official" place to put my boat. But even then, I could find no place suitable by the water, so invented my own campsite on the rocks by the walk-in campsites. The ranger, arriving late, told me I must move - that there were proper sites near enough to the water further down. Well, these were surely taken, and the best place I could find was a gap in the mud bank where I could leave the canoe in the water, tied to trees, as I could only load and unload my things by precariously standing on the wet mud and reaching into the boat.

This mud I found throughout the lower Bow. I got mud on my clothes, on my feet, my hands, all around inside the canoe, everywhere. The river was unnaturally high here, and while some other Bow River adventurers had said that during another high year, the water was still only just high enough for floating, as long as I was in the center of the river, I could not even feel the bed by sticking in my paddle as far as I could. The high water was good for paddling, but bad for camping since it left only this mud, mud, mud, everywhere in its wake.

Day 2 ended: 50*49.948N, 113*25.739W

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