Monday, September 1, 2008

Day 30: Rivers burn, and then run backwards

I heard voices. A father, and two young children, perhaps. I am found, caught. When the voices pass I quietly begin packing my things. All of my tent and bedding collapses down into two 20L, waterproof bags, while a smaller bag carries my maps and reading material. As I pack the canoe the father casually walks over. "Hello," I offer first, but he either doesn't hear, or isn't ready to talk yet.

As it turns out, the man is Tim, the dierctor of educational assessmentin Saskatchewan, if I remember the title correctly. He has come with his daughter and her friend to this place where he himself has camped many times before. The girls are now catching the descendants of frogs he caught in the nearby pond, when he was a child. The beaver lodge has been there thirty years. He names some of the stones he has found.

When the water is this high, it erodes the shore. When they will recede again, the erosion will reveal all manner of Indian artifacts on the beach. There are teepee rings on the hills, and in one of the woods up there, a flock of feral goats. But he has never seen a boat here before.

"I was thinking of going that way," I said, "but I guess I'm heading north instead."

"You could take the Qu'Appelle river just over that dam," he says. "It will take you past Last Mountain Lake, Regina..."

"That's the way I want to go. I looked last night, but there was nothing there."

"Oh, there's definitely a river system over there," he insisted, "that's the pumphouse over there." I promised I would ride over to the dam again to check it out before heading out.

When I reached the top of the dam again, I looked down, and once again saw nothing. But perhaps my line was wrong. I went over to the pumphouse, and saw nothing under it, either.

Look up, Kevin, look up.

Looking a little higher I see patches of blue just barely revealed through the greenery. The river is thin, its banks are steep, and you can only view it from the correct angles.

The portage was difficult. My wheels work very well on a slow, paved incline, but this was sand and they just wanted to dig in. I emptied half the boat, dragging the stuff over to the road that goes down to the river's source, and continue shioving and yanking the boat up over the sand, and through the brush to the road. The roadis grassy and it is relatively slow progress to push the canoe over it, even when well-balanced on its wheels. But I am finally able to let the thing slide into the water just after the portal of rushing water that is the modern source of the Qu'Appelle.

The Qu'Appelle here is very small, and on the first day it seems that every little creek that joins it doubles its size. There is a weir with several feet of drop, water at its base violently rerising and thashing about to find its right way forward. I have to portage around it, dragging the boat over rocks, yanking it up on its wheels, pulling it over to the pool, sliding it down off the wheels in.

The river became channelized, a straight line between two banks of curious cattle, and the wind pumped up from the wrong direction. It was so strong I had to fight with all my strength just to maintain forward progress, my bones screaming out against the abuse they had already taken all day. I had to pull over several times to rest. I almost cried.

I have complained much here and elsewhere, but the hatred I had for the wind that day was very real. If any of my curses have any effect then you can be sure hell is a drafty place. There I was, on the Qu'Appelle River. I should have been celebrating to be on this river I wasn't sure would be there for me, indeed believed could not even exist the night before. But instead the wind threw up foot high waves against me in the channel. There ould be no rest or victory, the river was running backwards.

Day 30 ended: 50*58.392N, 106*21.446W

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