Sunday, December 27, 2009

Day 9: Tuesday, 08-25-09

Lakes / Rivers Traveled:

Albany River

Albany River / Mininiska Lake

Travel Time: 8:18

Distance: 20.5 / 33 km

It rained until about midnight last night, but it stayed warm. I didn’t sleep all that well last night due to the ground not being smooth and level under the sleeping pad. Although I feel pretty good since we only paddled and did just one portage yesterday. We didn’t have to cut our way across the portage either.

Since it was warm out it didn’t feel too bad putting on my wet pants. I put on my Danner boots on with dry socks at night and in the morning. Just before we leave a campsite I change into my OTB Odin boots. My socks are usually wet!

Another morning that I got out of my tent to gray skies. I made a fire and put the coffee on at 07:00 am. Dave was out of his tent 10 minutes later. When the coffee was done I had a mocha.

The rapids are still roaring. I went to the end of the portage to see if the water level had risen. It came up a little. I got some water to do the dishes from last night. We left the dishes because it was raining so hard. It was time to just get inside the tent instead of doing them.

I’m still concerned about putting the canoe in the water at the end of this portage. There are some large waves not too far out from shore and I can’t see if there are any sweepers coming out. If there was we wouldn’t be able to get safely through the big waves. Too early to do any swimming! In fact, I would rather not do anymore.

Dave’s cooking breakfast of eggs and some sort of meat at 07:50 am. Here comes another round of mist and sprinkles. The coffee is keeping warm by the fire. I may as well have another cup.

The last couple days we have been able to get a fire started fairly quickly, but now the wood is all wet again.

Hey, the sun might be trying to peek out...that didn’t last long.

At 09:30 am we were ready to go. I told Dave that we needed to scout the river further downstream. We both grabbed our saws following a faint trail that quickly ended. Some other people must have had the same idea. We cut our way to the river only to find we couldn’t put a canoe in that spot. It was too steep to the river. Now that we walked this far I walked further down river and determined we could actually put in at the campsite. Back at the campsite we needed to cut back the alder along shore to safely launch the canoe. We finally started putting our gear in the canoe at 09:55 am.

We ran the turbulent water without any problems. There was another section of fast water that we ran.

The portage at Eskakwa Falls was immediately before the falls on river left. With this high water there was a very small opening. Don’t miss it. We hugged the left shore until we saw the opening and then paddled hard into the opening. (UTM #33) Just as we landed the canoe an eagle flew over head and landed in a tree just upstream. He was probably expecting a meal thinking we were fishing.

This portage was 90 meters long. The put-in (UTM #34) was down a slippery 5 meter sloping gouged out rock face.

There was a small campsite at the put-in. I saw a spot for maybe one four person tent. Although Dave told me he saw a spot for another tent further up that I didn’t see.

The portage at Snake Falls was on river left right up against the fast water. (UTM # 35) . Again, don’t over shoot this one, either. The portage was 113 meters with little recent use. There was a large Spruce tree blocking the portage about 30 meters from the take-out. We carried all the packs up to this point then started carrying one pack at a time from there to the put-in.

There was a campsite at the put-in. (UTM 36) The site is open and has a good view. There was enough room for two tents, but one tent site would need to work around a rock.

Since it was past lunch time, 1:02 pm, we stayed and ate at the campsite while watching the powerful water rushing by from the falls. The sky is still gray, but it keeps looking like it wants to clear up, but it never does. It still continues to mist. The wind has been blowing strong out of the north all day. It sure would be nice to have a sunny day!

This put-in was going to be tricky. There were large standing waves from the powerful falls that were traveling a kilometer downstream and pushing big waves to both shores at an angle. My game plan was to get in the canoe and try a surf the waves to the shore on river left then point the canoe downstream. This was much easier to say than actually doing it. It was about one kilometer down stream before I felt comfortable knowing we were going to make it.

The north wind was a big problem on Miminiska Lake. As soon as we hit the big open water we headed SW to seek some shelter from the wind and waves. We finally got into the big waves along the south shore. We came upon a peninsula and I decided to paddle to the lee side to get out of the wind. I really wanted to find a camping spot. The wind wasn’t letting up. We still had a ways to go to the west before we could get out of the big waves.

I should have looked at my map closer and I would have realized that we were just wasting our time getting out of the canoe to look for a spot. I talked Dave into it. It wasn’t easy getting the canoe close to shore. We needed to walk through some water just to get to the shore where there were some black spruce trees and more bog. We walked through the bog that was saturated with very cold water trying to find any high ground. The cold water was making my feet very cold and I was becoming chilled. There wasn’t any high ground. When I got back into the canoe, looking at the map, there wasn’t any high ground. Guess I should have looked at my map instead of just hoping to find higher ground.

Back into the canoe and back into the big waves.

Finally, at 06:13 pm we came across a small island that was used as a shore lunch site. There was a picnic table and a large propane burner. We decided to stay after determining we had enough room for two tents. (UTM #37). When we arrived at the island, the very small island, I was chilled to the bone. There wasn’t any firewood here, so we used the burner to cook. I took some photos of parts of the island that were under water.

The wind finally died down around 08:05 pm. I had changed into my wool long underwear and dry socks earlier to warm up. It was getting cooler as the night went on. I’m guessing it got down to 45 degrees. I ended up taking some photos of the sunset.

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