July 8th, 2019
Methye Part 2 & Clearwater
I fell asleep with my bag open, so I knew I would be waking up in the middle of the night to more adequately secure my slumber. I did not know, however, that doing so would feel so wretchedly painful for the minimal movement such an adjustment required. If I had, I would have fallen asleep sweating within my fully enclosed cocoon.
The morning was stiff and slow going. Paul and I had a moleskin party before eating oatmeal and Zach was the lucky guy who got to refill everyone’s coffee cups. He sat right next to the pot, no one could find the inner strength required to move from their seated position and refill their own mug.
We paddled across part of Rendezvous Lake and reconvened with the muddy ATV trail we have all come to know so well. We had our gear system down, so we got going without much delay. Zach, Paul and I suffered for the first stretches with the boats, our shoulders worn raw from the latter half of yesterday. Padding with fleeces (or decomposing moss, in Zach’s case) seemed to help, and the group arrived at the halfway point rather quickly, considering our physical conditions. It is painful to watch some of us walk around. I know I have been hobbled (and humbled) greatly. Our toes have blisters and our calves feel like they are pinched in vises. If people saw us waddle around, they would have no desire to canoe. This is what I wanted though, so I suppose it is just desserts.
We switched up the team roles. For the next part of the day, Bram, James and Quinn took a granite gear, tin and boat down to the river while the rest of us went back for the gear. We met back up at the rendezvous point literally within seconds of each other. Pretty incredible. After scarfing some nuts, we took off to finish our last two miles. Only, about one mile or so is straight downhill, and boy is it steep. Jimmy tripped over a rock while carrying the cumbersome granite gear and banged up his knee pretty good. Quinn took it slow on the downhill on account of his tweaked knee, and I made it down aided by a sorry-looking walking stick that wasn’t much higher than my hip. It was rough for everyone.
We reached the bottom at 12:45 PM and took a team photo. We had what I would generously describe as a muted celebration of the accomplishment. I screamed a victory roar as loud as I could upon setting my boat down beside the river, but only Zach released a joyful yip. I get it though. We were shot and we still had some miles on the Clearwater to get behind us in order to reach Fort Mac early on the 10th.
The banks of the Methye greeted us with a severed moose head whose face meat had been hemmed off and two monster, swollen pikes – likely remnants from the friendly hunters who drove by us on ATVs the day prior. A large black bear was entrapped on a strand, belly up, only 200 yards from our put-in on the Clearwater. It’s mouth was agape, revealing an engorged tongue and gums between its jaws. It’s eyes were half submerged in water and looked like the texture of deviled eggs. Its large claws stuck into the air, feeling menacing even in their inanimate state. We figured hunters had shot the beast and dumped it in the river where it flowed down until it became entrapped. It had been dead for days, judging by the smell of it.
We paddled on the beautiful and esteemed Clearwater River for a few more hours. For most of us, it was the furthest we have ever paddled from Deer Island. The fast-moving river is rimmed by verdant hills and towering poplar trees over its banks. It definitely feels like a new chapter in the book. I’m so proud of everyone on this trip. We suffered together, helping one another on the way and laughing about it afterwards (and during!). I have no doubt we will finish this trip with bonds that are tighter than our calf muscles.