July 18th, 2019
Shooting the rapids between Fitzgerald and Fort Smith always seemed like a pipe dream, but Leif, an American kayaker, Fort Smith local, and our guide, helped make it a reality. We shuttled to Fitzgerald in the early afternoon, linked up with Justine, Ben and Kira, some canoe enthusiasts, and began the day (we also bumped into Mike Konta again).
Cassette is the first rapids set and we shot far right. From the beginning the water was pretty big. We carefully followed Leif who navigated us through the winding, rocky, sneaky and spicy channels. I could not believe I was shooting some of the stuff we went through. Under any other circumstances I would have portaged half of the stuff we shot. Not normal circumstances. I was with the boys and Leif had me fired up about everything. The river is so wide at some points and there are actually rapids gushing through every inch of it. At one point we ferried into a set of islands in the middle of Pelican Rapids, the biggest set of rapids I’ve ever laid my eyes on and I was just in awe of the power of the river. It felt like being in the belly of a beast. There were waves the size of barns. We paddled down the eddy line right beside them and I had the sense that we were edging our way alongside a deathly train you didn’t want to get in front of. Paul and I had a fun swim after swamping 3/4 of the way through roller coaster rapids. We punched through the hole at the top, but submerged through a monster wave train. By the end, after slicing through the last section of rapids, I had an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. What the hell did we just do?
We finished the night off at Leif and Natalie’s place, sharing stories with other paddlers and oozing with mirth.