Previous Post: Day 5 – From Florence Lake To The Forks (And A Bit Beyond)
Day 6 – To Macpherson Lake
- distance: 9.1 km
- time: 9:30 a.m to 3:50 p.m.
- portages/rapids: 6/6 – lined 3?
- weather: some sunny peaks but mostly cloudy and overcast, cool
- campsite: island, reasonably sheltered, room for a 2-3 x 2/3p tent plus perhaps 1 or 2 x 4p tents.
We left our P2/R2 campsite around 9:20 knowing that after we put in on the other side of the portage, we’d still have ten sets of rapids/portages to deal with this day. Our goal was not very ambitious; the Shangri-La campsite just above Katherine Lake sounded like a nice spot to spend some time. If we felt really keen the next morning the thought was to portage up into Dry Lake and paddle to the viewpoint on the SW corner of the lake. But all that was in the future – first up, the rest of this set of rapids.
We had decided to line and run this one (option 3.), thus avoiding the portage on river left.
It took us about 25 minutes to do the remainder of R2 after our put-in at the bottom of the falls. Half of that was spent dealing with the narrow section just before the river widens out a bit again. This time the line/run option turned out to be the right one.
We were soon faced with R3/P3, the next problem – a dry bouldery river bed on both sides of a river with not enough water to line the canoe. The panorama below gives you an idea of the scene. We ended up carrying gear and canoe for about 100 meters over the bouldery shore on river right to get around the worst of it.
Once below we were in the water pictured in the image below. On river left just below the end of it is a possible campsite.
At R4 (the 4th set of rapids from The Forks) we spent most of our time lining the rapids at the top and bottom and were able to float down the middle section, even if it was a bit of a boulder garden. While we sometimes stay with the river because we think it will be easier and faster, the 100-meter portage on river right might have been easier than the half-hour we spent dancing on wet rocks with our canoe as a partner!
Coming right up – another set of rapids/falls- R5 …the first of three before we got to Macpherson Lake. We were amazed to float right through this one in less than a minute, puffed by the nice job we’d done. “Two to go – let’s git ‘er dun!” We figured we’d stop for lunch on Macpherson before pushing on to Shangri-La.
We were a bit fuzzy on the next one, not really having given the trip notes enough of a read. We were moving along nicely until we rounded the bend and saw – way too close – a ledge coming up. From our middle-of-the-river position, we made a clumsy move to river right, grazing a boulder in a bad attempt to slip into what looked like a way down.
Seconds later we were standing in waist-high water below the falls, our canoe had taken on water, and the packs were floating down on river left. Whoa! An invigorating cold shower that forces you to take stock and think fast! The water itself was maybe waist-deep.
With the canoe emptied of water and floating again, we had an immediate problem. No paddles! I snapped part of a skinny pine trunk into a 1-meter paddle; Max eyed another one and set about sawing it off.
Now armed with a couple of “paddles” we set off downriver to collect our packs and duffels. The photo above has them floating on river left. Within ten minutes we had amazingly recouped them all. While the two Hooligan packs (essentially the Made In China version of the Ostrom Wabakimi packs) had taken on water, the inside liner bags had done their job. Given their 18 to 20 kilogram weight we were just glad they had not sunk! The two duffels were also retrieved – and so was one paddle that we found floating nearby. Things were definitely looking up.
I took the following shot as we paddled back up the rapids in search of a paddle or two! After we had gotten all the bags back in the canoe, we paddled up the shore on river right. When we couldn’t go any further, I hopped out and walked up closer to the falls looking for our two missing paddles. A gleam on a short straight piece of something yellow/brown in the pool below the falls on the other side of the river had me thinking it was one of our paddles sticking out.
We were now on our way back to get it!
It turns out that it hadn’t been the paddle after all, just the sun catching a barkless tree branch. You can see it just below Max’s boots. However, right there not far from what had drawn my eye was a paddle. And stuck in the middle of the falls up top was the other one!
Now that we had two paddles again, we continued downriver, thankful to have escaped mostly unscathed, even if a bit wet, from our dumb lapse in judgment. Except for our third paddle – which we perhaps should have made an effort to retrieve – we hadn’t lost anything. Even the map case, its yellow top peeking 6 cm. out of the water was spotted and scooped up.
It is funny how, in spite of paddling a few thousand kilometers, it is the capsizes you remember most vividly! Our last major dunk had been on the Bloodvein River some six years before. It was almost forty years ago but I can still hear Cyril’s laugh as we tanked that 17′ Grumman going down Graveyard Rapids on the Spanish River.
No more pix this day after we left our dunking scene!
We did the river right Macpherson Chutes portage and then kept on paddling. Macpherson is a long narrow lake, a little under four km from top to bottom. Now we were in campsite search mode; we wanted to take advantage of the mid-afternoon wind and let our stuff dry out a bit.
After scanning the river left shore for something, we referred to the Chrismar map and turned back to the island CS indicated. We found there an okay site that even had a thunderbox. As with all the other official sites we had so far used, this was was very tidy. Props to those who stayed there before us and the Park crew who may have come through on a clean-up run!