Boundary Rock Expedition – Day 4

May 7, 2009

Day 4

Tuesday April 14th, 2009: Junction Lake

This morning we wake up to what would appear to be- though I’m hesistant to say so this time- a very nice day.  Since I am the only one who enjoys the early morning I get the fire going again and make some coffee and cardamom buckwheat pancakes with real maple syrop.  We got a text from Mr. Whynot saying he would pick us up at Upset Falls instead of Indian Fields, which buys us some more time, and so the plan this morning is to take a few hours to look for the rock before setting out for the bottom half of our trip.  That’s right, we got a text.  Rob’s phone was able to send and receive text messages even from Junction Lake, the middle of the Nova Scotian wilderness.  That’s good to know for future reference, but not something anyone should count on.  The good news is, we’ve got a little more time and it’s all downstream from here.

Junction Lake Morning

Junction Lake Morning

Breakfast in the Sunshine

Breakfast in the Sunshine

Overnight, something interesting had happened.  We got a really cold snap because of the clear night and all of the dead branches seemed to be freeze dried in the morning.  They were easy to just snap off or the morning’s fire.  This was the easiest it’s been to keep a fire going yet.  With the first day being rain, and the two days after that having constant snow, this was a real treat.

Freeze Dried

Freeze Dried Firewood

Cardamom Buckwheat Pancakes

Cardamom Buckwheat Pancakes

After the morning meal and cleanup, we decided to pack up camp and leave our gear by the shore, and head up the little cove to see if we could find Boundary Rock.  We didn’t get far before realizing that the way to go was not by boat.

Setting out in Search of Boundary Rock

Setting out in Search of Boundary Rock

We got out of the canoes and set off upstream on foot.

Upstream on Foot

Upstream on Foot

We spread out and Cody and I went straight up the stream, while Rob and Rhynot took the right side, heading further into the wooded area.  We continued along to the North, snooping around every rock in sight until we reached another stream in a marshy area where we found an enormous rock, larger than any other in the area, larger than any one I had ever seen.  I’m sure most of it was under the ground, and it was only the top sliver breaching the surface, but the amount that was above the mud and brush was enormous.

Breaching the Surface

Rocks

Rocks

Breaching the Surface

The surrounding landscape looked promising from this marshy area.  We knew it could be more grown in with trees, but it was in a relatively flat area which was marshy, and could have been reached by canoe.  This all fit the description, but the pressure was on, we still did have a lot of ground to cover today, even if the upstream pickup at Upset Falls would save us an hour or two of paddling.

The Pressure Was On

The Pressure Was On

We carefully crossed the marsh to the other side where, from behind a tree we could see another huge rock.  The water being as high as it was made this more difficult as the marsh truly was a challenge with deep spots that would be up to my waist if I made a wrong step, or misjudged a patch of moss.  But we were going to leave no stone unturned.  We had come all this way, it was the least we could to to look as hard as we could without using up another whole day.

No Stone Left Unturned

No Stone Left Unturned

We took a quick rest on this split rock, of course looking closely at it and the rocks around it for anything we might recognize from the photos from 1899.  Still, nothing but we don’t give up just yet.

Rest

Rest

On the way, we met someone else who was enjoying the break from the rain and snow.  A snake was sunning itself here on a branch but was obviously quite cold as it didn’t scare and even it’s tongue moved at an incredibly slow rate.

Snake Sunning

Snake Sunning

Looking Back

Looking Back

We continued back along the other side of the stream and made our way through countless huge erratics strewn through the woods surrounding Junction Lake.  Many had similar shapes and sizes to Boundary Rock, but upon closer inspection, none of them were it.

Cairn

Cairn

So we left behind a cairn for others to find.  It was time to leave this search behind, and continue down the river.  Now that we got in, it would still be two days before we’d be home again.  So a little behind schedule, we find ourselves agian on the lakes and rivers of the Tobeatic, this time, with our noses pointed homeward.

Back on the Move

Back on the Move - Junction Lake

There is quiet between us as we paddle down to the Southern part of Junction Lake.  I’m sure we’re all wishing we had had the whole day to search for the rock.  Although the next time I’m here, I’ll know where to start which is right where we left off.  I had an interesting sensation though and that peace I felt the first day returned to me again.  I thought about it in silence for quite some time before I stopped paddling, turned to Cody and said, “You know, I feel a lot of different things right now, but defeat isn’t one of them.”  I felt like that was exactly what was supposed to happen.  Like we’re now a part of something bigger than us.  We searched for Boundary Rock and that connected us to a piece of history that will never be removed.  Honestly I didn’t know what I’d do if we’d found it, and now, there’s still a reason (like I need an excuse) to return.

A Part of Something Bigger

A Part of Something Bigger

We talked about Boundary Rock again and it seems like we weren’t supposed to find it.  It was the magnet that drew us out of our winter hibernation into the vast wilderness to have this great experience.

Stream to Halfmoon Lake

Stream to Halfmoon Lake

Rob cleans up a sweeper

Rob cleans up a sweeper

As we continued downstream there was more and more water.  Junction Lake is the headwaters of the Roseway watershed and further downstream there are other tributaries that are also dumping water into the river.  Also as we get lower and lower on the river, the water gets faster and bigger.  There were some carries that were necessary even going downstream.

Some of the Carries were Necessary

Some of the Carries were Necessary

Whenever we would come up on a run that looked remotely passable, we would have to scout it out, to see if it was possible and to determine the best route.  This meant walking and scouting the entire run and then back up again to either pack up the gear or get back in the canoes to do run the rapids.  Some of these rapids were 400m or more and this ended up taking a lot of time.

Below Halfmoon Lake

Above Halfmoon Lake

We followed the stream into Halfmoon Lake which is an interesting lake, due to it’s moon-like shape, that looks much smaller than it is because from nowhere on the lake can you see the whole thing.

Halfmoon Lake Stillwater

Halfmoon Lake

Halfmoon Lake

Halfmoon Lake

Halfmoon Lake Erratics

Halfmoon Lake Erratics

Leaving Halfmoon Lake the river narrowed and gained much more momentum.  Here is a prime example of what is known as a sweeper.  This one spans the entire river, which was quite fast at this point.  To add to the danger of this sweeper, it was about a half a foot above the water all the way along so a canoe would likely run underneath in, pinning a canoeist under it at the fastest point of the river.  There was no way around this one and it was too big to cut, so we carried around this one.

Sweeper

Sweeper

There is a 400m carry at the bottom of Halfmoon Lake where we stopped to scout the run.  It ended up being a very fast run and somehow we got separated along the trail.  In the end we decided it couldn’t be run, but scouting the entire run and then portaging it took 2 hours.  By the time we got to the bottom, we were all tired and our patience was wearing thin.  We were all very dehydrated, hungry and tired.  We decided that from now on we would stick together when scouting and we would just carry anything that looked like it would take too long to walk the entire thing twice.  We were still able to have some fun though.

Foam

Foam

Rock Garden

Rock Garden

Curl

Curl

This is where things took a serious turn for the worse.  We were way behind where we should have been at this point in the day.  It was 5 o’clock and we were only one lake away from Junction.  We should be pulling in soon to find a camp spot, but we’ve got a ways to go before we can afford to do that.  We decide that we should make it to the bottom of Roseway which put us closer to where we should have been if we were on track but still made for a long day tomorrow.  So we press on.

We come up on a run that looks doable.  So we all get out and scout it together.  It looks fast and complicated, but the guys say it should be no problem.  Later we determine that it was likely a class IV rapids.  The best way to go looked like the left hand side the whole way along.  Around a large rock then dropping down over a lip, between two rocks and then we’re clear of the first (and hardest part) then it’s a pretty straight shot down the left side into the stillwater before Roseway Lake.  I’ve never done anything like this before, but these guys have been doing this their whole lives, so I go with it and after the last couple of runs I’m starting to feel pretty confident.

Rob and Rhynot go first and once they dissappear from sight around the large rock and down over the lip, we nose out into the current.

Slowly at first, we back paddle as we head to the left side of the river, Cody tells me that once we’re around a rock ahead to pull hard to the left to get around a submerged rock, then pull hard left to come out around that huge rock.  We pick up speed coming around the corner and it’s good.  I lean back going down over the lip but we take in water anyway.  Cody shouts, “It’s fine! We’re good!”

Now, since we scouted the river from the river right, we never had this view of the river until now.  Another thing catches our attention at this point too, we see the red canoe to the left of us, and they’re bailing.  But they’re also sitting right where we’re headed.  All of this happens in a split second.  Cody shout again, “Right!  RIGHT!” but it’s too late.

I’m already on the left pulling the nose over.  I hear him, and hesitate, but knowing it’s too late, I keep pulling hard to the left.  The bottom of the canoe scrapes on a rock that splits the water down over another lip.  We pivot now where the bottom catches on the rock and I’m now facing the red canoe on the shore.  The water catches the lip of the canoe and instantly we are full of water.  I remeber what Cody said before we started the run, that if anything happens to get away from the canoe, and to never be downstream of the canoe.  If it pins you, you are essentially done for.  So I jump in the water and grab ahold of a nearby rock.  I’m up to my armpits in the freezing water and I turn around to look and it begins to sink it.

Cody had also exited the canoe, but he was laid up on the rock with the canoe, but thank the gods he wasn’t under it.  I remember seeing the yellow boundary pack (waterproof gear pack) float out of the canoe and head downstream, then I saw the bright blue food barrel leave and follow it downstream.  Then I saw my red pelican camera case float downstream as well.  I was somehow comforted by the sight of all of this, because I knew how waterproof everything was, and not once did I worry about the contents of any of those containers.

Now back to the scene unfolding in front of me.  Cody is now trying to push the canoe off of the rock, and it’s not budging.  Rob takes his canoe over to the rock and tried to help.  They both put their backs against the rock and push with their legs but nothing happens.  They call to Rhynot to chop down a tree to use as a lever, which he does, but there is nowhere to pry against and the canoe doesn’t move.  The top of the canoe was facing upstream and it was full of rushing water and being pushed against the rock.  It was locked in place.

I pulled myself up on the rock I was holding onto and all I could do was stand there.  I felt completely helpless.  The adrenaline kicked in and I just wanted to cry.  All I could do was watch as the others tried desparately to get the canoe off the rock.  It was now in danger of snapping in two, or just bending and wrapping itself around the rock.  This would make us completely stranded here, miles away from safety.

Now, I felt defeat.

Eventually we leave the canoe where it is; it’s not going anywhere, and there’s nothing more we can do right now.  We head downstream a little ways and start a fire.  We will spend the night here tonight.  Now the priority is getting ourselves safe.  Two of us are soaking wet and it is early April in Nova Scotia, so we’re going to get cold fast.  This means a real potential or hypothermia. We’re all hungry, dehydrated and it was getting quite late now.  Cody and I are already shaking, mostly from adrenaline, and I can’t think straight.  I’m blaming myself for this accident.  I have put all of us at risk.  I have destroyed their dad’s canoe, and I have let everyone down.  If only I had more experience, if only I had pulled right instead of left, if only we had just carried this run instead of running it everything would still be okay…  No, that’s no way to think right now.  We’re all okay and that’s the most important thing.

Cody kept saying to me, “We’re okay, right?  We’re all okay.”  And we were.  We can deal with anything else as long as we’re all okay.

I found my camera case floating nearby in a small eddy.  Not the most pressing issue right now, but comforting nonetheless.

Once we were stabilized we realized that we had another problem.  Each canoe had a food barrel in it, and the one in our canoe had the pot set and the camp stove, and half of the food.  Without the pots, we couldn’t even cook any of the food we did have.  Also the rope I was using for my hammock since I lost mine would have come in handy for pulling the canoe off the rock, but it too was in our canoe.  The only rope we had left was tied around the tarps, which also floated downstream.  Here’s hoping that the tarps float.  Cody and I stayed back at camp and kept the fire blazing and got warm and dry while Rob and Rhynot went out in search of our gear.

We will stay here tonight

We will stay here tonight

The Sun Sets Like Any Other Day

The Sun Sets Like Any Other Day

This photo holds a lot of meaning for me.  This is the sun setting behind the trees on what could have been an utterly devastating situation.  When I took this photo, I was warm and dry, and everyone was safe.  When things like this happen, I take great comfort in the fact that the sun sets just like any other day, and tomorrow the sun will rise again and life will go on.  Right now, I’m just hoping the guys can find the food barrel.

Searching for the Barrel

Searching for the Barrel

The guys were gone a long time when Cody and I looked at each other because we though we could hear yelling coming from upstream, near where the canoe was.  This was also strange because we had seen them go downstream after taking a quick look upstream.  So Cody and I grabbed the First Aid kit, a whistle and a knife and went to take a look.  We went up and saw the canoe, but they weren’t there, so we headed back down the shore toward the bottom of the run.  We got to the end of the small island we were on and could see the red canoe tucked in the beginning of a portage route at the other end of the stillwater.

We waited and strained our eyes and ears to see what we could see and hear.  All we could hear was the raging river which worried me.  If they were yelling for help, we’d never hear them anyway.  But they had a whistle, so if they were in trouble they’d blow their whistle for sure.  Still, we waited.

Finallly, we saw them get in the canoe and head back toward us.  Cody said he could see the tarp, but no barrel.  They were still looking around as they came back slowly across the stillwater so we though for sure that we’d be going hungry tonight.  When they got closer, we saw that they had the tarp in the back and they were still looking around for the barrel.  Maybe it sank.  But then, the barrel!  It was laying on it’s side in the canoe.  They found it!  They found the barrel!!  We would eat tonight.

Drying Off

Drying Off

Right away we got supper on, Rob’s beef stroganoff.  We continued to set up camp and get dried off.  Here, Cody is wringing out his wool socks (which he puts back on right after).  That’s the great thing about wool.

Beef Stroganoff

Beef Stroganoff

This was the best meal I’ve had in my life, because, back there, for a minute I thought it was all over.  I thought we were all done for.  Still, we agreed not to talk about the canoe tonight, and instead we sat around talking about our favorite movies and trying to make the most of our situation.  We talked about the comforts of home, and what we would do when we got back and what the summer held for all of us.  Cody would head straight to Prince George for a season of tree planting as a foreman when he got home, and I too would pack up my apartment and move to Fredericton as soon as I got home.  Rob had flown out here from out west just for this trip, and his flight left the day after tomorrow  We didn’t want to talk about the canoe or the run, but I had to bring it up because I had thought of a name for it: “Lucy’s Rip.”  I called it this because we were supposed to stay to the left for the whole run (Lefty Lucy) and I figured Rip was an appropriate term for the violence of the water in this section of the rapids.

Favorite Movies

Favorite Movies

After supper we were sitting around the fire and we heard the most terrifying noise.  From up river we heard a loud ‘SNAP‘ followed by another, ‘SNAP‘!  We all looked around at each other, trying not to think the unthinkable.  Could that have been the canoe snapping in two?  There are two gunwales…   Maybe that was all the Old Town could handle.  She held out pretty well though, considering the amount of pressure being exerted on either end of it.  Still we weren’t going to think about it now, there was nothing we could do until morning anyway.  Then again, ‘SNAP.’  This time it was good news.  The noise continued for quite some time.  It wasn’t the canoe at all, it was the beavers.  They were just getting busy and they didn’t like having us around at all.  It was their tail smacking up against the water, and it got closer and closer, lasting about half an hour before they realized we not going anywhere.  Still, we had managed to forget about it, and now we were all thinking about the canoe again.  The only thing to do now was go to bed and hope for the best.

Campfire

Campfire

It was getting increasingly harder and harder to find rope to tie up the hammock and tarp.  Tonight, I used just scraps form the tarps and Rob gave me some of his tarp rope and used his Eagle’s Nest tarp for the night.  Somehow we pulled it all together, and thank God it’s not raining.  After all that, I’m sure I’ll have no problem getting to sleep.

Bed

Bed

Go to Day 5

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