STORY AND VIDEO BY JIM BAIRD
Big River Crossing: Steady rain fell as we paddled down the large volume Natashquan River. The wider main branch posed some challenges that the east branch did not. For example, on wide, swift rivers, it’s more important to make sure you pull up on the correct side of the river for portages. The carries we encountered on the main branch are all short, or are just lift-overs, but if you pull up on the wrong side, the river is too wide to safely ferry across at the top of an un-runable chute. On one occasion, when we found ourselves on the wrong side of the river, we needed to haul our canoe back up river a ways in order to give ourselves some more room to safely ferry to the portage trail on the other side. It was a pain in the butt, especially because we were already soaked to the bone from the consistent rain. Annoyance aside, remember that heading back upriver is your safest bet when you’re faced with a crossing above an obstruction.
Flood Warning: The Natashquan is far out of the range of cell service and, as driving rain fell on the morning of Day 10, I heard a message come in on my InReach two-way satellite texting device. It was my brother Ted who’d been watching the weather, and saw that there was a heavy rain and flood warning in effect for Natashquan Village. We were still aways from the village, which lies near the river’s mouth, but with the hammering rain we were experiencing, the report sounded about right. It was a little unsettling. On hearing the news, I hauled our canoe about 100 yards away from the river, and kept my eye on the water level. I also tied the canoe to a boulder and placed another boulder on top of it for good measure. It’s always a good idea to stow your canoe aways from the water, especially when there’s a flood warning. But I kind of laughed at myself for putting the boulder on top of it. I suppose it didn’t hurt though. I then replied to my brother, texting that there was indeed heavy rain, but no need to start building an ark just yet. I also asked him to keep an eye on the weather and text me anything that seems unruly from that point on.
Your Own Personal Meteorologist: Weather is only reported for population centers. When you’re in the Canadian or Alaskan wilderness, the closest community could be a hundred miles away or more, and a weather report for the closest town won’t do you much good. However, there is a way around that. If you’re heading into harm’s way, the following numbers will take you to a live meteorologist that will give you a forecast for any region you give them coordinates for. You pay for the call per minute, and they can give short-term or long-term forecasts.
A friend or family member can use this service and relay weather reports to you with while you’re in the wilderness. I’ve done just this in the past, and the meteorological service, mixed with a two-way satellite texting device, is a reliable and effective combo.
Finally the rain stopped, and we were back in the canoe. The river was swollen, and the current moved us along with speed. We knew the coming rapids would be a little more interesting.
-- Check out all of Jim Baird’s Lessons from the Trail and stay tuned for ‘How to Use an Axe,’ the next episode from his Cote-Nord canoe-tripping adventure.