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"Fires don't go out, they just sleep until they are well rested."

Matthew Wapachee

Through Garrett's Eyes

After discovering a fire at the start of our journey near the headwaters of the Great Whale River, we were bussed south to the historic Rupert River. We put in at Lake Mistassini in downtown Mistissini. We spent the first night across from the settlement and the next day glided across the monstrous lake toward the western shore. I remember Mistassini to be a geological wonder; impressive sedimentary rock formations covered the shore. I even kept a few souvenirs which I use as paper weights on my desk at home today.

The next day we traveled toward the mouth of the Rupert, which lay near the center of the lake. We stayed at an important landmark: a huge granite rock left by the last ice age on a smooth sandy esker, which was the place where the old fur-trade brigadiers, traveling to Rupert's House for supplies, would stop to sacrifice tobacco.

The following day we were on the river shooting rapids and enjoying the beauty of northern Quebec. The Rupert is a great whitewater river and the top section of river is absolutely unbelievable: a strong current, huge falls separated by large run-able sections of whitewater, a few short portages, rolling hills to offset the flat Ontario landscape we were all used to, and great fishing. We followed the river west until we reached the headwaters of the Marten River where Heb had led two Keewaydin sections in the mid-60's, which he wrote about in The Rupert That Was. We actually used Heb's book as trip notes for much of the trip from here on.                                                                                                    

Historic fur trade rock at the head of the Rupert River on Lake Mistassini. Fur brigades supplying Mistassini from Rupert's House would leave tobacco offerings here when passing.

Left to right, top: Marc, Bob, Garrett. Bottom: Seton, Bart.





Photo: Garrett Kephart


As we hopped onto the Marten River, we were all ready for the trout infested, scantly populated river that Heb had explained in his log. But, as we crossed that last portage onto the river what we saw brought the fear of fire back into our hearts again, as we gazed across to the western sky, lit up with an amber hue and covered with a distinct smoke haze. 

From this point on, our spirits shifted a notch lower and a level of stress awakened throughout our section, as we raced down the Marten River unable to fish, shooting rapids blindly, praying we make it to a road that we knew crossed the river, before the fire might reach us. The staff was definitely worse off stress-wise than the campers. 

For us campers, the Marten River took more of our attention because it is a perfect canoe-able river. All the whitewater is of perfect size and run-able. These were my first days in the stern, for I had made a promise to myself to learn how to stern before I left Section A, a skill I hadn't yet learnt as a camper. So, the guide, and especially my faithful bowman Seton, were on ends as we shot rapid after rapid, successfully I might add! It was great!

Another couple of days down the river and we were at the road. When it was all said and done, seven days, including two hitchhiked trips to Chibougamou (pronounced Shi-BOO-ga-moo), were lost trying to figure out what to do next. In the end, we continued down the river with lower morale, for the chances of our making it to the Bay were slim to none, now that we had lost so much time.

                                                                                                    Through Garrett's Eyes cont'd


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