|Heading Down the Canyon|
We started out into lashing rain. So much for the Yukon expression "if you don't like the weather wait 5 minutes". This wet weather was persistent and there is no where to hide in a canoe. The spray deck kept the worst off the gear in the boat but the fabric that closed with Velcro around our torsos acted like a gutter channeling the rain into the seats. Well it did with me. Naill's legs were long enough that if couldn't even fully close the deck leaving a gap for the water to fall straight into his lap. There wasn't much we could do about it though, so on we paddled feeling a bit like we had wet ourselves, but thankful that at least most of the rest of us was dry.
Up ahead on River Right we saw smoke rising. It was a bit of a shock, we had almost forgotten that other people might be out here too. We cautiously made our way over to their encampment. An ancient part of the brain signalling to proceed slowly and obviously so as to not appear a threat. Ridiculous really as they were bound to be tourists just like us, but we had been in the woods a long time now, and it would seem disrespectful to do it any other way. A poncho clad figure waved from under the tarpaulin where the group was sheltering from the rain and ventured out towards us. We exchanged a few words. They had paddled the Bonnet Plume River and were waiting out the weather for a few days before heading down to Taco Bar to get a floatplane ride back to Mayo. It was a welcome surprise to be talking to another person, and there was an affinity, we all belonged to a small club that had the privilege to paddle here. It was reserved though, in our heart of hearts I think people who come this far from "civilisation" really just want it to themselves, however unrealistic that is in the modern World. We wished them well and paddled on.
In places the river valley was up to 6 kilometres wide. A huge choice of river channels, some taking us several kilometres further than we needed to paddle, some ending abruptly in strainers or oxbow lakes. Some, if we got lucky, would give a nice bit of flow and cut the corner. There wasn't a lot to base decisions on, so I surrendered to the will of the 'Force', and we 'felt' our way through.
|Endless Dark Cliffs|
Endless black cliffs! 800ft high made from crumbling dark rock and mud, these ominous walls left us claustrophobic. We commented that they would be the same height as the Wall in Game of Thrones. Not often you get to see the real thing! But they just wouldn't run out. A long sweeping left bend would lead to to another infernal black cliff heading right. It mentally tough. Nothing indicated that we were making any progress as everything looked the same. This combined with a constant head wind it was becoming a tad depressing.
|Floatplane Sign at Taco Bar|
Eventually the wind abated and the GPS showed that we were nearly at the confluence of the Snake River, our objective for the day. Getting back into stride we glimpsed a group getting out on the bank. We pulled over and it turned out to be the same folk we had briefly chatted with on one of the first days of the trip. It was like meeting up with old friends. Something about the fact that their trip was nearly at an end and that we had a unique stretch ahead of us took the pressure off. We could talk freely and exchanged a few experiences from the Wind and their Guide spoke to us about the difficulties of fishing and how the weather was the worst he has ever seen! As we waved goodbye and floated off the Guide shouted one last bit of advice "don't camp at Taco Bar, really bad, lots of flies". "Right Oh" we replied as if we had never intended something so Rookie. Taco Bar was of course our intended camp spot! There wasn't much we could do about it. Apart from where they were camped there wasn't any decent camping and we had a long day already. We pulled up at Taco Bar opposite a Bald Eagle eyeing us from her nest. On the face of it is was an alright spot, mirror calm water and sheltered from the wind for the first time that day. When no-see-ums (same as midgies?), black fly and mosquitoes are concerned sheltered, stagnant water is not a great thing for there food source, i.e. us! It was really horrific, no where to go we hid as best we could under head nets and ate moving up and down the beach. I had heard somewhere that they can't fly faster than 3kmph so I tried to eat at that speed. We went to bed, as Niall put it, "irritated and irritable".
The next morning all we wanted to do was get out of there. The emotions I had anticipated at passing this last point where there was an option to fly out early, the fortitude I thought we would need to continue, was out the window. I not even sure if we were booked on a flight whether we could have stomached waiting. We stopped by the lonely crooked airplane sign to do a piece to camera. I kept it brief, my eye swollen from bites, making me look either diseased or beaten senseless by a troll. We were free from the hell hole. After a late breakfast on the most exposed, breezy bank we could find, it was all speed ahead towards the Arctic Circle.