|Nanook's Campfire Tales|
| Northwest Upsalquitch Trip Report
by Craig Stewart
I would just like to share a recent run we had on the Northwest Upsalquich. Feel free to add it to your site.
This was my first river trip as "the Bourgeois" as it were, and I was suitably nervous. We were four friends, who had never canoed before as a group. This is our adventure. Note: Adventures are someone else, neck deep in manure, far far away....
Friday morning broke, clear and with great promise for the first June weekend. We piled into the Red Menace, a dilapidated old Trooper that I own, along with enough gear to outfit a small army. We arrived at the Rafting Grounds around 11am and proceeded to unload the Menace, and wait for the outfitter from whom we rented our canoes and who was providing transport to the put in point to arrive.
Upon his arrival, we started squeezing and packing the gear into his vehicle, on the trailer, on the floor of the car, deciding what we can do without, etc. A liberal application of rope, of which we had brought plenty, secured the contents of the trailer. Speaking of the rope, our outfitter was quite impressed that we had brought any at all. It would seem that preparation on the part of his clients isn't something he is used to! And then we were off. I spent the drive there going over maps, picking this fellow's brain for suggestions and details. You see, none of us had run this river before. The outfitter informed me that he was taking us to somewhere around mile 27 when I had expected to put in at the warden's camp at mile 25. No worries, a couple extra miles will make for a nice trip.
Upon our arrival at the dead-end logging washout, er, road that was our track into the wilderness, we were faced with the first portage... Yes, a portage on the Upsalquich. We had to get the gear down a 300 m mud trail to the water's edge. About the third trip, I was cursing myself under my breath, pack lighter next time! We arrived with our gear and ourselves (mostly) intact. The obligatory safety briefing from the outfitter, and he bid us adieu, laughing to himself the whole time I am sure. The reason will become apparent soon.
Our canoes loaded and looking like a demented spider went at them with polypropylene rope, we push off. I, being trained on old wood and canvas canoes, was soaked to the knees and barefoot when I got in the canoe. After all, better wet feet than a cracked boat.
That was to be my state for the rest of the trip it would seem. The Upsalquich at this point is not a large river, but it is "playful." The first boat was away with Jim and Bill aboard immediately spun wrong end to, went through a bunch of rips backward, found the alders, around a turn and out of sight. Eric and I in the second boat didn't fare any better. The first 20 min of the trip, the river used us like play toys. We were backward, we found every rock in the river, and I think every tree overhanging the bank reached out to "caress" us. I take the full responsibility, since in the planning stages, I selected two Prospector hulls as opposed to something more barge like. I didn't take into account the foolishness that four guys who haven't canoed together before can get up to. We finally got things straightened out. I'm sure that anybody with ANY experience in a canoe would have been laughing uproariously at our antics! The rest of the day was very enjoyable, with the river never losing its playful character and us getting better at working with it.
We were warned about the fish counter site and that we might have to portage around it. As we were coming down stream, I was keeping a look out for the sign on the shore I was assured would be there. We came around a bend at a fair rate of speed before we spied the aforementioned sign, and then we were by it. We flipped the canoes around and rapidly came to the conclusion that it was almost impossible to go against the current. We pulled into shore a bit further down river than we wanted to, and proceeded to explore. We found that the nets weren't in and the site was not occupied. By now, a (relatively) long day and a lack of food (next time, don't pack the snacks in a barrel!) had taken its toll. We floated the canoes down to the government site, beached them, and proceeded to pitch our tents and get some dinner going.
We received some visitors in the guise of some of the local characters out in their 4x4 running the roads. They were friendly, albeit somewhat boisterous. After they left, we finished off dinner, and came to the conclusion that my camp cooking needs some improvement. The most polite description of my bannock was "dry." Some ideas were bandied around, put a piece of it in the bottom of each canoe, and it would absorb any and all water that made its way over the gunwales. I was cautioned not to drop any in the river since it could dry up the flow, stranding us in the woods. And the teasing continued... Needless to say, I need to work on this.
The next morning, we broke camp, loaded the canoes, cleaned up the site to remove all trace of our occupancy, cleaned up some litter left by others and struck out at the crack of 10am... It was nice to not have to push. This time, I was stern man with B, and J. and E. were in a canoe together. Jim and Eric pushed on while Bill and I meandered. We soon lost sight of the two nuts in the boat ahead of us. Bill and I took our time, and soon came into some places where there were a lot of blow downs on the outside of the turns. We negotiated our way through this mess, until we came upon one batch in an S turn that I didn't like the look of. Bill wasn't sure what to do, so I said "No problem, we'll line it!" Once again, I was knee deep in cold water, guiding the canoe down the outside channel that would have been too shallow had we both still been in it.
As we were coming down the river, I had noticed how the river's character had changed. It went from a playful river wending its way between steep banks right down to the edge, to flowing quickly between shores whose banks were gentler, albeit more heavily treed. We met up with our wayfaring friends at the fishing camp at the Forks. We enjoyed some sandwiches and beverages of choice on the picnic table here. Once again, cleaning up better than we left it, we struck out. The river had changed greatly after the forks. Broader, less steep banks, less character perhaps. We did, however, come within a couple of canoe lengths of a couple of young Bull Moose, just starting to grow their antlers.
We continued on to where our outfitter had indicated was a potential camping spot. After about 20 min of discussion, we determined that even it we weren't in the right spot, it was getting late and it was a good spot to camp anyway. We got dinner going, started a fire to comfort us while consuming beverage of choice, and to repel bugs... After sitting around like this, and not liking the look of the clouds, we decided it would be a good idea to get the tent set up. In the midst of doing this, out of nowhere, a great wind came upon us, blowing loose and somewhat light items into the river! We managed to get the tent somewhat secured down but dumping the gear barrels, still full inside it. J and I went into the river after the items... The river was about hip deep here and flowing fast. Apparently my experience fishing and wading came in handy, as did my extra 100 pounds of body mass, since Jim was close to going over and heading downstream at a rapid clip. I was, once again, soaked to the waist. This time, everybody was from the heavy rain that came upon us suddenly. After about 45 min, the rain let up, we set things to rights, built the fire up to clothes drying potential, and proceeded to eat dinner and roast/dry ourselves off. Hot dogs were roasted over said fire, much hilarity was had by the loss of various hot dogs into this hungry fire, and teasing ensued because Eric had managed to fuse the edges of his sleeping pad together trying to dry it by the fire! We managed to turn in without any further incident.
The next morning dawned chilly but clear. One problem was that our campsite was on the east side of the river, so the sun had to clear the bank and trees before it shone down upon us. We stirred the fire again, and warmed ourselves at its side. Breakfast and coffee ensued, the sun broke over the hill, suddenly warming us, and we started putting items out to dry in its brilliant warmth. Canoes packed again, and ready to go, it was once again the crack of 10am... Just as we were making one last turn around the site to ensure no sign of our presence remained, around the bend comes a canoe. This husband and wife team had camped at Crooked Rapids. They asked if we had seen a paddle coming down stream. Apparently at some point earlier in the day, they had lost one. We loaned them one of our spares, and a good thing it was. The wind had come up, and it seems that no matter which direction the river took us, it was square in our teeth.
We accompanied these folks down to their take out at the Robinsonville Bridge. At one point I watched the husband pole his canoe through a relatively shallow section. I again resolved to learn how to do this. We allowed these folks, experienced canoeists, to go through the Boland Brook falls first. I'll admit that sitting in an eddy at the top of it, it looked more fearsome than it was. Bill and I nosed into it once the husband and wife team were around the bend. I really didn't pick the best line, we surfed over a couple ledges, and the tail of the canoe bumped a couple that needn't have. We got through it fine, and for the first time, I begin to understand why people enjoy running quick water. B. on the other hand accused me of finding the largest waves to bury the nose in since he got all the spray! Eric and Jim ended up being hauled to the left and right through the fast but deep channel to the left of the gear... I still don't know what it is that is anchored there, a flow meter perhaps?
A somewhat leisurely paddle down the Restigouche and around the turn to the rafting grounds and our take out. All in all a good fun trip. Everybody agreed that it was great fun and wants to do it again. Personally, I found the first day on the upper North West Upsalquich to be the most enjoyable, the character of the river, the surrounding terrain, all of it. As the river got closer to the Restigouche, it lost much of its character and for me, fun. The last couple of hours were almost like flat water canoeing, even though there was a current, it wasn't what I enjoyed at the start.
I certainly plan to do it again, this time with my own canoe now that I have some idea of the river's character.
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