Livid and restless with the energy of spring, the river spilled over the banks and strained through the teeth of the forest. Our challenge for the first few kilometers was to keep the canoes in the main channel, away from the rocks and trees that would stop, bend and break them apart in seconds. The forestry road driving in to the mountain valley had been littered with bear scat. In a 30km section, we had spooked five moose. Now on the river and amid the restless waves, cow and calf moose heads poked from the half submerged brush along the riverbanks, following our progress with interest.
At our first camp, a river otter and beaver shared a rare piece of high ground. On our second night, a moose drifted past our campfire as it swam the silty river, grunting with effort. That same evening, another moose wandered into camp. For the time being, we had become a barrier to wildlife movement.
Our party of seven included a reporter and photographer from Smithsonian Magazine-a US publication with a subscription rate of 3 million readers.
The five-day trip was, in terms of adventure, relatively uneventful. We paddled a few minor rapids, surfed a perpetual wave or two, rafted up for the occasional conversation and enjoyed the diverse and spectacular scenery passing us by. Our varied companions were the beaver, moose, deer, elk, river otter and mosquitoes. Our music was the river, wind, smatterings of rain, crackle of campfire, early morning and late night calls of birds. It was a trip of peace, quiet companionship and a last chance for lots of good food.
On the final evening of the trip, while eating dinner behind the wind shelter of an old logjam, we discussed how to celebrate the summer solstice. We packed the canoes at 11pm, while the half moon battled twilight for the shadows of aspen, balsam, spruce and pine. Downriver, on the dead arm of a poplar, a Great Horned Owl called out to the first stars. That night, the river current would pull us through the shortest night of the year.
Small rapids, the rush of side streams, the water being combed through the branches of half submerged trees. These were the sounds that guided us down the dimly lit waters of the East Pine River as we snaked our way on a silver ribbon of moonlit water through the foothills. The sweet fragrances of willow and aspen, thick in the evening, sank back into the ground with the cold air of night.
At 1:30 the moon disappeared behind the mountains and plunged us into darkness. At 2 AM, stiff with cold and the eastern sky just beginning to brighten, we nosed ashore and scrambled into the forest to light a fire and fall asleep in the dry leaves. Two more hours of drifting, and we arrived at the mighty Peace River, more than half a mile wide and the start point for our final 10 week walk through the largest roadless area in British Columbia to the Yukon.
Ten presentations about Y2Y co-hosted by Wayne Sawchuk of the Chetwynd Environmental Society were made to public and student audiences in Grande Cache, Grande Prairie, Dawson Creek, Tumbler Ridge, Chetwynd, Hudson's Hope and Fort St. John over the past two weeks. Overall attendance was modest but, through personal invitations, included local representatives from the mining, forestry, oil and gas, and hunting/outfitting industries, as well as chambers of commerce and local governments. The concept of Y2Y was well received by all that attended the presentations.
A writer and photographer from Smithsonian Magazine were along for many of the above presentations as well as a portion of the canoe trip down the Murray River. More than X stories about Y2Y and the Hike ran in local media sources including CBC radio in Calgary, Edmonton and Whitehorse, the Alaska Highway News, Dawson Creek News, the Dawson Creek and Fort St. John television affiliates of CBC, The Grande Cache Mountaineer, Dawson Creek Mirror and Peace Block News, Tumbler Ridge's Community Connections and the Hudson's Hope community newsletter.
If you can, pick up a copy of this month's Audubon Magazine
as Y2Y is their cover story! PHOTOS from the last couple
of sections will be posted on our new website within the
next two weeks (www.rockies.ca/y2y/hike).
For info call (403) 540-6446.
Karsten Heuer, Webster and Leanne Allison (hikers)
Erica Heuer (publicist)