The itinerary of our trip was provided to not only Butch, but also to each of our spouses. A detailed timeline, map of our route, and GPS coordinates of the put-in, take-out, and each nights campsite, was provided for safety purposes. The wilderness is a safe place. But to enter into it without a solid plan, and not sharing that plan with others, would be negligent.
Just over a half-mile from the road through the forest to our north was the river. The coordinates to the river landing was on my handheld GPS when I started off into the conifer forest with John close behind. Fifteen minutes later we were in a thick spruce swamp and the GPS lost its signal. We could not see more than 30 yards in any direction and it all looked the same. Mild panic ensued for a brief moment.
I asked John to stay put with the packs as I circled around and around trying to pick up a signal. It never happened. So with a Silva compass in the palm of my right hand, John and I pushed north through the spruce swamp until we hit the river. The GPS picked up a signal once we were in the open canopy. It told me we were over a 1/4 mile upstream of where we should have been. We made our way downstream, dropped our packs, and headed back to the road for the canoe and paddles.
On the way back to the road I took a course that kept us up high, on hogbacks, in the hardwoods, keeping the thick spruce swamp that we got lost within to our east, having only to cross through a short stretch of it half-way. The canoe was retrieved and dragged back to the river without incident. The sun was high and bright and it was just past noon as we rested and ate lunch, mesmerized by the crystal clear, tannic stained, water.
With all our gear at the river and miles of wilderness paddling ahead of us, we both felt as if we were at the threshold of a door about to open to another world. We sat on half-submerged boulders, left in the river by the glacier that carved its path several million years ago, cooling off, taking in the sights and sounds. I felt at home. When I find myself in the wilderness I am overcome with a sense of peacefulness, a sense of calm and quiet satisfaction that I only experience when I am far away from the modern world.
Once the gear was loaded into the canoe we shoved off into the current. A few hundred yards downriver we encountered the first of what would be an endless number of blow-downs and beaver dams…Obstacles that would require us to get in and out of the canoe over and over again to make progress.