Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Mississippi River (Lanark County Ontario (198?)

Mississippi River
(Lanark County Ontario)
September 6th 1985

"Everyone must believe in something. I believe I'll go canoeing"
Henry David Thoreau
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Rain………, dark damp and pouring rain!! A steady drum beat tapping out our wake up call on the nylon tent fly. Opening my eyes, I was insulted by darkness. My other senses coaxed me into consciousness delivering the heady aroma of pine needles and wet leaves laced with the acrid odour of last evenings campfire. There would be no campfire this dreary morning. Coffee and oatmeal would have to wait. Mosquitoes eagerly anticipated their meal teasing us to abandon the warmth of our sleeping bags and brave the morning.

Grimacing, we stepped into our wet boots and donned our rain gear. Our shadows exchanged uncertain glances as we unzipped and greeted the new day. September sixth, my birthday, welcomed me with the greatest gift of all. Alive, healthy and embraced by my beautiful Ontario wilderness.

After years of exploring the back rivers of Ontario, my canoing partner Brian and I had made an art of dismantling camp. Without a word we began rolling up the damp tent, nesting cooking pots, gathering our gear and loading our canoe. Passing each other on
our relay to the river bank we sputtered granola dust with words of encouragement while ferrying our packs to the muddy shore.

A gentle breeze whispering through the trees echoed the muffled chatter of the river. Pushing off, I raised my collar and glanced back at the woods that had sheltered us for an evening in our lives. Always nostalgic, I realized I may never pass this way again, to be embraced by those trees nor to share that evening with a friend.

Rain drops continued to make the river sing as our paddles sliced through the water adding rhythm to the chorus. Dawn was making a feeble attempt at pushing back the darkness while Lightfoot’s lyrics from ‘Whispers Of The North’ danced in my head.

"Whispers of the wind, I will feel it sting
I will see it rise and fall, I will hear it sing
The sound is like a song to me, it takes away the pain
The river is the melody and sky is the refrain" (1)

This was the last stretch of our voyage as we raced to keep our appointment with a rafting company on the Ottawa River. Hours passed in quiet reflection and with the lifting of the mist we found our car and bid farewell to the Mississippi River.

We arrived at the town of Beachburg and followed the road signs directing us down ever smaller gravel roads to the rafting company. Parking our car, we ambled off to a large canopy where the enticing aroma of coffee, pancakes, eggs and bacon wafted through the air. Grabbing a plate I eagerly began filling it with all the mouth watering items offered. The morning paddle had created an appetite that could not be satisfied with only one helping. As we loosened our belts and wiped our chins, our host began to describe the itinerary of the day. Beginning with the history of ‘Wilderness Rafting', he thanked us for our patronage of their company. ‘Wilderness Rafting’??? We had signed on with ‘Ottawa Whitewater Leaders’ (OWL). Realizing that we were in the wrong rafting camp, we made a dash for our car and escaped in a trail of dust searching for our correct host. A few more twists and turns on the back roads we arrived at the OWL organization and sauntered up to their cook tent to load up on more steaming coffee, and an additional complimentary breakfast. All that driving can certainly create an appetite!

After thanking us for our patronage and a description of our itinerary for the day we waddled off to board the bus for our riverside destination. Satiated with the breakfasts, we were ready for a nap rather than the physical exertion that awaited us. We no doubt made better ballast than paddlers as we settled into the raft and donned our helmets.

An enjoyable day was spent descending the Ottawa river, riding the bucking rapids, surfing the current and lazing away the day in the warmth of the sun.

A stark contrast to our rainy morning nevertheless equally as delightful , embraced by the wonderful countryside of the Ottawa river valley during the waning days of summer……

Note: To read about the Mississippi River trip in it's entirety go to my separate post entitled:
Mississippi River - Lanark County- 1985

Slide Show of the 1985 Ottawa River Rafting Trip
(Music: Whispers Of The North - Gordon Lightfoot)
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(1) ' Whispers Of The North' -from the album 'Salute' (1983) -Gordon Lightfoot


Anonymous said...

Well written article.

Anonymous said...

Great pages and pix. However, Mammamattawa is not at the confluence of the Albany. It's about 80km south of where those rivers meet.