Kilometres 59 to 114
I could finally look forward to long stretches of canoeing with most of the rapids here and there, easily runnable.
In celebration I had a nice cup of tea at noon.
At Kilometre 85 I reached Caribou Lake (map 13L/8 (© CANADA 1974)).†† It was considerably reduced in size from what the topographical map, made before the Churchill Fallsí project, would suggest.
Late in the day I arrived at the start of the portage around the last major barrier, Seal Rapids (See Kilometres 101 and 105).† I ended up by camping for the night just above where my canoe is lying in the picture below.† A flightless Canada Goose fled in a great panic out of the shrubs (they moult their flight feathers in July and I kept encountering flocks of them which could only flap helplessly in front of me or run up and down the shore).
According to Wayne, it is sometimes possible to line past Seal Rapids and avoid the long portage around it.† I could hear the roar of rapids from where I camped and decided that it would be better to play it safe and take the portage, even if I was feeling pressured for time to make the rendezvous with my float-plane at Seal Lake.
The next morning I started the portage, which follows a creek flowing into the Naskaupi.† You have to pull or lift your canoe over a number of beaver dams and finally end up on the canal below, which leads you into the lake.
At Kilometre 105 I started the portage.† I immediately located a very well marked trail, the best I had seen since the Innu portages leading to Lake Nipishish in my 2004 canoe trip.† My GPS and compass said it was going in exactly the right direction.
I made great time and by early in the afternoon had nearly completed the 2 kilometres stretch.† I then noticed that the bearing for the end of the portage had swung to the north, although my GPS said I was only about 300 metres from it.† It was then I realized that my path had led me to the south side of the esker you can see plainly on the topographical map above.† The esker was a 100 metre high barrier with very steep and heavily forested sides, almost impossible to cross, especially portaging canoe and packs.† After quite some frustrated exploring, which confirmed just how big my challenge would be to reach the Naskaupi, I camped for the night in an area that the Innu must have camped at frequently.† The well-worn path went to a lake to the south of the Naskaupi which must have been very good for fishing.
It proceeded to rain all night and was still sprinkling the next day.† I managed to light a fire in my fire-shield with the lovely under-branches and moss from the black spruce all around me (the pot of water keeps things dry under it) and made a large pot of porridge and brewed some tea.† I packed up in the rain and set out in my rain suit to fight my way to the Naskaupi.† It took† me most of the day and the last stretch involved a struggle through alders on the edge of the Naskaupi.† It was windy and still sprinkling rain but I managed to get a few kilometres down the Naskaupi and then came across a most convenient camp site at the edge of the river.