Angle to Key West: The Kaministiquia’s Broadside (9/18)

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Past Kakabeka Falls, Kaministiquia River – September 18, 2013

The boat moved in fits behind me as I yanked it up a steep bank and crashed through a hundred yards of waist-high thorn bushes to a muddy ATV track. I stood there for a moment, my hands on my knees, my lungs heaving for breath, then slid the wheels on their frame and lifted the back end of the boat onto the cart.

I ducked the kayak under an old gate and onto a gravel road, walking miles past shallow rapids and a current too fast to paddle against.

A man pulled up in his car and rolled down his window.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Paddling up the Kam,” I said.

I laughed and looked at the river rushing past below the road. He looked at the boat and then back at me.

“I usually go downstream,” he said. “It’s easier.”

“Never thought of that,” I said.

Four miles later I dropped down a steep bank and back into calm water. It lasted an hour, then I was out again. Water swirled around my knees, pushed into my thighs, rushed past me as I walked up rapid after rapid until the river narrowed into a steep gorge and Kakabeka Falls rose a hundred feet into the air.

I found a road near the power station, but it was up a twenty foot cliff that was almost too steep to walk. I tied a rope to the front end of the boat, lashed it to a tree, and shoved the boat up, throwing all my strength into each push. I tied off the rope every few inches, letting the boat’s weight hang for a moment while I rested, my body covered in sweat and dirt, my legs and arms trembling.

Twenty feet took an hour.

I walked the boat down a highway for two miles, pressing myself into the road’s shoulder as semi-trucks blazed past like giant monsters in the fading light.

Above the falls and dam, I reached a small gravel track that I’d seen on a map. In the darkness, I found a gate and an Ontatio Power “No Trespassing” sign. I glared at it, frustrated, too tired to be mad, then looked at my map again.

A small ditch of swamp cut under the road a hundred yards away. I thought it might get me back to the river. Or it might not.

I dropped off the road past a maggot-filled deer that had been hit by a truck. The smell almost turned my stomach as I pulled the boat through brush and over fallen trees until I sunk to my knees in mud.

“Glad I’m not in Florida,” I said to the darkness.

I shivered in the cold and dragged the boat behind me toward the river a hundred yards away.

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