The morning brought our first real sunshine of the trip. The sky was totally blue and we soaked it up. We encountered an unusually long stretch of pipeline, which was odd, since most pipes along the road are in individual lengths. The ground became swampy and we lost the road in a broad saddle between the Godlin River valley and the Twitya River valley. We picked our way across clumps of grass veering toward where we thought the road should be, but after 45 minutes of this, Dave made a successful excursion to find the road. This was the most "lost" we were on the whole trip, so I'd say we found route-finding not to be a problem on this trip. Although the road was often obliterated, we found that if we simply paid close attention looking for lines of willows and alder and "thought like the road", we were usually on target.
We caught our first glimpse of the mighty Twitya River after circling around the eastern flank of a mountain. The Twitya crossing is the most difficult of three dangerous river crossings on the Canol (the other two are the Little Keele and the Carcajou). The Canol paralleled the river for awhile, but we left the road about two miles before it crossed because the river was braided and easier to cross upstream. The cross-country travel down to the river was quite easy and the first two braids of the river posed no problem, but the third and last braid was too deep wade across. We each brought a cheapo sun tube to which we lashed our backpacks wrapped in garbage bags. We had practiced swimming with these tubes on the Sandy River near our home in Portland, but the current was much stronger here.
Dave, being the strongest swimmer, was the first to cross. He waded out as far as he could until the current took the tube. As he was swept down river, he furiously tried to get to the other side. It looked like he was making no progress at all and might miss the sand bar he was shooting for, but at the last minute his feet found the bottom again and he pulled himself out of the water. After walking around for awhile to warm up, he gave us a pre-arranged signal to describe how difficult he found the crossing: "tough as shit". Roberta was next. She found the crossing to be "tough as shit" too, but Dave caught her as she was hurtling by and pulled her in to shallow water.
In an attempt to improve my chances, I began wading out farther upstream. Oddly, fear and hesitation were almost entirely pushed aside. The current caught my tube and I plunged in after it. Immediately one of my sandals was ripped from my foot, but instead of letting it go I waited for it to surface and retrieved it. As soon as I started pushing my tube, however, it flipped upside down -- my pack was underwater! Somehow I flipped the pack and tube right side up. Panic began to creep in so I relaxed my body, took a deep breath and then went back to work. Again the pack flipped over! I righted it again and rescued the walking stick that had come loose. A sandal and a stick, where's that third hand when you really need it? A third time my pack flipped over. Could this get any worse? I righted it again and was able to keep it steady just long enough to break out of the strong current and reach the sandbar. The adrenaline was pumping and I never felt cold in the water or out of it. Incredibly, my pack stayed bone dry, but my watch, which I had lashed to the outside at the last minute, was ruined.
We hung out for awhile soaking up the reality that the Twitya River crossing, one of the more formidable challenges on the Canol was behind us. Now we had two miles of cross-country travel to contend with before we were back on the road. The animal trails were sparse and the going was slow. We were able to take advantage of some sandbars and this is where we found Chris and Jeanne (the couple who were not a couple). They were looking for a way to cross the river, but they had no flotation device and only a few strands of rope, so Dave and Roberta gave them their sun tubes. Boy, were these two the luckiest people on the face of the earth today or what?
Chris and Jeanne had been talking (yelling) with two bicyclists across the river who were trying to cross in the same direction we did. This was their second stab at the Canol and apparently the Twitya stopped them again. I found this hard to believe since the water level was lower than last year and you would figure that they would have had a plan to at least deal with the conditions they encountered last year. We had been following their tracks since milepost 222 marveling at the conditions through which they took their bikes and predicted that we'd make up the two days head start they had and catch them at the Twitya. If we would have continued on to where the Canol crossed that is exactly what would have happened. There is no way I would recommend someone bicycle this trip. Forget about the beating that your bike takes. Never mind that you have to walk your bike about as much as you ride it or that the second half of the trip is full of boulders and often choked with alder. Hey, I wouldn’t want to surprise a grizzly bear at ten miles per hour!
Although we could have walked along the edge of the river to the Canol’s crossing, we took to the bushwhacking to reduce the risk of turning an ankle. Finally in the early evening we intersected the roadbed and I let out a full tilt whoop to celebrate the milestone. The crossing and bushwhacking had taken most of the day, so we decided to hike a little later so that we could assure ourselves of getting to Pump Station #4 tomorrow night. We ate dinner at Decca Creek and donned our mosquito head netting for the first time on the trip. We started the ascent out of the Twitya River valley and started looking for a campsite. It was slim pickings, but we managed. In our camp on Caribou poo, Dave and Roberta’s campsite gave them a horrible night’s sleep whereas mine gave me the best sleep of the trip so far.
A dry wind keeps the tent bone dry…