Articles / The snaggy river!
Category: Camps, Treks & Adventures
The snows had let go of their grip… spring was underway and so were the two trappers, Sebastian and Gvido, set to paddle down a creek this weekend. We anticipated some cold nights, and rain, and a snag or perhaps two. At some point there was supposed to be one place with white water, but we would portage that place. No problem we thought. And from here, the plot thickens…
We met on a sunny Friday afternoon, and before the canoe was on the car, the gear packed and we were on the way (with much a yahoo and yeeehaaaa) the afternoon had turned into late afternoon. We did a fast job on getting the canoe into the lake* at a muddy beach, load it with our meager gear of 2 packs, our flintlocks, and 2 paddles, and of we went. Paddling the lake, I could physically feel the modern world leaving (in some panic and horror) my body. We paddled some, looked at the spring colors coming, discovered the blue of the sky and the falcon circling – and apart from the slight wind, and the ripples of small waves on the beam of our craft - the silence.
Some paddling along the lake, and getting used to the canoe, and suddenly the adventurous mouth of the creek* loomed before us. It looked narrow, and innocent. It could not have anything in store for us, or could it? We paddled along, with speed and energy, for about… 200yards… and there was a snag, protruding crosswise from the now widened creek, completely blocking the way and with its dimensions not inviting to be axed. We beached and looked around – saw a bend in the creek that we could portage to clear water and did just that. Packs out, carry to the other side of then bend, back for the canoe, portage the canoe, put into water, load… light a pipe. And of we went with full speed and enthusiasm for a bend or 2 of the creek, and hit a snag. This was a “dragable snag” where the canoe, minus its faithful passengers, could be dragged over the submerged snag.
Into the canoe we went again, and paddled, and hit more snags, and with some concern realized that the winter storms had done quite a nice job at providing us with physical exercise and adventure. Also – the shadows were lengthening and we started to look for a spot to camp. This we found after a short while. A perfect spot with a slope overlooking the creek and small plains in both directions, with dense woods behind us. Level and with plenty and good, dry firewood. And it was too early for mosquito season yet! So, we unloaded canoe and while one was working with the canoe the other was carrying the gear up the small slope – while one was making fire, the other one was finding firewood, while one was getting water the other was preparing dinner. And while the dinner was slowly bubbling both of us went out to set some traps along the creek.
That done, we only had the hard duty to sit, eat our dinner, very simple venison and rice, drink some freshly roasted and ground coffee, sip some good brandy and spin yarn till we tilted.
Next morning came with sun even brighter then the day before, and warm too. Some coffee and fast breakfast. Take up the traps. Load the canoe and of we went. We wanted to get as far as possible today, and we should be able to make the planned distance without problems… or so we thought. We padled some distance and had some easy snags that we could creep under – and we looked at the country, scouting for possible future rendezvous sites. Then we paddled on and this is where the adventure began… the creek was simply littered with snags… high snags that we could barely sneak under with the canoe, smaller snags that we could chop trough with the axes Sebastian luckily brought. Submerged snags we could speed-paddle over at least halfway, then drag the tail over. And the real badass snags that included a chaos of trees that had made an impossible maze where the only solution was to portage gear and canoe. This continued most of the day. And it was a hot day, and the only water we had was what we had in our canteens.
We had to portage the canoe and gear around a whitewater waterfall thing. On the bright side the day was so hot that Sebastian stripped and took a swim to refresh.
We started to feel the lack of water. We felt lucky when the creek was free from snags for 300 yards or so. We sweated like silly. We had great time. Sometimes we had a short break and ate some few, dry things we had in the shot bag or pocket, had a small sip of water, and perhaps a pipe, and on we went. And suddenly the creek opened and we hit a moderate size lake. Calm and sunny, with hills and woods around. We paddled on and enjoyed the carefree life of a snag free body of water, while we discussed the feeling of dehydration and possibility to stop and boil lake water.
On the other side of the lake we found the creek again and this time it was easy going for some miles. And we even found a way to fill ourselves and the canteens with nice cold water. But here some other challenges started – it had rained a lot during winter and spring, and the creek was high and the water swift. Where it earlier was only a creek with some swush around a stone, there now was a white water step. “Only this one, perhaps another one more, but that’s it” said Sebastian to me. Me, who never had done anything with a canoe that included splashy bubbly fast flowing water in a swift downward direction, with some evil looking spray making dark, sharp stones peppered along the path.
“What do I do?” I asked sheepishly. “Get low, paddle as crazy and aim for the center” was Sebastian’s answer and of we went… and seconds later, we were trough, and enjoyed the nice high of adrenalin. And so the journey continued with snags and, what??? More than one white water place – 3 or 4 or 5? Well the winter and spring were very wet and rainy, so we had these bonus surprises. And it all went well – only one place did we really hit a rock, but swerved around it exercising perfectly coordinated ninja moves. Then we came to a part of the creek where it was wider and deeper and filled with underwater snags. We started to get tiered and we could see that we started to make mistakes of poor(er) judgement… not seeing the underwater snags, or not reacting fast enough. It was about 7pm and we had a long day, so we started to look for a camp spot. After some time we found one. A perfect horse shoe shaped meadow, with the creek winding gurgingly around it, fields around and a hilly wood with big spruces behind us. Shrubbery around the camp to hide from eyes and wind, but open enough towards the meadow to give a perfect view.
We unloaded, made fire and camp, found firewood, ate some great supper with buffalo and beans, and with unanimous vote condemned the brandy to be emptied… in a civilized manner of course, nice and easy, within 20 minutes or so… Coffee and pipe! Counted the stars, talked and generally had a great time till our limbs asked for sleep. I don’t recall falling asleep, I just recall the softness of the buffalo epishamore under most of my back, the beautiful stars, that dam stone that I could not bother with and…
Next morning we broke our fast on some leftovers and coffee, and paddled on. The creek did not intend to give up, it threw in a snag or 2 (or 10) for good measure, but we paddled on, or chopped or dragged or portaged but we came to where we wanted and where we planned. We came tired but happy and proud and humble to have had the possibility to experience this and learn from it.
*Co-paddlers geographic note
This snaggy adventure started out in Långasjön (lake) and continued as stated above along Storån (creek with a name rather indicating a big river) until we reached the Wild West theme park High Chaparral about two months too early for the rendezvous held there each year.