Chronicles

Mike and Carla's Run
by: Mike Lushington  

            It had been nearly ten years since the last time that Carla and I had done the run down the Restigouche from the Mouth of Kedgwick to the Rafting Grounds. That is, of course, the traditional distance to which people refer when they say that they have 'run the river."

            I remember our previous run with considerable distaste. In the first place, we were in far too large a group. To me, something like running the river is an opportunity to enjoy my surroundings in peace, quiet, and relative solitude. On this occasion, though, we found ourselves part of a groups of, as memory serves, over twenty canoes.

            In the second place, the weather was deplorable. We hit a full-fledged summer storm, with high winds and driving rain that forced us to tow canoes for long stretches, to sleep in sodden clothing and sleeping bags, and, given the size of the group, to put up with all the grumbling and complaining that comes from so many people feeling miserable.

            I know that my memories of that trip have not been exaggerated over the years because very few of the people who did it have ever gone again; we all remembered the misery all too well.Therefore, when Carla mentioned that she would like to run the river again, my initial reaction was one of mild dismay. However, I squelched my negativity and agreed to go along with the idea. Thus we found ourselves, just the two of us, setting out on a Monday afternoon a couple of weeks ago.

            It had rained torrentially for two weeks just prior to our setting out. The warden at kedgwick warned us that the river was higher than it had been in mid August for more than thirty years, that there was a lot of debris, including full trees, and that other canoeists had run into all sorts of trouble. Needless to say, then, we set out with all the intentions of being very careful, especially because we were alone. We knew that if we ran into any trouble that we would have to rely on ourselves to get out of it again.

            That first afternoon, we only travelled for a little over two hours. In that time, we discovered that all of the upriver rapids and all of the gravel banks and beaches were submerged. it made for very quick travelling but very few places to get out. We were just beginning to wonder where we were going to tent for the night when we came down to the first of the new (to us) designated camping grounds at the Hafford Pool. We overnighted there and set out early the following morning to see how far we could get before stopping again for the night.

            It was as though, somehow, the river had been shortened. We found ourselves hitting familiar landmarks so quickly one after the other that by mid afternoon we realized that we were within easy reach of the Rafting Grounds - really, a full day ahead of ourselves. In the end, we completed the run in about nine and one-half hours of actual paddling, more than twice as fast as we had ever done it before. We had no difficulty, although we also found that we couldn't really relax either; things kept coming up too quickly. Still, the weather was gorgeous, and so was the river.

            Next month, I would like to write about the river, about some of our adventures and some of the things we saw. For now, I would like to comment very briefly on the job that is being done at the camp sites on the river. We stopped overnight at one, as I mentioned above, and briefly at another at Cross Point island. Both of them were beautifully situated and extremely well maintained. Local conservation groups and the Department of Natural Resources should be thanked and congratulated for this work. So, too, I would think, should be paddlers who are obviously making a major effort to keep the camp sites and the river itself much cleaner than I remember from the past. It was gratifying to see that the river is being looked after in a way that she deserves. Let's just hope that this continues.

            Years ago, I remember a friend who knew and loved the river remarking that when the weather was bad, the Restigouche was like the River to Hell, but when the sun shone, she was pure Paradise. After all these years, I can finally say that I know what he meant.

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