Initially we had thought to put in here at the first accessible water, but a final rapid extended from this bank a short ways downriver. To avoid this, one would have to paddle out into the river full tilt. And if unsuccessful, it would be a cold swim at best. Instead we decided to carry our outfit to the very point of land downriver of this rapid. Jenny carried one pack load, I shouldered the canoe, and in only four minutes we reached safe water. We returned for the second load and soon, at 9 am, were gliding down the river.
All was bliss until I realized that I had made a major navigational blunder. Before setting out I did not look at the map. I thought I knew which way to go, but that turned out to be wrong. We followed the current north, out into a group of islands. We should have followed the shoreline southeast. I kept saying, "this is not the way shown on the map at all." And finally I got out the map and realized that we were not yet in the area of the map that I had in my mind's eye. And now the wind was blowing against us and in places setting up a nasty chop against the current. We rounded a few islands, clawing our way back to windward and eventually came to a channel that we recognized as the one we had come in. So in about an hour after setting off we reached the right hand shoreline and got ourselves truly underway.
Even though the river's current was fair, if we stopped paddling, the strong wind actually blew us backwards in the river. So we had to paddle hard just to make progress. It was a struggle keeping the canoe under directional control. Jenny had to do much drawing, left, then right, as the boat kept tending to fall off. Nearly to where the river bends sharply north, we found an area of river that was not too terribly choppy. Directly ahead of us the waves were big and treacherous. We crossed here at this calmer area easily. The wind kept us from drifting ahead into the bigger waves. It felt strange, paddling across this great river without front ferrying and without losing ground. The wind was blowing about 20 knots.
We rounded the corner to the north and paddled 2.5 miles, crabbing mightily to stay off the shore. Even a moment's rest would have put us hard ashore. The river then turned sharply southeast and we thought to go through a narrow channel behind a large, huge, square island with the Y-shaped eskers, but this channel looked shallow and rocky. So we followed the main river channel. The wind now blew even harder, 25+ knots and rain started slanting down. Jenny wasn't feeling well, with a dehydration headache. And we were making such little progress with such great effort that we decided to call it a day. So we landed at 1 pm on the island. We pitched the tent in the rain, then gradually the rain let up so our gear bags and rain jackets had a chance to dry. We climbed the slope to the tundra and enjoyed the views. We found some ripe blueberries, numerous siksik holes, a few spent .223 shells, and an old wolf-gnawed caribou antler.
We had paddled only 7 miles today. Inside the tent we rested, ate, read, with rain spatters off and on throughout the afternoon and evening. After our walk on the hill Jenny braved the cold water and wind and went in for a bath and rinsed some clothes.