Wednesday, June 5th
Chena River

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Wet shorts in ice-old water

Chena River Map

It has been light all night.  In a tent it more perceptible than in the hotel room the night before.
The weather looks great today.  After breakfast we rehearse the forward ferry.  The current here is considerably faster than yesterday, it is really serious now !

Loading the canoes10h00
It’s becoming warmer already.
We clean up the camp place, load the canoes and put on our life jackets.  The van is locked, Ron will be picking it up later today.

And now, the real canoeing !
Actually, we are crossing the Chena River State Recreation Area.  It is not a National Park at all, but is doesn’t have to be one either.  Wild animals are wild, and for them it doesn’t matter where they kick around, as longs as they are free.
We can experience the same feeling : an unbelievable freedom, but we are also incredibly insignificant compared with these extensive woods.  The next three days we depend on ourselves and on each other.  In a range of 50 kilometers around us there are certainly other living human beings, but finding them when you need them is for something completely different!
So, no foolish things now, no thoughtless canoe maneuvers and evade trunks in a cool-headed way.  In brief, keep the canoe under control on every moment.
Falling into the water is certainly not advised.  While launching the canoes, we already noticed that we better avoid to keep our feet too long in the water.  The temperature won’t be more than 3 or 4°C.  With these temperatures a body can’t stay functional more than 10 minutes, not mentioning the possible cardiac arrest in case of a sudden contact with ice-cold water.
We must stay aware of these dangers, nevertheless we enjoy the scenery.
A Bald Eagle is observing us suspiciously from a dead tree. Other exotic water birds, mostly ducks, are startled and fly away when we come too close.

The Chena River is classified as a Class II river.  This means that obstacles are common : a rock, overhanging branches or even a fallen tree, a sharp turn and even occasionally a rapid.
But it turns out fine, the obstacles are favorable, they leave us enough room to avoid them with a back ferry. 

Paddling on the Chena RiverWe approach a wood of Black Spruce.  These trees are normally quite tall, but now they are rather small and malformed because of the permafrost where they grow on.
“Do you smell it ?”, Lou screams from her canoe.
Indeed, it smells like well-digested compost.
Near the bank of the river, the soil defrosts more easily and sometimes large clumps of ground fall into the water with trees and all.

Further down, we see large piles of trunks along the riverbank.  They have been stacked up in spring by the enormous power of the current.  Sometimes they become several meters high, a magnificent biotope for beavers and water birds.

We take a pause on a gravel to lunch.  Lou serves some delicious snacks, like the ‘gravel bar’ : a kind of cake with chocolate, crackers, nuts and milk in it.  Delicious !  It looks like the gravel we are sitting on, hence the name …

It happened : the canoe has toppled over.  Water is coming into the boat but we haven’t capsized.  It was a navigation mistake.  We turned a bit too far to avoid a tree and the bow came into en ‘eddy’ while the stern was put out of balance by the current.  A simple ‘low brace’ brought us straight again, but wet shorts were inevitable.
The damage seems to be limited, the waterproof bags have proven their usefulness.  The water is taken out of the canoe and we can continue our trip.
The weather is still nice, everything dries up quickly.  The upper legs have to bear the burning sunlight. 

Splash !  A beaver lets us know that we aren’t welcome in his territory.  But we have no choice, we have to go downstream.  He dives and disappears from our sight.

Enjoying the quite evening at the campfire17h00
We are searching again for a gravelbar, to pitch our tent this time.
Requirements : flat, spacious, no large rocks, enough shrubs en if possible driftwood for the campfire.  The demand is quickly granted.
We see tracks of moose, beavers and even … humans.
Even a bear must have been passed a while ago, but the tracks aren’t fresh anymore.
The mosquitoes welcome us on land.

The tent is ready and dinner is too.  Lou thinks about everything, from appetizer till dessert, wine included.  We turn over one of the canoes so it can serve as a table.

Meanwhile, it is cooling down and we get on our long pants.  Not only against the cold, but also against the mosquitoes.  By the way, the insect-repellent is doing a good job, they all make a U-turn when they come to close.  Only the smell isn’t pleasant.

I collect driftwood for the campfire.  All remainders of food and smelling packings are burned in order not to attract animals during the night.  We can do without those unexpected visitors. 

We end the day enjoying the quite evening and the scenery around us.

The sun isn’t down yet, but it has been a tiresome day.  I fall asleep like a log 

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