7/10 – There was very much a “calm before the storm” sensation that filled me as I paddle across an impossibly flat Flagstaff Lake under darkening skies. The rain never came much to my joy. I was prepared for the worst in a raincoat that retained rather than repelled moisture in the 90% humidity. The loons and I chatted back and forth and the few motorboats on the lake could be heard across the stillness but never seen.
The dam before the Dead River was situated in steep rocky terrain that housed an appealing whitewater feature below the falls with apparent minimal risk. I carefully portaged my boat alongside the gorge moving as close to the water as I could. The bank of the river rose steeply and I was still about six feet off the water when I could not longer safely climb the rocks under the load of the boat. Fully loaded on my shoulders the boat was about ten feet from the water when I launched it. Ducking under the yoke in one movement I sent the boat over my head on a trajectory where it rotated 180 degrees in the air and came splashing down in the eddy I was standing high above. Perfect execution if I may be so bold. Hurriedly I climbed down the remaining slope to the water and grabbed ahold before the recirculating current pulled the boat from the eddy and sent it downstream without me.
The remainder of the Dead River was slow and steady aside from a few areas of quick water and a rapid below the gorge.
At the stream I began 6.25 miles of upstream travel in shallow water that rarely fully supported the boat. I don’t know if this is where I put a small hole in the stern or if it was later. I didn’t notice for several days and was confused as to why the stern hatch was filled with an inch of water at the end of some days. The guide books pegged this as an all-day ascent toward Spencer Lake. My ego was somewhat culled by my experience on the Clyde River and I headed the book’s suggestion. Many falls, hours of wet feet and 6 miles later I reached the dam. The sky, like the day before, was matte and dark. Allie messaged me on the GPS to warn of impending thunderstorms. It was about time the rain made an appearance.
7/12 – It rained last night and this morning. This would be my second “zero mileage” day. The humidity refused to break and the rain showers were intermittent with moments of sunshine and wind. I napped most of the day and took advantage of the moments before the rain squalls when the wind picked up and carried off the many mosquitos and black flies that waited to snack on my sweaty uncovered arms and legs to prepared food and take water. Despite how short the portage over the Spencer Lake dam was it required full sleeves, pants and a headset to keep the bugs at bay.