(As Robbie Burns opined) “o’ Mice an’ Men. Gang aft agley, An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain” (‘To a Mouse’: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/43816). The photo of Spot and I testing out the new Klymit packraft (http://www.theultralighthiker.com/klymit-packraft/) on the farm dam give no hint of this. I need to inflate it some more I think.
I spent the morning sorting gear so we could fit into my new Gossamer Gear Gorilla backback (http://gossamergear.com/gorilla-ultralight-backpack-all-bundle.html – they have a special price on them right now. More about that later). I envisioned we could essay an expedition I had long contemplated…
There is a spot along one of our fine rivers in Victoria (I will not say which one) where it is almost impossible to access the opposite shore to hunt the very many sambar deer which inhabit it, in any case in the winter months as the river is too wide, deep and fast flowing. I had considered that there were a couple of spots where one might climb down to the river from the road (which runs along one side) and that it ought to be possible to float across to the other side (and back), set up camp for a couple of days on one of the many beautiful flats I can see from high up, then spend a pleasant couple of days stalking some monsters which clearly must inhabit them.
All our gear and food for a couple of days do fit in the smaller (40 + 8 litre pack) – as you can see. Shrinking your kit (from 52 litres) like this exercises a profitable degree of discipline which it is worth emulating. I omitted nearly 1.5 kg I didn’t need for a short-ish trip. Some are things I might need (say) on a ten day trip without resupply and where help is far from hand. Some are things I can probably permanently do without. Even so I have food aplenty for myself and Spot (the JR) as well as his bed and room to lash the pack raft on the top if I wanted to. The other side of the pack can easily hold a water bottle, hiking poles and the paddle. If I was going away just by myself with this pack I reckon I could squeeze a 5-7 day expedition into it! Spot’s bed and food alone take up space that could otherwise be occupied by at least three days of my food. I am carrying a pair of crocs for the river crossing, & etc…The pack is incredibly tough.
We took forever to get away yesterday morning (as usual) and didn’t manage to leave home until nearly midday. I should have put the trip off another day and left first thing in the morning. Hindsight is a wonderful thing! I thought I should (just) have enough time to drive there (3 hours), get across the river and make camp before dark. I had not counted on the delay caused by finding a sign which read ‘Aerial Baiting’ which cost me over an hour to check out (not till October apparently). Then I found that both the first two possible crossing spots I checked out were unsuitable. Just on dark I found a third possible crossing but it was by then too late. Rather than make a cold camp without a fire and wait till the next day I decided to try again on another day.
The river height gauge for this section of river has never been reliable at all. It is surprising that it has never been fixed given that it is the source of major hydrological data! I have complained about it a number of times. I have travelled to this river anticipating a pleasurable canoe trip on a number of occasions only to find that the river height was up or down by as much as a metre compared with the gauge height! On this occasion I knew that there was going to be much more water than I would normally canoe this section of river. As I planned only to cross it in a relatively deep straight section without rapids, that did not concern me overmuch.
Still there were three or four factors I needed to take into consideration: I needed to be able to get back as well as across. I could have made my way across at the second spot, but needed to find a second crossing, which I think I found just on dark. This second crossing would make a better way across, and the first would make a better way back. Unfortunately the way back is above the way across, so that if one does not make it one cannot pull out and cross back. Also, there was much more very fast moving water than I had anticipated. I need to go (much earlier) on another day to work this out. On this occasion I was too replete with youthful enthusiasm for my own good! I was so keen to try out my new backpack and packraft.
Also, I needed to better take into account the difficulty of getting across with a dog, a gun and a pack in a new (smaller) raft. I will try again on another day with my Alpacka Fiord Explorer, an inflatable life jacket (I forgot), a waterproof bag for my gun and tie-downs for my pack – and lots more room for the dog (this particular Alpacka is a two person boat). The main reason I did not take it in the first place is that I was loath to be leaving a $1,000 boat somewhere someone else might find and remove it – extremely unlikely I know, but I have been ‘up the creek without a paddle’ so to speak on other occasions!
I will spend a few days getting some work done at home, get all my gear ready so I can leave first thing one morning, then head out on another occasion in the not too distant future. I am pretty sure I can get across and back safely now, but it needs a bit more careful checking out. Placement of a couple of floating, trailing ropes to catch hold of to ensure I am not swept past my landing spot might be a good idea too.
Once I have perfected it I will have a really excellent hunting spot where I can be pretty sure I will have uninterrupted access to a goodly supply of deer in the winter months. I know there are some beautiful sheltered camping spots with ample firewood and ready access to water on the flats on the other side of the river too – I have canoed it many times in the summer months.
Fortunately on this occasion i avoided the ‘grief and pain’!