Solo Canoe Trip . Noatak River . 8/94 . Day 11

Every time I check the water that night, it is higher. By morning it reaches just below the door. But look, it's the Sun. Looks like this may be our opportunity to make an exit. The river looks less than appealing, but we all agree that it's time to move, as we cant be in here if the water gets higher.

We clean up the place and leave a few items. I donate some long burning candles, AA batteries, a jar of Capers (for all those fish I was going to catch) and I hang a rubber 7UP-Spot character from the ceiling. They leave some baking goods, extra rice, and spirolina. Dont forget to put the bucket back on top of the stove pipe.

Packing our canoes is an exercise in balance. We nail the door shut and bid our temporary adobe a fond adieu. I am surprised at the speed with which the bank passes by.
Eight to ten mph. It momentarily looks like it might be a good day. What a tease. No less than half hour down river the wind starts screaming. Not the usual wind that forces you off the river to one side, but a real wind that turns me and my pine box into 480 lbs of flotsam. So there I am, careening down rive, sideways, backwards, with absolutely no control.

There are standing waves everywhere, and hitting them sideways is not advisable. Tops of small submerged trees poke up here and there. There is no safe place to pull out. All the gravel bars are submerged. Most of the bank is sheer crumbling ledge. There is debris everywhere in the water, pooping up then disappearing again. I nearly swamp several times. It's one thing to swamp up river, but here, now, the water is so high that the river has more than quadrupled in width. It's almost a half mile across in places. If I where to swamp now I'd never make it to shore in time.

I try to get the attention of the guys ahead of me but they cant hear me over the sound of wind and water. The river is surprisingly loud. With the both of them paddling like hell, they are on the border of controllability anyway. I look for the first possible place to pull out and it takes forever. It's a mad scramble to reach it, fighting the wind, current and a small forrest of half submerged willows. I'm exhausted. The guys pull out a mile farther down. I meet Mike in the middle.

They must push on. Their itinerary is different and they have spent too much time up river. With two people power, they can make a few more miles. I can tell Mike is not comfortable saying so. I assure him its OK, but my mind is on other things....this ground is way too low. Maybe I'm not too convincing. It's obvious he appreciates the extreme inconvenience of my situation. I assure him again that my being stuck here is not his problem. We shake hands for the last time and they move on. We may see each other again, but probably not. They plan on stopping for three nights at Nakolik to go hunting for mammoth fossils up that river, so I may catch them there.

I scope out the area for the highest possible place to camp and I find that I am on an island which normally would not be an island, and the entire thing is less than a foot above water.
I try to make the best of it. At least it's better than being on the water, but not by much. I keep an eye out to see if Abe's cabin floats by. It's only six miles back up river and I wish I was still there. I unpack only what I need and I leave the rest in the canoe, prepared for a quick getaway.

At this point I must have reached my psychological low point. I wasn't hungry, couldn't relax and had little motivation. While I was prepared for all kinds of inconveniences, flood water with high wind puts things in an entirely new perspective. A northern river is in constant flux. High water is to be expected, but you will note, Abe's cabin was here before '75, Emma's before that. People dont build where the historical high water reaches, they build above it. I therefore conclude that this is a hundred year flood. It's already the wettest year here in a decade.