About four miles down I run across Scott and Mike's camp. They must be asleep. I make noises like a wild animal.
No foolin these veteran wilderness wild men. We consume breakfast while they break camp.
Oatmeal, power bars, granola, chocolate bars and hot drinks. Also a large dose of spirolina and ginseng as we plan to exert our muscles beyond those of mortal men. We're all wet and look like drowned cats. Checking the map we figure a half day to Cutler Bar, but it's to far to the cabin marked on the map at New Cottonwood. A cabin would be nice. Cutler Bar is the eastern most landing strip on the river. If we're lucky there will be somebody there with a weather report.
We compare paddling times over the last two days. It's taken me nine hours to do what took them 16. Could this be right? We double check and conclude that the 200 more pounds they haul, along with the fact that their canoe sits too low in the water, would account for the discrepancy.
I take to the oars and reach Cutler Bar in no time. Lookie here, a cabin. Old ugly thing too, with the obligatory caribou antler over the door. I think I have seen this cabin before in a photo. I pull out on a sand bank. Fresh boot tracks. Must be somebody here. I walk closer and yell "Hello in the cabin". Nothing. I walk closer and try again. To the left I see an al fresco toilet. Hmm. I read that all the cabins are always left unlocked so that those in need can get some shelter, and even food. I certainly wasn't in need, so I took some video and left.
Several hours later I reach the Makpik river. This river is still clear, but its tinted a dark tea color, probably from peat. It's spilling into the Noatak at a frightening rate. It's a torrent. I filter water then look for the Ranger Station. Nothing here. Am I in the right place? It's difficult to get a bearing without being able to see very far due to the rain, but I have been paying close attention to the map and incoming rivers.
Scott and Mike catch up with me here. They concur, this is Makpik, and we are making very very good time. The river has picked up speed with the rising water. It's still early, about 15:00, and we take to the river again.
By 20:00 I've been paddling 13 hours. I hardly even noticed. Just another day in which time seems to stretch or shrink or something. I passed a great camp site about seven miles back and I should have stopped there cause I havent seen anything since. I finally reach a large site, well used. It's raining without letup now. No possibility of drying anything. Water is still rising. The dudes show up an hour later. Not much talking tonight, too wet and too tired. We haul our canoes way up the bank and tie them down like we've never tied before. I set my watch alam for every two hours so I can check the rivers height.
Havent seen any planes for days. Chunks of debris are starting to float down river. I thought I had done 38 miles today, but when I double and triple check back home, it was 66 miles.