It was late May, early June timeframe, and I was 13 years old. My brother was 11, and my sister was 7. Some of you know me and where I come from, Mann's Mountain, New Brunswick, waay out there! It isn't even recognized on any map. The community across the river from us is called Matapedia and is in the province of Quebec. The Matapedia River feeds into the Restigouche here and in the middle of all these river channels, right out in front of our house, sits a huge island.
The Island! The previous summer, my brother Trent and I had been given an old green boat which was built by my uncle when he was a kid. Up until then, we had never had a boat, so this opened up a whole new world of exploration. For two young boys who were expanding our horizons, being able to get over to the Island was like reaching the Moon! And once we'd made it over there, the Island forever became our big natural playground, even as adults. We still go over there whenever we get the chance.
The season was getting warmer and every day, we would come home on the bus and as we rounded the top of the long hill that led into our community, we were presented with a magnificent view of the valley below. The river nestled beautifully in those rolling green hills, and the Island! The river was still swollen from the spring runoff, but the waters were receding, getting blue'er and clearer, and ever so slowly revealing the Island and priming our excitement. We were getting really ansy about getting the boat back in the water, but Dad warned us to wait until water levels dropped. Til it was safe.
But on one particular day, we crested the hill on the bus and looked down... the water was still high enough that there was a narrow stream cutting right through the middle of the island, but the headwaters looked calm and inviting. Imaginations ran rampant, it was just too much temptation. Imagine... we could paddle straight through the island! In a few weeks, that stream would disappear and the chance would be missed. We got off the bus that day and scrambled to get the boat down over the hill to the shore. I am sure we never told Mom what we were doing. She would have said no, so we didn't bother to ask. We knew we'd have to go and get back quick, before Dad got home. I figure we were playing up a little bravado too, cause we invited our little sister along with us, her first ride in the Ol' Green Boat.
|The Ol' Green Boat|
We set out for our first float of the year and quickly realized the flow of the river was a lot more than we'd experienced before. So we went up along the shoreline to give ourselves ample room to get out into the middle of the river to make the entrance at the head of the island. We knew there was serious danger if we were to get sucked down either side of the island, because just down river from us there were still huge 3 foot swells of raging water and if we went there, god help us! If we went there, we would have to ride it out for a long damn ways before we would be able to get safely to shore. So getting that trajectory right was very important, which we did. And it was awesome to be dragged into the island like that. Like it had a tractor beam on us, faster and faster as the current sucked us in.
It whisked us right in to the head of the island and calmed as we came out of the main flow. We had to get out to drag the boat over the rocks to actually get into the free flowing channel and the water was extremely cold! But once we were in that channel, it was a magical place! Gently floating in total silence save for the birds and bugs the hum of a warm spring day bringing all that vegetation back to life. Floating over the place where we'd normally be walking, our imaginations ran wild with excitement. Soon the little stream started to gain steam towards its exit into the angry part of the river, so we turned around to go back. Dad would be home soon and he would kill us if he knew we were over there.
|Commanding the Trek probably looked something like this...|
I am sure, when Dad crested the top of that long hill that led into the community and saw that spec of a boat out there in the middle of the river, I am sure his heart must have dropped right out of his body. And confirmation of his worst fear when 'the boys' weren't home when he drove in the yard, he must have ran like hell to get down to the beach because there he was, and there we were right in the crux of it paddling for our lives. We were caught in the main current, and he was yelling at us from the shoreline as the river began to drag us down. We had no choice but to go for it and dramatically increase the angle of our trajectory towards the shore to go with the flow instead of fighting it so much, using the downstream suction to help propel us into the shoreline. We landed maybe 150feet downstream off target, way too close to the point of no return. We'd made it!
Dad was so angry at us. Not only that we'd been so foolish to do something so stupid, but then taking our sister along was absolutely crazy. Our boat was taken out of the water for a month. I don't know what other consequences were laid on us, but we learned a valuable lesson that day. We were always told to respect the River, and Mother Nature, because she can be deadly if you don't respect her. We had tested her and won, but it could have gone the other way. Had it gone that way though, I am pretty sure that nothing could have flipped that old flat bottom boat. It would have been a hell of a ride! Quite thankfully, that's not how the story went.
Thanks for reading.