I was off canoeing this weekend, and had myself and adventure worthy of Huck Finn and Mark Twain.
I had decided to start my trip on Friday evening, at a spot slightly downstream from Brattforsens kraftstation (the Brattforsen hydroelectric power plant) on Öreälven (the Öre river). With the help of friends I got my canoe there, and my car at my designated end point. Despite the late hour (2045) I set off. And within the first hour I heard what appeared to be rapids.
Not having any experience with rapids, and hardly seeing anything other than the contours of the forest against the night sky, I decided the wise thing to do would be to get ashore, and set up camp for the night. Just a while later I hade done just this: landed my gear and myself (and getting my feet and shoes wet in the process), tied the canoe to a sturdy tree and then erected my tent.
I don’t know why, but long before midnight I was asleep, and didn’t wake up till ten the next morning. With the sun up I had no problem seeing the rapids I had only heard the night before. For it was a set of rapids. Unfortunately, it looked quite small and I decided to ‘give it a try’. I judged that the worst outcome would be that I would end up dumping my camera in the river, and having to dry all my clothes before going on.
The rapids were hardly worth the name rapids: it was more of a drop in height, with the water running gently over what looked like an old wall spanning the breadth of the river. With a deep breath of air in my lungs it was over in a matter of seconds, and I could breathe again. But not for long, for it was now that I saw the rapids I had been hearing earlier… And these were no joke: they proved to be 300 metres of rock-infested waters running at crazy speeds. It took me no time at all to decide, there and then, that I had to find a path around them.
I set ashore, and set off on foot to see how long these rapids were. I eventually found a tiny stone beach at the end of them from which I could set off again. It took me about an hour and a half to carry my things there, and then, sweating profusely, drag the canoe over the forest ground to this small beach. All I can say about this part of the journey is that I cannot praise fibre-glass canoes too highly… Had this been the days of trappers in Northern Canada my canoe would have been reduced to fire wood. Yet I felt very much like a trapper, thinking of Harry McFie and others of his kind.
Once back in the water, I got about 500 metres down-stream before hearing another set of rapids. Again I set ashore, and did some scouting before doing anything else. And this time I took a long walk, to see if the rapids were closely followed by others. They were. So I ended up dragging my canoe over the forest ground again, and again praising fibre-glass canoes. This time however, I pulled it to a small logging road, loaded it onto the small carriage I have for it, and then wheeled it a kilometre down the road.
Once more I set the canoe into the river and set off. Writing it like this makes it seem so easy, when in reality it was close to two hours between getting out of the river and being on my way again. And once more I quickly heard rapids ahead of me. This time I decided enough is enough, and set ashore on the other side of the river. On the side of the river where I know there is a road running the entire stretch I wanted to travel. Once again I got my canoe dragged through the woods and onto the little two-wheeled carriage. This time, though, I didn’t stop after a meagre kilometre or so. It was a whopping twelve kilometres before I got to my destination for the day: where road 353 crosses Öreälv via a bridge.
Once at the bridge, I set up my tent, made some dinner, cleaned up the dishes, enjoyed two exquisite cups of hot cocoa with biscuits and then went to bed. I was thinking I would be lost to the world within minutes of crawling into my sleeping bag, but that was not to be. I don’t understand why, but three hours alter I was still awake. Mind you, it was only half past ten at night, and I’d only been up twelve hours that day.
During the night I slept peacefully, and woke up when the sun started warming up my tent, at around ten. A good night’s sleep had left me as stiff as a plank of wood, and it was only with great effort that I managed to get out of my sleeping bag. By the time I had got dressed and busied myself with making breakfast most of the stiffness was gone, but some it it was to linger on for days.
I got on my way as quickly as I could, for the rest of my trip I knew to be free from rapids, and I was anxious to use my canoe for something other than dragging it across forests or pushing it down roads. The day turned out to be excellent for canoeing, lots of sun and just enough wind to keep the few mosquitos around away from me. After a few hours I got to Öretorp, where I had left my car two days earlier. I realise that for some readers this will sound odd, but my car was still there, untouched with my mobile phone visible through the windows.
Have I learned anything from this trip? Yes, undeniably: Öreälven is not meant to be canoed between Brattforsen and the bridge at road 353. Unless you are either suicidal or very good at rapids. Just before setting off on Sunday, for the alst leg, I met a local who claimed the river was navigable past Öretorp. He mentioned a place whose name escapes me now, but this is definitely something I consider worth looking into in the future. For once you get afloat on Öreälven you leave civilisation as we know it and transition to a time and place far away, the time and place of people like Harry McFie and trappers. And I happen to like that journey.
Thus ends my adventure on the Öre River. No Mississippi river, no runaway slaves to be freed from their captors, no steamers to avoid at night, no confidence tricksters to out-smart but all in all a most pleasant adventure.