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Fortunately, Ken and fellow guide Pablo decide they’ll paddle the can-


yon with our gear the following morning, leaving us to hike the portage and allowing me to get awesome bird’s eye photos of the canyon run. Ken and Pablo were halfway through the canyon when the sun finally came out and breathed new life into all of us.


After a week paddling together the six of us seemed like a strong team.


I even felt like I’d learned a bit. With just a handful of comparatively easy rapids left I almost ruined it all. My mind wandered. I didn’t notice the river increasing in intensity. At last, Ken’s frantic yells to paddle woke me from my dream-like state.


“WE COMPLETED THE WAVE TRAIN WITH OUR CANOE ALMOST ON ITS SIDE, GUNWALE


PARTIALLY SUBMERGED UNDER THE FROTHING WATER.”


I plunged my paddle ahead expecting the weight of water—instead, only


air. Searching for leverage with my blade, I leaned out over the gunwale, throwing the boat’s balance into chaos. On the verge of swamping, a mo- ment of unwelcome clarity reminded me of the thousands of dollars worth of camera gear hidden just under my spray skirt. “You stay in this damn boat,” Ken screamed at me. We completed the


wave train with our canoe almost on its side, me barely hanging on, gun- wale partially submerged under the frothing water. Ken wasn’t impressed with our style. Later that day, we arrived at the confluence of the South Nahanni. It’s the


location of one of Bill Mason’s most famous paintings, titled “Confluence of the Nahanni.” From there it was an easy three-day float to Rabbitkettle Lake, where


we waited for our floatplane. Many people begin their Nahanni River ad- venture here, and Virginia Falls—at 300 feet tall it’s twice the height of Niagara Falls—is just a four-day paddle away. Around the camp stove that night Lyn deemed our mission a success—she was sure our team had gath- ered enough beta to make this tough little river safer and more accessible for future paddlers.


Seven months later, Parks Canada digitally published a 48-page guide-


book for would-be paddlers of the Little Nahanni River. I reviewed my copy in the comfort of my home. Towards the back, emblazed in 30-point font above a tandem canoe crashing through a wave, the text reads: “No place for rookies.” I think they’re talking about me.


After his career as an elite wrestler ended due to injury, Dustin Silvey bought a camera and started taking pictures of everything. He now works as a photo- journalist while completing a PhD in medicine.


46 | Canoeroots


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