A five part series on remote canoe expeditions by G.W. Martin
Part 5 - First Aid
(by G.W. Martin)
This week I am going to list the items that I carry for first aid reasons: Ace bandage, sterile gauze, athletic tape, alcohol, iodine, anti-
bacterial cream, miscellaneous band aids, pain relievers, anti-fungal cream, Gold Bond foot powder.
That's it. If I can't deal with it with this equipment, then it is probably serious enough to influence the outcome in the success of the
|G.W, Shaw and Patrick enjoying a frosty.|
Prevention is the best first aid. If you can prevent problems from occurring by creating habits for your group you can be more
relaxed on a regular basis. A sprained ankle at the wrong time can greatly, if not certainly, determine the lives of everybody in the group.
It may sound like the risks that I am taking are foolish and irresponsible - and to a lot of people they are - but if it were not for those
risks, everybody would be there.
Some of the habits that we install into ourselves are: always split wood on your knees, always tie up your boat, pack your pack start
to finish every morning, check camp before you leave, always watch your fire, always watch your feet "every step", and if you think you
can't "run it", DON'T.
It was day 26, and a nice one it was. We had just gotten our mobile encampment completely dry once again.
We were feeling pretty good and had adjusted to Patrick's recently acquired 40 lbs. of drift wood. The driftwood was collected a few days before at a huge
eddy that has been collecting wood for hundreds of years. We all decided that we would gather some as memorabilia and gifts for when we finally made it
out of the woods. I decided to look for the smaller, daintier pieces rather than the more impressive pieces measuring close to two feet in length. Patrick, on
the other hand, found no reason preventing him from gathering and keeping a bundle of this treasure - not even extreme portaging.
We had removed our webbed-rain pant liners because of drying issues. They were recycled quite handily into a huge pouch for driftwood after the legs
were tied in knots. Once loaded with wood, the pouch rested comfortably around the back of Patrick's neck, the weight being distributed onto his pack.
After checking the map and seeing no excessively hazardous portages, we agreed it would be just fine for Patrick to carry out wood.
The day after that it rained all day and we had to portage nine waterfalls, each one between 10 and 40 feet high. By then, the condition of Patrick's
secured sack of driftwood had evolved into a tangled mess of knotted rope and frayed nylon fishnet webbing. Occasionally, a piece of wood would fall and
Shaw or I would opt to stop our portage (or not) to pick up one of Patrick's sticks.
The last sizable difficult portage we had left was around a large gorge about a half mile long. It was taking us down about 300 ft in elevation. We
would end up at the pool that the gorge would finally pour into.
Just before this portage, Shaw and I sat down in an opening in the tall spruce trees resting on some mossy rocks as Patrick, who had already caught
his wind, continued on ahead.
We talked for about 10 minutes after Patrick had taken off, and then left ourselves. I arrived at the edge of a steep descent and hollered a call to
Patrick, and could hear him respond. I kept looking ahead thinking that I would spot him. The canoe tipped forward almost to the ground in front of me
made it hard for me to see, besides, Patrick's wore a brown wool shirt, faded red suspenders, dirt-colored Filson pants and his green Duluth pack, all
which helped camouflage him.
I kept looking for water below me because I knew I was getting close. Shaw started to fall behind a bit from a couple of snag-ups. Suddenly, I heard
some crashing. As I looked down the hill I saw the bushes moving. Patrick had fallen down a section of cliff. I stopped in silence hoping I could hear
something. I then spotted some blue through the trees. As I was thinking about what that could be I saw, I heard voices: a loud, strange voice in French
followed by Patrick trying some loud French phrases in the excitement of the moment.
Then I heard the first voice say in English with a Canadian accent "f-ck me Americans".
Patrick had fallen down the cliff to a landing on a sand beach safely on his rear end with a Canadian moose hunter shivering in his boots, pointing
a gun in complete amazement.
As far as the hunter knew, there was nothing that could have came off that hill except a Bear or a Moose. Seeing the look in Patrick's face, we
decided that if he hadn't fallen, he would have probably gotten shot walking down.
We showed the hunter our gear and tried to communicate what we could in a French English mess. Our main inquiries were about September
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