17-Jun-2006 -- This confluence point would have been the Northernmost primary confluence point ever achieved in Saskatchewan if we had made it. Unfortunately, the point is surrounded by 12km of bog and the nearest road is 15km away. Our adventure is as follows:
On one of our eight topographical maps of the area surrounding the confluence we could see that there was a road coming up from the South that would pass within 4.5km of our confluence point. This didn't seem too much of a challenge. We were really prepared. We've climbed mountains and gone wilderness backpacking and fought deadly man-eating beasts (well, except for that last one). The only inconsequential consideration was that this was a "dry weather road" we would be taking for the last 15km of the trip. However, we didn't let that get in the way of our enthusiasm.
Christie, Kyle, and I met bright and early at Karla's house with our food, backpacks, and ultra-light camping tarps ready to embark on our journey. A few pictures are hastily snapped and then by 6:30am we're on the road out of Regina on our way to have breakfast with Camille in Saskatoon, then through Prince Albert, and off the highway just before the Hwy 165 turnoff. Driving through Saskatoon we nearly ran over a gopher (much to the consternation of Christie), in Prince Albert we secured two canisters of isobutane for the stove, and before our turn-off of the highway we hit the most intense rainstorm I've ever been in. The windshield wipers couldn't even push the water off the windshield fast enough for us to keep a view of the road, and we had to pull over to the non-existent shoulder to wait it out.
After driving very fast down the gravel road we came to our first "Road Closed" sign. However, it wasn't a very good one and we drove past it. The next turn would take us onto the road that would pass within 4.5km of the confluence point (supposedly). However, after driving several kilometers down it, we came to the second (unpassable) "Road Closed" sign. We climbed out, donned out packs in the rain and headed off on foot.
The trail was very nice and we were all in high spirits. The mosquitos were terrible, but we had plenty of bug spray. Soon though, the trail got worse and worse. First, it was a large puddle that we walked through. Next it was a larger puddle we walked through. Next, it was "the long marsh." Essentially, it was a path through knee-deep water 1.5km long. We plodded and plodded through the marsh as the sky got darker and darker. We finally came to an outcropping of land (unbeknownst to us, the last hard land we would see for the next 24 hours.) We tossed up my camping tarp and enjoyed a hearty lunch of cheese buns with a lovely shrimp-ring appetizer (the guys shopped for all the food on this trip). The rain stopped and we headed off into the trees which soon became known simply as "The Bog."
I will try to explain: Sometimes when you're walking somewhere you step in a puddle and your socks get wet. Then, you're miserable for the entire day because your feet are soggy. Sometimes the puddle is a bit bigger and the bottoms of your pants get wet too. Likely enough they get some mud on them too. Then, not only are your shoes wet, but your pants are weighing you down. Maybe if the puddle was really deep, you have to lift your foot way up, just to get it out of the water. And if the bottom was muddy, you really have to pull to get your foot unstuck from the bottom. Then maybe it's even tougher because you have a large backpack on your back with a sleeping bag, and all your food, and a camping tarp, and a stove, and some water, and some rope. But that's not bad, because it's a really funny situation and you can tell all your friends about the big puddle. It was like that, except we were a good five hours from getting back to the car, which was another two hours from any medical clinic. Also, it wasn't just one deep puddle, but a giant series of them, with small dying trees in between which just served to say that nothing here survives. Also, the branches that sometimes you can step on (when you're lucky enough to have a step that isn't back into the bog again), will break half of the time sending you tumbling back towards the murky depths. Also, it's really hard to lift up your legs when you're pants and boots are wet. Also, your legs are really tired since you've been doing this for six hours already. Also, you still have 10km left before the confluence point, and you were planning on reaching it before nightfall (and your gps says you're only walking at 0.8km/hour). Lastly, the sun is rapidly setting, no one knows where/if there is any solid ground other than that which you ate lunch on, and you can't even climb a tree to look, since they're all dead. Seriously enough, it was likely the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. "Bog" is a word I can no longer hear without a chill running down my back.
Alas, a mere 10 minutes before the sun dropped below the horizon, we saw a few scraggly trees which were slightly taller, and marginally more alive than those currently surrounding us. We made our way as fast as we could towards them and came upon the land which we would call home for the night.
Calling it "land" was still a bit of an overstatement. It was just moss, and you would still sink a good 9 inches when you stepped on it. If you stood in one place long enough, the water would still pool around your feet. However, it was not bog, and we were grateful. We set up the camping tarps over a long branch and had a terrible sleep with naught but a thin mesh between us and the ravenous hordes of mosquitos waiting to imbibe every last drop of our blood.
In the morning we ate some pop-tarts and realized that we would not be able to make it to the confluence without spending another night and an inordinate amount of energy merely to say we did it. We hiked back several hours along a different path and finally made it back to the car. We had an exciting journey 8 hours back to Karla's house to eat our last meal together.
All in all, the confluence is a beautiful trip with lovely scenery on the way there and back with a horrendous hike through a terrible bog right keeping anyone from ever even coming close to this point. Best of luck :)