Turning around is never easy.
The day after we called off the rest of the trip, we ferried our quads over the manageable braid in the Twitya. We winched the quads up that same dug-out hillside and started down the same trail that took us two previous weeks to cover.
The following day, after stopping in to see Stan Simpson and the gang at Ram Head Outfitters, we were at the Ekwi River.
We had crossed it on the way in, but now it was deeper and faster from the rain. The water was clear, too, deceivingly clear, as I soon found out. Mike was walking out of a patch of spruce, shovel in hand, all the camera gear on his quad. I was at the crossing, my bike running. “I’m going for it,” I said.
I drove in without worry, but the deep water and strong current quickly floated the quad. I was turned right around, pointed down river, my quad an unstable boat. I tried to turn out of it, up a bank that was way too steep, and the current grabbed the quad and rolled it. The engine cut out and the cold water hit me with a shock. I swam out of the machine’s way as the current forced it down river.
I looked over and saw Mike swimming toward me. He grabbed a length of rope, tied it to the swamped quad, and anchored it to a willow stump. The quad secured, Mike and I cut the ropes that tied my gear and gas down and threw our bags and fuel up on the bank. I don’t know how I did it, but I managed to right the quad from its side.
We crossed back to Mike’s quad, un-spooled the winch and attached a carabineer. I crossed back, dove under the water, under the quad, and attached the biner to my hitch.
When Mike started the winch the quad wanted to roll over with the current. I jumped onto the hood to stabilize it and soon we had it to shore. There the discouragement only compounded: we had apparently lost the Allen key to drain the oil; the oil filter wrench was the wrong size. Our tools lacked in every respect.
Beaten, but not broken, we planned to tow the quads back to Stan’s place in the morning.
That night we walked our food extra far from the tent. Just before I sunk the quad, 200 yards up the trail, Mike spotted three yearling grizzlies — he nearly hit them, running the quad fast in the open country. The last thing we needed now was Mama Bear nosing around.