Pasayten River trip report – Sebastian Merz
Carey, Jen, Scott, Anne, Alain, Don, Phil and two unnamed travellers in a 16ft canoe.
The Pasayten River – the fabled and feared destination of many a canoeist`s dreams, and the cold grave of many more. Some say the Pasayten is in fact the true location of the River Styx, the stream that separates the world of the living from the great beyond. To be admitted on this mystical river, it is said that paddlers have to withstand the stare of a frightening creature that travels in a great white chariot and haunts the valleys of the Cascade mountains. Legends have it that this creature, who is known as the master of the Beavers, is often sighted at the end of June, when local residents flee the area out of fear of an accidental encounter.
Thus, the author of this report headed for the Pasayten in search of the master Beaver. Having passed many deserted villages along the way, he arrived at the mouth of the river just after sunset. Dark clouds were billowing over the mountain ridges, the wind was howling through the trees, but there was a light at the end of the road. When the author reached the light, he realized he had come to a campfire. People sat around the fire sipping strange potions from small metal buckets. At the centre of it all, obscured by the falling night shadows, the author observed a tall figure that all of the others seemed to intently listen to. And when the author looked up, he saw it: the large outline of what once must have been a Chevy camper van, but now had acquired a zombie-like appearance. That’s when he knew, the tall figure in the middle was the Master Beaver.
He approached the fire with a mix of fear and reverence and said: ‘Master Beaver, will you admit me to the journey on the Pasayten?’ The Master Beaver locked his gaze on the newcomer. After what seemed like an eternity, the Master Beaver asked: ‘Have you passed the Lakewater Instructor test?` When the author responded affirmatively, the Master Beaver said: ‘you will probably die, but you can come on this journey.’ After these words were spoken, the author was immediately taken aside by a bearded man who would be his guide and mentor on the journey.
The author learned that quests into the twilight zone always depart at 9:30am, and the punishment for being late is spending the rest of the earth’s days in purgatory. After half an hour, the group of travellers arrived at the origin of the Pasayten. It was clear that this was an unforgiving stream. Trees hung over the water like gallows, with fir bows reaching for the heads of those trying to pass under. Bone-white logs stretched out across the river like sun-scorched skeletons. Sharp rocks reached up from under the surface to grab the hull of boats like iron fists. Few eddies provided refuge and the ones that did were the deep green of a deadly poison.
It was in one of these rare eddies that the group stopped to wait for the author and his companion. Yet all they could perceive was the monotonous gurgle of the river slipping under another log with branches sticking out like spikes on a club. When it started to dawn on them, that their companions might have been taken by the river, they saw a water bottle bobbing down the waves. Was this all that was left of them?
A few hundred meters upstream, the author and his mentor had failed to evade the grip of a particularly evil rock. As soon as their canoe touched it, the rock rose and lifted the vessel out of the water. Pinned in the middle of the raging river, the two feared for their lives as the water combined with the rock to try and grind their boat to pieces.
It was the wisdom of the seasoned river traveller that saved them. Under his guise, the two lifted one side of the swamped boat, which allowed the other end to pivot around the rock. Once the boat was freed, the bearded skipper performed what he described as a ‘canoe-over-rock rescue’. With the sheer might of his strong arms, he lifted the boat onto his thighs and emptied it of the water. Soon they were back in their vessel and able to join their fearful companions in the eddy.
They had escaped the Pasayten’s attempt at taking their lives, but the river was not finished with them. Further down, another tree was lurking just under the surface. One member of the travel party, who appeared to be some sort of beaver dignitary, charged ahead and challenged the beast head-on. Alas, the tree got the better of him, lifting him high into the air and flipping his canoe. All the rest of the party could see was a paddle being catapulted down the stream and the hull of the boat pointing skyward. With combined forces, however, the group was able to retrieve their companion and move on with their journey.
After escaping its lethal grip twice, there was nothing the river could throw at them to faze the fearless travellers on the last stretch of their quest. The master Beaver said I would die on the Pasaytan. And probably I should have. But I lived to tell this tale.