Last night at around 8 pm (AK time) Imre started paddling. At 2:30 am he reached the next village, Grayling (pop. 200) and went to shore. As we saw him moving during the night, we were again reassured that what had caused his delay was the weather and not illness or injury.
He called home in the afternoon. He told us all about the last few days. On day #23 he got into a big storm and had to use all his strength and energy and then a lot more to get to shore. He obviously stopped for the day and was forced to stay on shore for all of day #24.
On day #25 he tried to continue. He kept paddling for several hours. At times when he was in the lee of an island he (and the water) were covered from the wind, but as soon as the river turned or he got into the wind again, he had to fight 6 foot tall waves. The waves came from both sides and the front, as the riverbanks “echo” them.
Imre berthed at the next island, but he found very fresh bear tracks and decided to leave immediately. He crossed the river in what seemed like an endless battle with the waves and found an empty cabin. The few cabins available along the river are kept unlocked for those in need.
He stayed in the cabin for a day and a half. He saw a bear around the cabin, and knew the animal was watching him. According to the books Imre read before his trip, black bears, if they set eyes on prey, don’t give up. He made noise and the bear left, only to return later. This repeated several times.
Last night Imre decided to go on, and this morning he arrived to Grayling. Here he talked to natives who said that this kind of weather is normal in August, but unusual in July. That’s why Imre had scheduled his trip for July in the first place! The weather forecast confirmed that in the next five days no change should be expected. The villagers said there is no way to kayak on these waters. Especially not in his inexpensive simple kayak. It could easily turn over, and once a person falls into the ice-cold water, one only has minutes before their body cools down too much, which could be fatal.
Imre knows that the weather won’t get any better for the next 5 days, but he cannot tell what will happen after that. What should he do? He could be sitting in his tent waiting for five days just to learn that the storm stays even longer. His days-off are not infinite. Maybe the weather will get better for a while and then turn bad again in an area where there are no villages around.
A few days ago Imre got close to never making it out from that storm. He decided that he owes to his wife and four children to not get into that situation again. With about 1500 miles done and and 300 miles still ahead, he has decided to return home.