A Doaktown man says he has a new appreciation for the Miramichi River after completing a 225-kilometre solo canoe trip.
“The Miramichi is an absolutely stunning river,” said Dillon Anthony. “Especially covering so much of it.”
“It changes every minute.”
There were “a few challenges,” he said, “but it was well worth it.”
The photographer and musician, known as a member of the band Kill Chicago, is now working on a documentary about the experience, called Half Moon to the Sea. It is his first big, self-directed video project.
“I want everyone to recognize the beauty of this region and of the Miramichi, but also that we all have beauty in our own backyards,” Anthony said.
“Everyone has beauty around them. They just have to start looking for it.”
Anthony set out from Half Moon Cove near Deersdale on the afternoon of May 17.
A film crew was there for the launch.
Anthony did a lot of recording, too, along the way. He had a couple of cameras attached to the canoe, a couple more in waterproof cases and a drone.
The crew met him on the third day at the Priceville footbridge and at the end of his journey in Miramichi Bay.
“It took six days and quite a bit of planning,” he said, “but I made it.”
Anthony grew up a few hundred metres away from the Main Southwest Miramichi River and spent a lot of time canoeing as a kid. Many of his family members were river guides.
The rougher water upriver presented an appealing adventure.
“The first section from Deersdale and Halfmoon Cove down to Bloomfield near Boiestown is quite wild,” Anthony said.
He did a trial run of the most difficult section last summer with his partner to prepare.
“We got to see all the most challenging rapids.”
He also met with the president of Canoe/Kayak New Brunswick to brush up on safety.
“So I felt really equipped for that.”
Still, he made sure his gear was safely stowed in waterproof containers.
Anthony said he didn’t end up having any close calls where he thought he might tip over, but there were “definitely a few challenging rapids,” where he found himself doing “quick manoeuvres” and had to “snake around rocks.”
“Physically, the first few days were challenging,” he said.
And there was one point that felt “dangerous.”
It was his first evening on the river and he was “in the midst of the Company Line Rapids” when “cracks of lightning started coming down.”
He had to decide whether to attempt an exit mid-rapids up a rocky slope or push on another 15 minutes to the Ranger Camp.
“Fortunately,” he said, “the lightning was far enough away to just be intimidating, but not too unsafe.”
“I made it to the camp safe and sound, just as the sky opened and it started pouring!”
Headwinds posed another challenge.
The strongest ones came on Day 3, and slowed his progress “drastically” over a 50-km stretch from Trout Brook Falls to Doaktown.
He resorted to poling and other desperate measures.
“I even tried asking the wind, ‘Why don’t you come with me? I’m going that way!’ …That didn’t work either.”
There was other tricky work besides paddling, such as setting up shots, operating the cameras and keeping all the batteries recharged using a battery bank and a solar panel.
But “it wasn’t all super strenuous,” said Anthony.
Some sections of the river were relatively relaxing.
On the fourth evening, he “felt completely safe” as a gentle tailwind pushed him along the calm river toward Blackville.
“The water looked like glass and the moon was bright enough that I could navigate.”
That’s when he had a surprise encounter with some friendly folks on the riverside, who offered him food and drink and a place to stay for the night.
“Great folks along the river,” he said.
There was more rest and relaxation when he got to the downtown Newcastle area and was able to walk into a Tim Hortons with all of his gear and take a coffee break.
He was excited to see the lower stretches he hadn’t paddled before.
But the going got tougher again toward the end of the journey, when he “had the tidal influence from the ocean to contend with.”
There were many bends that he thought would be the last, but the river just kept going until finally he arrived at Bartibog Bridge on May 22 at 3 p.m.
“You know, it was like a bit of a surprise, like ‘Oh! I’m here! Look at that!’
“I exited at the mouth of the bay as the tides were pulling me out to sea. I even got to surf a few waves.”
Anthony hopes to have a few edits of his documentary done by the end of the summer, so he can send them off to film festivals.
In the next few months, he also plans to write music for the film score and conduct a few more interviews.
He has a Facebook page called “Half Moon to the Sea” for anyone interested in following his progress.