19 August 2012

Baptism in the Quetico: Part 2

The following is part 2 in a series on my first canoe trip into the wilderness of the Quetico which occurred over a decade ago. I will provide some annotations to the tale. In this episode we fight off one of the toughest portages.

into the Quetico
Our route consisted of more twists and turns. Ruth and I disembarked once again as the canoes were pulled over a beaver dam that blocked the width of the stream. Getting into the canoes we put on our bug netting, since the gnats were getting bad. So far, I was clean and pretty dry. I really did not want to soil my fine hiking shoes and expedition pants and I didn’t think I would have to.
Nearing seven, we reached the first portage. Efficiency in portaging is a must, otherwise you’ll be going back and forth quite a bit. So carrying as much as possible helps tremendously. Our first portage was measured around 80 rods I think-- not long but not really short either. With the canoes on shore we removed all the packs and placed them in a pile. I then helped 3 Names get the canoe on his shoulders. [These were Alumnacraft canoes that weighed ~70 to 80 lbs. Hearty but heavy canoes.] Neil had already started ahead of us with the other canoe. I grabbed my pack and a few smaller bags and started up the trail. The path looked worn and neat until I got to the standing water and mud holes. I navigated around it the best I could, but there was more standing water and mud plus two large fallen trees blocking the way. With my best effort I forded the trees only getting my shoes full of mud. I assumed that’s the only mess I’d have to deal with.
Wrong! Most of the portage went through a bog—those notorious water saturated areas. 3 Names ahead of me was not faring any better. With a canoe over his head he could not tip toe around the bog.  Next the trail turned and there were more fallen trees and an unavoidable bog. With a canoe paddle in hand I was able to keep balance as I climbed over a fallen tree. The next straight portion was all bog. I tried to avoid it but it pulled me in. I then gave in and walked right through the bog, getting both dirty and wet. My countenance changed from grin to frown. The bog grabbed at my loose right shoe as I trotted through it. 
Next a small stream cut through the portage. It was almost too wide to jump. I set one foot as far forward as I could and crossed getting only one shoe wet. More boggy ground was ahead and  I was getting exhausted. Then there was a hill. About half way up a fir tree blocked the path. Finally at the top, a whole bunch of fallen trees made the path almost impassable. Since I could not climb over these trees, I was nearing my breaking point. Hovever, I somehow straddled myself over a trunk on one side and turned my face like flint towards the end of the trail. I dropped my packs and dreaded the return trip to get the rest of the gear. Already most of the party had fallen prey to this portage. The canoes did not even make it to the end on the first try.
I was demoralized and were not even halfway to the campsite yet. 

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