25 October 2012

Baptism in the Quetico: Part 4

Quetico landscape
The following series is a narrative from my first canoeing trip back over a decade ago into the wilderness of the Quetico. In this final episode we hike an old logging road, are visited by rain showers, and head back home.

We went hiking the next day on trail north of our island campsite. We canoed to a closest entry point for the trail. It was not close enough so we ended up bushwhacking through the forest and underbrush until the trail was spotted. During that foray we discovered a wooden boat hidden in the woods. I am not sure how far we hiked but it took up much of the day. The trail deteriorated at a marsh that was once a beaver colony. There we made instant pudding. Unfortunately I had no water, just a little lemonade. In substitute of the water I added Tang. It was a regrettable decision. Orange and chocolate do not taste pleasing together. We returned the same route only exploring a spur that went to another lake. Along the way we saw a variety of forest flora including lady slippers. Much to my dismay, I did not see any animals. What amazed me the most was that the trail was a two lane road as late as the 1960s. Unusual litter and debris were found along the path like tires and coffee cans. When we got back to camp we jokingly referred to the hike as the “forced march.”

checking the map

The good weather ebbed as storm clouds blew in a few days later. Much to my dismay, my tent did not pass the rainproof test. Water pooled up on the sides and floor of the tent. The rain lasted on and off for about a day. Neil, 3 Names and myself helped put up a tarp over the campfire and cooking area in the morning. Waiting for the rain to cease, we played numerous hands of 500 and drank hot tea. In the late afternoon the sky changed and the sun returned. Almost immediately 3 Names and I started pulling things out of the tent to allow them to dry. Valuable lesson learned: always have a tent with a full rainfly. My tent only had a roof fly- hardly capable of keeping the rain at bay. 

In the morning we broke camp, loaded the canoes, and paddled back to where we first launched. I would be prepared for the challenges ahead this time. I was even willing to get out of the canoe and into the water. Portaging was not easy but now I knew it would not be and expected it. Rapids and beaver dams did not discourage me. 3 Names and I took them well. I even got out in the water to walk the canoe through a set of rapids. At last we made it to our most difficult portage. It was no small task but this time I came out hardly scathed. Mental preparation is the key. And expect to get wet and dirty, it’s part of the journey.


Paddling out on Baptism Creek
 With no portages ahead, 3 Names and I dug into paddling. We zipped through the set of rapids we had to walk through before. However, my partner's steering invited a number of trees to take a bite out of us. The twists and turns of the stream returned although they were not as annoying. 3 Names and I had at last passed Neil and Ruth in the home stretch out of the creek thanks to my intense paddling.


Once on shore we loaded the gear into the trailer and changed clothes. 3 Names and I took our usual places in the back of the pig smelling pickup and we began the eight-hour journey home. We stopped to eat a few times and laughed at the retelling of our escapades.

“You can come along anytime.” Neil told me during a meal at a cafĂ©. “That is if you want to go again.”

I hesitated for a moment. Memories of constant paddling, strenuous portages, rain, and bogs went through my head. Just then I realized that I made it through them all and I’m not dead.


“Sure thing.” I responded. “Next time I’ll be ready.”

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