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The Voyage:

Day 3: The First Long Portage

Sunday morning came the way Saturday evening left, calm and peaceful. I was awoken to the sounds of birds that were quite foreign to me. They sung a song never before heard and it was quite refreshing. These little birds sang continuously but it was very difficult to spot them as they remained hidden in the tall pine of the North. We casually moseyed around getting dressed, packing gear, preparing breakfast and cleaning the site. Prior to launching we held a mini crew meeting to review our progress from yesterday, the route we’d travel today, agree on the roles each would play as we readied for our days travels. Meave closed the meeting by reading a short essay from a book by Sam Cook titled “Up North”. Maeve indicated that she typically would read a story each night before retiring but because yesterday was such a long day she held off till the morning. “Up North” is a collection of essays and stories written by Sam Cook who portrays the enchanting North Country that is as much a state of mind as a geographical area. It captures the mystic moods, seasonal subtleties and colorful characters that fill the landscape from the Minnesota canoe country.

We loaded our canoes and pushed off traveling Northeast for a couple miles and then Northwest for about another to our first portage of the day. This 15 rod portage took us to Sheridan Lake which we were in for only ¾ of a mile. At that point we came to our second portage of the day 136 rods to “That Man Lake”. This turned out to be one tough cookie. It was extremely rocky, variable elevation, multiple obstacles and large smooth flat rocks extending 10 to 15 feet. Unfortunately they were not level thus once on them you slid as if you were on down hill ice. I was carrying one of the Gray Granite Packs as well as a canoe. I was slipping, twisting, falling and having an extremely difficult time. The pads attached to the yoke intended to make it easier to portage were digging into my shoulder blades between the base of my neck and my shoulder like tent stakes pounded into the ground. This was pure torture. Each step over a rock, down a hill or brush against the tree branches from above drove the pads further into my collarbone. For a while I thought the portage would never end but I finally made it to the other end. Once there I quickly put down the canoe, took off the pack and went back to assist the others.

I later found out that while carrying a heavy gray granite pack, Joey Z did a face plant near the beginning of the portage. To the surprise of those that saw it happen he was not injured. He suffered a few minor abrasions and some bruises but all in all was able to continue the portage carrying Maeves pack the remainder of that portage. After the portage we all took some time to swim, cool down and regain some energy.

We resumed our travels stopping in a couple miles on the last peninsula of That Man Lake prior to our next portage. Here we ate lunch and discussed the day so far. After lunch we continued to a 101-rod portage taking us to “No Man Lake”. While this portage was not well maintained, it was on more level ground and mostly solid dirt making it much easier to cross. No Man Lake is very small and offered two portage options to our next destination. While two canoes found a 60 rod portage, Joey Z, Travis and I found a 32 rod portage. We called out to the others who soon joined us. This portage started out with the first 20 rods up a steep incline then it leveled off for the last 12 rods. It had poor footing and several obstacles. It was extremely difficult to travel and it was becoming very obvious that the further north we traveled the more difficult the portages.

We were now in “This Man Lake” still traveling northeast. As the day went on the strokes of both Joey Z and Travis paddles pushed less and less water. They were going though the motions of paddling but I was doing the bulk of the work. They were tired, worn out and ready to call it a day. The adults in the other canoes indicated that they were experiencing the same with the other two scouts and that they themselves were having a difficult time continuing. I too was experiencing exhaustion and was ready to stop for the evening. Maeve indicated that she had a particular island campsite in mind that another Interpreter had told her about so we pushed on to get there.

We continued on, made a 49 rod portage to “Other Man Lake” (Map F-19), paddled another mile to find that another crew had beaten us to the desired campsite. We shrugged it off ready to camp anywhere and found a nice peninsula campsite providing a perfect view of the evening’s sunset. The evening sky looked like it might rain so we put the rain fly on the tents that evening. We set up camp, hung the bear bags, ate dinner and went fishing from shore. On the very first cast I caught a small large mouth bass, which I released, and I caught another on the third cast. We were very close to a cliff rock face that we believed would be great for catching walleye. At the same time Joe V and Joey Z went for a swim to relax and others prepared dinner and reviewed our next days routes. Unfortunately the weather did not hold and it started to drizzle.

We all gathered under the dinning fly for dinner, our crew meeting and another story from “Up North”. The mosquitoes came out with a vengeance making it very difficult to sit or stand still. When the crew meeting was over the scouts went to their tent and readied for bed. The adults stayed up a little longer for an advisors meeting. When it was over Steve and I took a short swim before retiring for the evening.