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The Voyage:

Day 9: The Northern Lights

With only 25 miles or so back to the Charles L Sommers Scout Camp we decided we could take it easy for final two days. We began our travels southwest on Agnes Lake to a 140-rod portage to Meadows Lake (Map F-11). We followed the Northern shore an eight of a mile to a 193-rod portage to Sunday Lake (Map F-10). Even though the day would be short, the long portages took a quick toll on the body. After two days rest from portaging, my shoulders and the back of my neck were immediately in pain. We then traveled southwest a couple mile to 4-rod Singing Brook Portage. This portage went relatively easy and you could immediately tell we were nearing civilization. The portage was full of other travelers and quite congested. We stopped for lunch and talked to folks from other crews about their voyages, fishing tips and other topics of interest. Maeve ran into another crew from the scout camp and the interpreter was one of her friends. Maeve wanted to spend some time with her friend so we agreed to make camp within a short paddling distance to the portage. The other crew would do the same but on the opposite side of the portage.

We paddled for approximately ¾ of a mile when we came across a very small island with a campsite on it. We decided this would be fine. Once on the island we noticed that previous visitors to the island were had not adhered to the principles of “Leave No Trace”. There was white tissue everywhere. It was as if this island had been designated as a latrine. After setting up camp the scouts went around the island picking up as much of the trash as possible putting it into the empty plastic bags our meals had once been packaged. Later that evening they would burn what they could and bury the rest. They definitely left the island in much better condition than they had found it.

While Maeve was visiting her friend several of us went fishing in different directions. Joey Z and I went along the Northwest shores of the lake closest to us while Mr V, Joe V and Tyler went around the peninsula that makes the lake the shape of a horseshoe and fished a good distance from camp. Joey Z. fished while I watched or paddled so that he could troll. He caught a fish big enough for dinner and we headed into camp around 6:30PM. Maeve and Steve had cooked the prepackaged dinner and had already eaten. Joey filleted his fish and cooked it. We then ate the fish and portions of the other food already prepared.

A while later the other canoe returned. Tyler whose fishing rod had broken earlier in the trip fished by dropping line straight down from the canoe while Joey V cast out. Tyler came back to camp with a couple of Bass for dinner. Later that evening we enjoyed a large campfire and participated in our final Rose, Thorn and Bud session. It was obvious that everyone while excited to get home was had also learned a lot about nature, them selves and made some close friendships. We all participated in the traditional ash ceremonies as well as burnt Mr V’s towel, which was no longer usable. Mr V tore the towel into strips giving each member of the crew a piece to throw into the fire. Before we did he said a few lines that indicated that the burning of the towel represented leaving the hardships behind and only carrying away the good memories of the trip. One by one we threw our piece of the towel into the flames and watched as the bad memories burnt to ash. The stars were bright, the night air calm, and the loon were singing in the distance. It was now time for bed so we extinguished the fire and made that final trip to our tents.

This was to be our last night on the voyage. One part of me was anxious to return to base while the other did not want to leave the peace and calm of the wilderness. I knew from my previous outings to Philmont that once you physically leave your mind has a hard time returning to the pace of the business world and everyday life. I really enjoyed the time with my son in the wilderness, and knew I would cherish it forever.

That evening after retiring for the night Joe V had fallen asleep shortly after putting his head on his pillow. Steve and I talked for quite a while sharing stories of our careers and family. We noticed the sky lighting up. It was about 11:45PM and to the North Northwest I observed the halo glow of the Northern Lights. It looked like the sky was lit up from a major city in the distance but I knew there was no city, it was just another natural treasure that I would not see for many more years.