canvas duffel bags held sleeping and personal gear, a
wooden wanigan held pots and pans and additional duffels
contained foodstuff. Tents without floors and air
mattresses provided shelter and sleeping comfort. Now
none of us could estimate what the fully loaded
three-person canoe might have weighed.
first afternoon of our 120-mile, 10-day journey, we
paddled canoes the length of the north arm of Rainy
Lake. One kid or leader knelt in the stern, one knelt in
the bow and one perched in the middle on a duffel bag.
After the five-mile crossing of big water, all welcomed
the opportunity o rest tender arm muscles and set up
camp. Now we recall this initial stretch of water as
quite tame when compared with the fun and challenges
encountered once we left Rainy Lake behind.
trip plan included leaving and returning to Rainy Lake
by a route that, according to the outfitter, had not
been followed for several years. This led to enjoyments
and surprises as we paddled and portaged between
Mainville Lake, Obikoba Lake, Cuttle Lake, Weller Lake
(now accessible by road!), Pickwick Lake, Vista Lake,
Dogfly Lake and down the Manitou River.
terrain and woods made it virtually impossible for two
guys to carry a canoe and see where they were going.
Instead, a kid held the front end of the canoe while one
of the leaders or bigger kids crouched under it and
lifted the heavy canoe onto his shoulders. The first kid
would then guide the canoe along the trail, if there was
one, or find a way if there wasn’t . Those not
carrying canoes made several trips with duffels and made
certain nothing was left behind.
third day was a layover day on the shore of Cuttle Lake
for a day of rest and on the fifth day we took another
layover on small island in Vista Lake. We caught
numerous pike before breakfast from Cuttle Lake using
large heavy lures. Pine needles covered the Vista Lake
so thickly we didn’t dare start a campfire. This
circumstance meant we would have a lunch of peanut
butter sandwiches or something simple that didn’t
require cooking or much preparation. It also meant we
could forego cooked apricots and prunes which were
consumed to keep us in touch with the infamous
welcoming border town of Fort Francis, Ont., c.
1953. Photo: Donald
fun on the Lake Vista layover, several kids tied two
canoes together, side by side, and used paddles as a
mast and yardarm and a poncho as a sail. They sailed in
their catamaran but did have to paddle back to camp.
Years later one of those kids took sailing very
seriously and became captain for his college sailing
the seventh day, we ate lunch at the foot of a long,
small stream while standing in cool, clear water next to
our canoes. Afterward, someone discovered a leech on his
leg. Soon we were using matches to burn the bothersome,
but harmless, creatures off our legs.
on the seventh day, we portaged the canoes and equipment
upstream to the next lake in a somewhat different
manner. We carried duffels but because the stream was so
shallow (maybe 20 inches down to bare rocks) we pushed
the canoes upstream, dragging them over rocks where
necessary. And what did we find at the top of the
three-quarter mile long stream-a swamp extending as far
as we could see with trees growing out of it every few
feet. Beavers had built a dam of log, sticks and mud
about six feet high and eighty feet long.
beaver dam proved to be a very large obstacle. Our map
indicated the stream flowed between lakes but with the
beaver dam before us, we discovered we were lost. The
upper part of the stream had become a huge muddy swamp.
With no stream or trail to follow, we encountered on
swamp in every direction.