The Journal of Canadian

Wilderness Canoeing

  SUMMER 2002











In this issue

Front Page


Spring Run

Summer Packet


From the Editor






Part  1  2 

Photo: Donald Silva

Finding our Way

After somehow getting the loaded canoes up to and over the beaver dam, we began looking for a way to the next lake. Sometimes we paddled the canoes in our search; other times with trees so close together we could not paddle, we got out and walked. Much of the swamp was deep and we walked, pulling and pushing loaded canoes in muck up to our knees and water up to our armpits.

By dark we had made no progress in our search for the trail, so we pitched camp at one end of the beaver dam. The steady afternoon rain made it impossible to start a fire for cooking or drying out. Dry wood could not be found anywhere. By now, exhaustion consumed us and even without a hot meal or dry conditions we slept like babies.

The next morning we awoke to another day just as dreary and dismal as the previous afternoon. The swamp was still there. At breakfast, we discussed our predicament. Noon would be our drop-dead time. If we hadnít found a way of the swamp by then, we would turn back and retrace our route to Rainy Lake without any layover days.

We resumed our search and about 11 a.m. someone spotted a tattered and torn sock hanging from a tree limb. When we retrieved it, a leader found a name on the sock - of a kid he had taken on a canoe trip several years earlier! About 50 feet beyond where the sock had been hanging, the swamp suddenly opened up into a bright, clear lake. We quickly portaged from the beaver dam to the next lake. Immediately we swam in our clothes to remove that terrible swamp residue.

The next day we found our route blocked again. This time floating logs averaging eight to ten inches in diameter and 10 to 15 feet long stretched completely from one lake shore to another, We now had to push through this logjam and get on with our trip.

Negotiating the logjam required the bow person to stow his paddle, lean over the front and shove individual logs to one side or another. The tiring job required us to change canoe positions several times on our way. At the same time, the other two kids used paddles and pushed against the logs to power the canoe forward. The entire job was so overbearing we sometimes thought we were pinched in the middle of that logjam so tightly we might never get free. Finally, we got to the head of the logjam. There we found two-foot diameter logs chained together, end-to-end, keeping all the other logs from floating downstream.

When we reached these larger logs, the kids in the bow climbed onto the wet and very slippery logs. Deep water made it necessary to balance very carefully and hold onto the canoes for support. From this precarious position, they pulled the canoes halfway over the logs. At that point the bowman returned to the canoe and the stern person jumped out onto the log and everyone pulled and pushed the canoe completely over the remaining log into freedom at last.

Some logs escaped from those chained together. They proceeded down a rapidly running river with whitewater rapids where many became lodged in rocks. We decided to follow those logs downstream/

In the face of the whitewater and log obstacles, we continued moving downstream in our canoes. When the current pulled logs sideways, we sent sideways. When the logs crashed into and over rocks, we did so as well and when the current caused the logs to roll, we struggled to keep our balance and keep the canoe from overturning. We managed to run the rapids successfully, partly because we had spaced the canoes about a hundred yards apart. This allowed each to recover before the next canoe came crashing down upon them.

The whitewater on the Manitou River caused our hearts to pound. Hearts pounded for another reason as well when we discovered several canoe fragments at the bottom of the rapids. These indicated how very treacherous our run had been!


Our final portage occurred the next morning. We carried canoes and gear around a natural waterfall adjacent to a native camp. There we watched in amazement as the natives cleaned a substantial fish catch. Except for several lumber men we saw earlier from a distance, this was our first encounter with other people since boarding our canoes on the first day.

The last night we spent on a small island in the north end of Rainy Lake. We chose to sleep under the stars but pitched the tents just in case they were needed. And it was fortunate we did. Despite a campfire near the sleeping bags, mosquitoes came out of the woods after dark by the millions! Within minutes, we retreated to our tents and buried ourselves deep in our sleeping bags to avoid those fierce critters.

In the morning, emotions ran high as we set out on the final leg of our wilderness journey. Only ten miles separated us from milk and candy bars! For that, and other reasons, we gladly accepted a tow from a commercial fishing boat back to our Fort Frances outfitter.

Several weeks later, we realized our good fortune and how thankful we needed to be to have completed the greatest experience of our youth without any serious mishap. Later at an evening of sharing photos and colour slides, we learned that one of us had just had his appendix removed. What would we have done if the appendicitis had occurred during the trip when, without communication, many miles and days separated us from help?




 Summer 2002         Outfit 109 

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