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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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/
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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?