Canoeing to My Destiny
Copyright© 2012 by Lance Manne
I watched as the water slowly swirled away from my paddle. I was so very fortunate in that the day was calm. My canoe cut through the water like a knife, leaving only gentle waves that rippled away into the distance. The water was clear and tannin colored. From out of the depths, I thought I saw the flash of a tail fin from a great Pike. The air felt so fresh and clean. Why had I stayed away for so long? I could already feel a measure of peace returning to my being.
After paddling for a short period, I stopped and looked around. The ripples slowly vanished in the distance and the water became completely still. On one side was a sheer cliff, rising in the distance. To my right there was a small ridge topped by pines. The sky had collected a few more clouds, which only helped to magnify the beauty. I felt blessed.
I resumed my paddling with long, powerful strokes. It felt so good to be using my body in rhythm with nature. I could feel the energy course through my body as each synapse fired and each muscle contracted. My body felt so alive and strong. No noise from a motor, just the sound of a paddle dipping in the water. It was getting near the end of the season, so I figured I would encounter fewer people. As I looked in the distance, I saw one lone canoe. My portage was straight ahead. I paddled toward it.
Since this was one of the first portages, it was wide and not very long. Most people who come up will only make one or two portages. Once you get farther back in, the portages can be up to a half mile or more. I was able to paddle right up to the shore and hop out. My pack weighed about 45 lbs. and I put that on my back. My canoe was Kevlar and weighed about 40 lbs. I easily lifted it to my shoulders and headed down the trail.
It wasn't long before the trees opened up to another beautiful lake. This lake was long and narrow. I lifted the canoe off my shoulders and gently placed it on the water. Into the canoe went the pack and I was off paddling again. This scenario would be repeated many times before I arrived at my destination.
The fourth portage was a little harder to find. It was really just a narrow path through the woods. It was also a little trickier because there were many rocks and roots to navigate along the path. The further one gets in, the less maintained the trails become.
When I had paddled to the middle of this lake, I found a small rocky island. I stopped there and had some lunch. As far as I could see, there was only water, trees, rocks, and sky. No sign of another human being. I sat under a lone tree and ate my sandwich and apple. I collected and mixed a drink from the water in the lake. It's usually safe to drink the lake water, if you draw it some distance from shore.
My plan was to set up camp a few hours before sunset. That would give me time to fish for my evening meal. I had packed some dry food, but my real source of food would be fish. Several of the lakes I would be visiting contained lake trout. I hoped to tie into one of them.
After my lunch, I pushed off and continued on my way. I traveled over several more lakes before coming to the one I had hoped to make my home for the night. It was not a big lake, but it was a beautiful lake with some high rock outcroppings. The map showed that there were three campsites on this lake. As I paddled to the first campsite, I noticed several tents. I didn't see any activity, so I continued up the lake.
The next campsite was on the same side of the lake as the other, but it was empty. I continued on looking for the third campsite. It was on the opposite side of the lake and around a bend. This campsite was also empty and the location would insure that I would be out of sight and not visible to the other campers.
I paddled over to take a closer look. The site had a small sandy beach where I could easily land my canoe. The fire grate was about 30 feet above the water and faced toward the west. A lone white pine towered over the other trees and looked majestic against the soft blue sky. I was very pleased and proceeded to unload my canoe. I sat for a short time, enjoying the view. It had been a good day. If I could catch some fish for dinner, it would be an even better day.
I remembered back to the time I had first traveled to this wilderness paradise. My father had brought a group of teens up for a week. When I arrived at our first campsite, I could not wait to fish. I had cast my lure out several times without any luck. On the third cast, I looked for my lure as it came out of the depths. The campsite had a deep drop off about 20 feet from shore.
At first I didn't see anything. Slowly my lure came into view. Then suddenly, I thought I saw something begin to materialize behind it. Very faintly, the head a huge fish came into view. It had been following my lure and it looked like a ghostly monster from the deep. I saw the head for maybe two seconds before it faded back into the depths. I have never forgotten that haunting face appearing out of the depths. I didn't catch any fish that day, but the memory had always been with me.
I put up my tent and set up a rope and pulley to hang my food pack. I wanted to keep it from the bears and other critters. It is very important to hang your food up high so that the animals don't have a chance to rummage through your supplies. Many trips have been ruined because the food was taken and the travelers were forced to return home early. I found a hollow in one of the rocks overlooking the water. It was just about my size and it looked like a nice place to take a quick nap. After a short rest, I planned on catching my dinner.
As I was drifting off into oblivion, I was suddenly awakened by several voices. They were shouting out, "Hello, anyone there?" I looked out over the water to see two women in a canoe. I waited for them to get a little closer, and then hailed them back. They yelled that a bear had attacked their camp and asked if I could come and check it out. This was definitely not in my plan and something that I had no desire to do. However, I knew that I had to help. I told them I would be right down. I strapped on my knife, grabbed a metal pan, and hopped into my canoe.
Soon we were paddling back to the first campsite. As I came closer to their canoe, I could see that the women were in their mid twenties and actually rather attractive. I could see that they were checking me out also. I had let my beard grow for the trip, and had recently had my hair cut, so I knew that I presented a nice image to the ladies. I was also wearing a muscle shirt, due to the fact that I had become pretty warm while paddling during the day. All things considered, I didn't look too bad for a 30 year old guy.
The ladies informed me that a bear had come into their camp and had gone through several of their packs. As we neared their campsite, I saw two more canoes containing women, about 30 feet from shore. It was evident that they had paddled out into their canoes to escape from the black bear that was rummaging through their camp.
I checked over the site and did not see any wild animals, so I beached my canoe and walked up to the campsite. The packs were strewn around and I could see bite marks on a bar of soap. I also spotted several boxes of cereal that had been ripped open. One of the women that had been brave enough to follow me out of her canoe asked me if I thought the bear would come back. I was just about to say, "No", when I noticed some movement behind the partially knocked over tent to my right.
About 10 feet from me arose one of the biggest black bears I have ever seen. We looked each other over and it was easy to see that he had no fear of me. I was actually able to gaze into his eyes. I was so startled, that I didn't fully comprehend the danger I was in. I took out my knife and the pan that I had brought along.
I began banging on the bottom of the pan. I hoped that the sound and noise would be enough to drive the great beast from the camp. Slowly he began moving away, almost in disgust. He didn't seem worried. It seemed like he thought it best to leave at this time. I watched as his huge behind disappeared into the woods.