Canoeing to My Destiny
Chapter 17

Copyright© 2012 by Lance Manne

Sometime in the night, I awoke and found myself in an uncomfortable position. I really missed my bed. Sleeping in a mummy bag was solely a means of survival in my way of thinking. If I were at home, my sheets could be on or off. I could spread out as much as I wanted. In the mummy bag I was restricted. At times, I would find myself wrapped tight as the bag twisted around my body.

And then there was Dawn. I looked over to see her nose peeking through the opening of the bag. It was a beautiful nose; so delicate, perfectly shaped, and possessing tiny little nostrils. I had a sudden urge to stroke her hair. I wanted to lightly kiss her delicate neck. I longed to hold her tight and feel her warmth against my chest.

But alas, it was not to be. Dawn was sleeping peacefully. Her smaller body seemed to be more suitable to a mummy bag. I wondered what dreams might be going through her head. Was she dreaming of me? Was she thinking about the adventures of the previous days? Was she dreaming that she was in a warm tropical hut out over the ocean in Bora Bora?

Was she looking through the glass floor at the beautiful fish swimming in the warm pristine waters? Maybe she was lying in a hammock and being rocked gently by the ocean breeze. I guess I would never know. She was still an entirely separate person. She had her own dreams, her own plans, and her own memories. I just hoped that I would be able to help make some of her dreams come true.

I lay there making plans for our return trip home. We would need to leave relatively early because we had a long way to go. I hoped that the wind was at our back and the snow was good for skiing. I knew our sleds would be a little lighter and our bodies in better condition.

I decided that I would let Dawn pick the destination for our next trip. She had been a really good sport about the whole experience. She could have demanded that we return after I had fallen through the ice. She could have demanded to return because of the cold night. She didn't. She went along with my plans and made the most of a challenging situation.

How could I be so lucky? Without Dawn, my life was one of merely existing. While skiing with Dawn, I felt as full of life as I knew I would ever be. A woman adds so much vitality to a man's life. Already Dawn was suggesting how we could remodel the kitchen. She had encouraged me to take long walks and was helping to correct my eating habits.

Without her, I would do the things that needed to be done. I would endure the difficulties and work through the pain. If I cut myself, I would put a piece of duct tape on the wound and continue with my work. With Dawn, I had another person to think about. I had to think about her needs, her worries, and her wishes.

Somehow, with all those thoughts running through my brain, I once again drifted off into a fitful sleep. Several times, I awoke to find myself all wrapped up in my bag. I adjusted my bag and went back to sleep. That bed at home was looking more and more inviting. I tried to imagine a nice long shower. I could almost imagine how good it would feel.

The next morning, I awoke bright and early. This time, I wasn't as hesitant to get out of the bag. I knew that I had much to do before we could get started on our trek back home. As I exited the snow hut, I was greeted by a pleasant surprise. The weather conditions had been just right for the creation of a hoar frost. Everything was covered with tiny crystal formations. It looked like a scene from a winter wonderland poster.

I was happy to see that the sky was free of any clouds. I proceeded to make a fire, collect some water, and check on the equipment. As I waited for the water to boil, I heard Dawn calling out my name. I handed her the items that she had asked for and turned on the stove so she could have a warmer environment to dress. Then I went back to prepare the breakfast.

Breakfast consisted of oatmeal, raisins, and coffee. As soon as breakfast was over and the plates were cleaned up, I put out the fire. I rolled up the sleeping bags and pads, and then packed them onto the sled. The rest of the equipment was then placed in its designated place on the sled. It wasn't long before the loading was done and we were ready to go.

In my work mode, I had neglected Dawn. I went over to her and embraced her gently. We discussed the hoar frost, which was beginning to melt, and our plans for the return trip. Dawn asked if we were going to knock down the snow hut or leave it up. I suggested that we test it to see how strong it was.

I made my way up onto the top and then gave Dawn my hand in order to help her up. The roof supported us both and held firm. During the last several days, it had frozen into a very solid structure. We laughed as we discussed how it would melt back into the lake. Soon there would be no evidence that anyone had ever lived there. Dawn commented that we would some day be able to canoe over that spot with our kids. She said we could tell them we had once lived on top of the water.

We climbed into our skis and began to head for home. When we were about 100 feet away, we stopped to look back. Our little camp looked so empty and forlorn. It had served us well and now we were leaving it so that it could turn back to nature. Maybe some of the water molecules would eventually make the long trip to the Gulf of Mexico.

It was a beautiful day, the snow was good, and we were making good time. It wasn't long before we came to our first portage. We easily traversed that trail, which ended on a large lake dotted with islands. Traveling across that lake took about two hours. It didn't seem that long because each island had something interesting to display. It might be a large boulder, or a small bay, or a lone tree that had withstood the wind and rain for many years.

We easily found the portage and skied across to the next lake. When we arrived close to the area where I had fallen through, I took no chances. We skied close to shore and bypassed any areas that looked questionable. We made it safely past that section without any further problems.

I asked Dawn how she was doing. She replied that she was doing great. She told me that she was dreaming about a nice warm bath and a cozy bed. I told her that those things would be our reward at the end of the day. I used those thoughts as an incentive for us to ski a little harder.

As the day wore on, we began to work up a quite a sweat. The warmth of the sun and the heat generated by our bodies allowed us to remove layers of extra clothing. We stopped at our first campsite and ate a quick lunch of trail mix and jerky. It was another beautiful day and I could have easily sat down in the sun and allowed the rays to warm and caress my body.

I had to fight off that temptation as we still had a long distance to go before we reached our destination. Dawn headed out first and I skied behind, allowing her to break the trail.

It was indeed a pleasant sight to see her beautiful shape moving so effortlessly before me.

The colors of her clothes stood out so vividly against the backdrop of the brilliant white snow and the intense blue sky. The clear clean air helped to increase the clarity of the image before me. I was indeed living life in high definition.

The lake we were on was huge and free of any islands. It seemed to take us a long time to traverse it. Dawn led the entire distance across the lake. Finally we came to the next portage. By this time, the sun was high in the sky. We were making good time, but I calculated that by the time we arrived back at our car, it would be dark. Fortunately, I had brought along a couple headlamps which we could use if needed.

As we came out of the portage, I noticed that Dawn was motioning excitedly. I looked in the direction in which she was pointing. I spotted a fox standing motionless and wearing a beautiful bushy winter coat. He stared at us for awhile and then ambled off into the woods. It was indeed an incredible animal and a real treat to see another living creature in its natural setting.

I took the lead as we headed out onto the next lake. The lake eventually began to narrow and we began to notice many interesting things along the way. We saw a variety of tree formations and heard chickadees singing their special song. The scenery around us helped to make the time pass quickly and soon we were coming upon the next portage.

I informed Dawn that I thought it would be a good time to stop and eat our meal. We found a nice rocky area where we could sit and set out our food. The cherry drink was so refreshing and tasty. I started up the stove and heated up some soup. I also warmed up some bread. We ate quickly and then we headed down the portage to our next lake.

Once we were out on that lake, I stopped and motioned to Dawn to look in the direction of the sun, which was sinking low on the horizon. On each side of the sun, a short distance away, were arcs of light called sun dogs. The ones that were displayed for our enjoyment were composed of varying colors of light. It looked like a partial rainbow. Dawn exclaimed that she had never seen anything like that before.

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