Upon reaching the site of Fort Charlotte, the start of the Grand Portage, we were an excited bunch of voyageurs. We quickly unloaded our boat and brought our gear over to the campsite. Waiting at the campsite were some food prizes left by our wilderness travelling friends, Rollie and Karina Johnson.
Rollie and Karina are a father daughter tripping team, paddling a beautiful cedar canoe of Rollie’s make. They spent ten days travelling the Quetico / Boundary Waters with the aim of completing the Grand Portage. We met them in Quetico and played leapfrog for the next couple of days on the trail. When we met on portage, the Johnsons always doubled back to help with our canoe. In his youth, Rollie had participated in a 70-day canoe trip from Ely Minnesota to Churchill Manitoba. Karina had completed several voyageur trips of her own. Rollie had even helped in making four cedar and canvas North Canoes and is planning on building another four this coming winter. Needless to say, these were kindred spirits who were very excited about our trip.
Having reached the Grand Portage a day before us, they left us their extra food to make their portage easier. Eager to eat anything with a slightly different taste, we emptied the bag on the table and dug in. Pop Tarts, dried fruit, crackers and grape jelly, hot chocolate and apple crisp. What a pre-portage surprise feast!
We then heard the sound of a canoe hitting rocks and thought we should move our boat out of the way so others could come up to the campsite. It’s a big boat – we tend to block portages.
We heard the noises again and I went to check on our boat. More canoe over rock sounds were heard. The rest of the crew realized that in our excitement, no one had bothered to tie up the canoe. Everyone jumped up and made a mad dash for the river, leaving spinning bowls in mid air.
I think that “Larry (Naylor)” enjoyed his solo trip down the Cascade Rapids on the Pigeon River. Rarely let out on his own, Larry bumped and scraped his way aimlessly over the rapids, always taking the path of least resistance.
Scott was the first to interrupt Larry's new found freedom. The rest of us joining in, we quickly lined the canoe back up the rapids that it had just run.
Lesson: Before you indulge in the prizes friends provide, make sure your canoe is well tied.