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 Trip Stories - Pushing to Blackstone, Pierre Girard


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Our next portage is rough. Trapper Bill, a truly great outdoors man from central Minnesota, has never seen a moose. He is along to see a moose. At this portage, and every portage, we point out the moose tracks. He sniffs, "Could be cattle," he says. We wonder if he is serious. The nearest bovine is probably 100 miles away. We are unconcerned. We know Bill will see his moose.

Through long stretches of swampy spruce and balsam we haul our gear. Many balsam have blown over and sometimes we pull the canoes along under the horizontal trunks, sometimes we pull them over the top. It is not easy going.

On a lake again, my brother, Daniel, pulls in a 12 pound trout. We will eat fat again tonight. We, in the first two canoes, see a moose on shore. It is a cow. We land and she chases us to the water's edge and back into the canoes - as we knew she would - to protect her calf. When Bill and Jar appear, the cow and calf are gone. Bill is sure we've made the story up.

We reach the final portage into Blackstone. It is a horrible portage. It is tough even to walk. Carrying a pack or canoe is insane, yet we do it year after year. It is always the same. From year to year memory fades. You walk for just beyond forever, fighting your way through thickets and downed trees, then finally you see a clearing in the distance. You are so glad to have finally reached the lake, but when you arrive in the clearing you see a huge swamp. Your heart sinks. "Oh," you think, "We are on THAT portage." Your spirit dies within you. But there is nothing for it. On you go.

The swamp can be crossed in only one spot. There is a path of knife edged rocks. You must jump from rock to rock in spots and heaven help anyone who gets a foot wedged between them. This is hard enough just walking, but portaging canoes and packs makes it hellish indeed. This goes on forever and never stops - or so it seems. At one point pa looks at me and says, "You know, I'm 78 years old. I don't think I'm ever going to do this again." Yet I know he will be there next year, if he is able.

After eons and ages, we stumble down into a swampy bay. My first reaction is always the same, "We suffered all that way for this?"

Out of the swampy bay, things look better. The further down the lake we go, the better things look. We pass up several promising campsites until we reach "our" point. It is perfect for trout fishing. We put salted smelt on freshwater hooks and throw them off the rock shelf. They lie on the bottom and the trout scoop them up. Soon we have more fish than we know what to do with.



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