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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
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
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.