Chapter 3 BWCA Homeward Bound

Landing at Portage

Landing at Portage

Getting ready to portage

Getting ready to portage

We broke camp around 8:30 a.m. on our third day to head back to our cabin. The lake was mirror calm as we set out towards the first portage. We paddled lazily but mostly drifted along as we took in the beauty of this place. It had taken every ounce of our strength to get there but the solitude was worth it.

Hubby had begun to have back and shoulder pain when carrying the canoe so I offered to take on that task. I positioned myself under the canoe with the help of my mate and then balanced the 45 pounds upon my shoulders. That part was easy. The path was strewn with rocks and steep inclines, declines, and some man made steps. I walked slowly positioning my feet carefully and with deliberation. I have found that I no longer have the excellent balance and agility that I once had so I needed to tread carefully. As I began to breathe heavily, I talked to myself, “Just talk it one step at a time. Breathe in. Breathe out. Don’t panic.” I made it each time without any crashes. I think this is my philosophy for life as well. No need to worry about things. Just take them one step at a time. Take each step with planned purpose and with confidence and you will make it through life successfully with God’s help.

We arrived back in Ham Lake by 11:30 a.m. Hubby decided he wanted to try to take pictures of the water crashing over the rocks near the original portage into this lake. We pulled up parallel to the rock faced landing.

“Let’s just get out of the canoe and tie it up here while I take pictures,” said Hubby.

“Where is the rope? I asked. “I think it is in the bottom of the tent pack.” I had visions of rocking the canoe back and forth while we tried to shift ourselves to get into position to fish for the rope. After all, we are not exactly nimble anymore. All I could envision was us dumping all the gear and ourselves into the lake. “I think this is a really bad idea,” I expressed my conviction. “I think we should paddle to the campsite across the lake, take our stuff out, and come back with an empty canoe. Then if we dump, it is just us and we haven’t lost anything.”

Hubby did finally agree to my suggestion and we proceeded to paddle across the lake and dispense of our cargo before returning to exit the canoe successfully. We trekked up the portage looking for a place for hubby to set up his camera tripod. We could see why this portage had been abandoned. We found no good spot so returned to the portage entrance. Hubby decided to hop some rocks and set up his tripod more out in the river flow.

“Be careful,” I admonished. “The rocks are slippery and we are a long way from help.”

I decided to find a spot to lie down while I waited as photography is something my hubby can spend hours pursuing. I discovered that my life jacket spread out on the ground made an acceptable bed. Why didn’t I think of using these for pillows or in between-knee protection earlier? It worked quite well. As I laid relaxing on my self-styled bed, I devised a plan for how I would rescue my hubby when he slipped on the slippery rocks and fell in the churning river. I decided I would let him bob out into the lake (he did have a lifejacket on), row up to him in the canoe, throw him the rope, and they pull him to the shoreline campsite. Having made my plan for saving my life’s partner, I could then lay in the warm sunshine, daydreaming, almost dozing.

062 (3) 079 366 An hour later, Hubby returned without any mishap occurring and we paddled back to the campsite where we had left our stuff. Our lunch was enjoyed from the top of a very large rock and then, it was time to tackle those last two portages through the woods. We successfully traversed those portages out of Ham Lake. I, however, was seriously hot and sweaty by then. I made the mistake of turning up the sleeves of my long sleeved shirt for the last three hours of our journey. The mosquitoes took advantage of this new exposed flesh. They eagerly nibbled my wrists and ankles over forty times. I was ecstatic as we set our last packs down at the end of the last portage. We did it. Working together in life has made hubby and me a successful team.

As we paddled through the last section of lily pads and marsh grass to the BWCA exit landing point, I informed Hubby that I was going to leave the canoe and equipment at the bottom of the twelve steps which was the final hurdle at the BWCA exit landing. “The steps are too big for me to step up with the weight of the canoe. The outfitter can pick it up at the bottom.”

I got an instant comeback from Hubby, “Oh no. We are going to take the canoe up those steps. We are going to finish what we started. It is a matter of honor.”

“Well then, you go for it,” I retorted.

And he did. We finished well.

I sighed wearily as we stepped into our little cabin. How good it was to be back to the civilized world. I thought about how our forefathers spent their lives gathering firewood to make a fire, water to cook and wash, and hunted and fished to put food on the table. It took up most of their time and energy. I am certainly much more thankful for those comforts that we take for granted every day. I can turn on the faucet and clean water flows out. I can put dishes in a dishwasher, turn a knob and ta da, there are clean dishes. I can sink into my Serta mattress with its memory foam topper and sleep in luxury. How thankful I am for the blessings God gives us every day that none of us are necessarily entitled to.


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