Algonquin Canoe Trip Journal — Part Two, Portages

Our Island on Penn Lake (actually it was a peninsula).

Our original — and short-lived — itinerary for the Algonquin Canoe trip had us arriving at Rock Lake after a 570-mile drive from north central Ohio then paddling three lakes. This would have included two portages. Uphill, over rock terrain and hundreds of yards.

That’s what Ken and Steve proposed when we got together in August to plan the trip. When my convulsions subsided, Ken and Steve agreed to a less-ambitious plan. We would arrive at the put-in on Rock Lake and pass out on the dock. When we regained consciousness, we’d paddle across Rock Lake, make the portage to Penn Lake and collapse on the beach of the nearest available island.

Then I’d wake up in the morning and make breakfast.

Apparently there is some unwritten rule that you have to make a portage in two trips. Which means you carry a canoe and gear on one trip and an even bigger load of gear on the next. Which is fine if you have a partner, but I was paddling solo. Besides, in 32 years of canoeing, I’ve never made a portage in less than five trips. No sense killing yourself. (There is a method to my madness here. Usually, on the first trip, you’ll attract the attention of some charitable soul with a pickup truck who will offer to haul your gear for you. In fact, the last guy who did this also gave me a cold beer to take with me.)

I raged against the empire, refusing to make the portage in two trips. I felt guilty that Ken and Steve had to come back and help me. But not that guilty.

In the final stages of the trip, I got with the program and made the portages in two trips. But that was because the food — 2/3 of which I was carrying — had run out and the portages were downhill.

More on that later.

Leaving Penn Lake after the first night. Steve and Ken are about to be accosted by pirates, but managed to thwart them with swords, which they quickly fashioned from their thwarts.

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