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Trip Stats:

  • # of dog ticks found on Taq = 200 + (and counting)
  • Worst spot we picked one off = corner of Taq’s eye
  • # lakes paddled this season = 49
  • # of Canadians met in the Boundary Waters = 2
  • # cans of beer given to us = 6
  • Longest portage = 13.2 km (Grand Portage)
  • Strangest item discovered at a campsite = tube of Testim 1% (testosterone gel)
    *anyone have any theories as to what one would use testosterone gel for?

Portages

The theme this season has been portages, as we have done more than 50 of them between Kenora and Lake Superior!

Definition: Portage or portaging refers to the practice of carrying a canoe and gear (and baby, in our case) across land from one waterway to another or around a non-navigable portion of a waterway.

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We have portaged over rocky trails, beside waterfalls, around and through swamps, and over dams. In high water, we were able to avoid carrying by either tracking the canoe up the rapids (as seen above), or by using brute force and ignorance (our specialty) to drag it over any shallow, rocky sections. Basically, we’d do anything within our power to avoid portaging our gear.

It is surprising to note that Jude and Taq both love portaging. Taq sees it as an opportunity to mark his ever-expanding territory across Canada. Jude sees it as an adventure. We sing songs and look at interesting critters, rocks, or trees. One of Jude’s favourite songs is “Twinkle Twinkle.”

Bugs

Many of you may be surprised to learn that our least favourite blood-sucker is not the mosquito or black-fly, but ticks. We found a few on ourselves each day, however, Taq was most affected; some days Geoff would pull off over 30! The first picture below shows Geoff holding a bloated tick he had just removed from Taq. Yuck.

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It was pretty cool the first 3 weeks we were out; we were fortunate to be fairly bug-free. After a couple of very warm days, the next 2 weeks were another story. The second picture above shows a small section of mosquitoes between the fly and netting of our tent. We would often go to sleep with a steady hum of “skeets” in our ears.

The bottom two pictures show the lengths we go to ensure Taq’s comfort. The bugs tend to bite his tear ducts and nose so we build him elaborate bug shelters so that he can get good rest. As Taq doesn’t paddle or carry any gear, we aren’t sure why he is so exhausted…

Campsites

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It was early in the season, so finding campsites wasn’t a problem. Many of them had a fire pit, grill and relatively flat areas to pitch the tent.

What do you do with a toddler in a canoe?!?!

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Nature is great entertainment for children. Jude loves to throw rocks and sticks, and spot birds. He has a little backpack of toys that contain trucks for him to play with in the bottom of the canoe. As long as Jude is well rested and fed, he is a happy camper in the canoe. Often when he is tired, he will ask to sit in the backpack. He always wears his lifejacket and we sit him in the backpack, but do not strap him in. In this way, if we ever tip (knock on wood) he will easily pop out of his seat.

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Occasionally, Jude will offer his opinion on the route or a helping hand setting up the tent.

Bears

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We took this picture on Rainy Lake. This bear was crossing from an island to the mainland. He didn’t want anything to do with us, as we paddled closer, he swam faster. When he reached shore, he high-tailed it into the bush.

Waterfalls

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The view of a beautiful waterfall is a great reward at the end of a hard portage.

Height of Land

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In the past we carried champagne to celebrate the crossing of a Continental Divide (Ball Pass in the Rocky Mountains.) This photo was taken on the portage between North and South Lake – our second Divide of the trip. We have dropped our packs to celebrate with 2 cold Coors Lights that we begged from some fishermen from Iowa.

Don’t forget me!

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Taq’s biggest fear is not bears or porcupines, it is being left behind. Once we begin to load gear after a portage, he makes sure some part of him is touching the canoe.

The Grand Portage

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How many friends would volunteer to help carry a 90 lb. canoe and equally heavy pack for 13.2 km amid mosquitoes, blackflies, and soggy trails? Well….they are pictured above. We are fortunate that Ben Guerard (you may remember that he helped us carry over 3 passes totaling 100 km in the Rocky Mountains in 2008), and Dave and Andrew Hinton (in addition to this portage, they have put us up in their home in Winnipeg and picked up and dropped off our vehicle in numerous remote locations) decided to join us.

Their company made the 8.5 miles of the Grand Portage pass quickly. We enjoyed their company over the 3 days we spent with them. Thank you!

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Thank you to the following people:

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  • Dave & Sharra Hinton, as usual, graciously invited us into their home in Winnipeg, MB, as we passed through to Kenora, ON. Not only that, Dave dropped us off in Kenora and stored our vehicle in Winnipeg. 5 weeks later, he and his son, Andrew, drove our vehicle out to help us with the Grand Portage as well.
  • Bob & Peg Hunger at Whitefish Bay Camp gave us a great deal on a cabin for the night where we could warm up and bath Jude.
  • Nestor Falls Hotel & Northwest Flying Company out of Nestor Falls, ON, put us up for a great deal for a couple of days while we figured out Jude’s fever. We are grateful to Brant (sp?) for storing a small pile of gear for pickup so that we didn’t have to portage it.
  • The folks at Helliar’s Resort gave us some fishing line to tie some of Jude’s toys into the canoe. The also gave us a lovely postcard of Nestor Falls.
  • Bev Strachan of Greens BBQ Bar was wonderful. Not only did she give us a lot of great local knowledge of the area, (where to buy groceries, beer, and hardware), she also loaned us her vehicle to drive to the doctor after Jude had a fever for 2 days.
  • Dr. Ingrid Krampetz made us feel 100 times better about going back out on the water. As first-time parents, we appreciated her straight forward answers and humour.
  • Bill & Nellie Godin of Lake Despair Lodge are some of the most welcoming people we’ve met so far. They gave us a wonderful deal on a cabin, gave us laundry soap and shampoo, and Nellie even baked us a coconut cream pie! Nellie brought over a bucket of 3 minnows that made Jude squeal in delight. Bill arranged help with our gear over the 5 km portage into Rainy Lake. Wonderful people and a great place to stay!
  • LaBelle’s Birch Point Camp on Rainy Lake were very kind in waiving the launching fee for our canoe.
  • Jim & Chris Krag took a call from a stranger out of the blue to ask if they would be able to hold a resupply box for us until we paddled through. Amid renovations and upcoming weddings, they graciously invited our dripping wet crew into their home for 2 days while we sorted our gear and resupplied. In addition, Kris sent some kids books with Jude that kept him entertained for hours (we’d forgotten to pack them.)
  • Ted & Terri Smith of Sand Point Lodge helped us get in touch with the Zup’s Outfitters. They helped us transport some of our gear over a 4 mile portage.
  • Mark & Kathy Zup of Zup’s Fishing Resort and Canoe Outfitters generously helped us with our gear over the Dawson Portage. Not only that, they also put us up in a wonderful, cozy cabin on their island and fed us breakfast too!
  • A big thanks to two canoes of guys who helped us carry our gear around a portage at Lower Basswood Falls on Crooked Lake. We never got their names, but we really appreciated it! Fred and Doug of Colorado gave us a compass (after ours was lost on a portage) AND a Pickerel for dinner. It was delicious!
  • Jason (Park Ranger at Prairie Portage) answered lots of questions regarding the upcoming lakes and supplied us with a much-needed pen.
  • Arne Olson, Darren Thornbrugh and friends were finishing their week-long canoe trip with Anderson Outfitters when we came upon them leaving the bottle Portage. We were thrilled when they gave us 2 ice-cold beers….each!
  • Bruce and Sue Kerfoot of Gunflint Lodge made us feel very welcome. Gunflint has an amazing history and we loved learning about it. We’d recommend this lodge to anyone who loves the outdoors. Marilyn at the front desk went above and beyond the call of duty to help us.
  • Charlie, Jim, Tom, Leroy from Iowa gave us 2 beer to celebrate our second Continental Divide between North and South Lake.
  • Ben Guerard flew out from Calgary to help us carry the canoe and gear across the Grand Portage. He makes the hard work look easy and his easygoing character is wonderful to be around. We had a great 2 days paddling on Lake Superior.
  • Ted & Liz Landry stored our canoe for an evening and even shared their dinner with us. We really appreciated their patience with us and our crew as we sorted out our logistics.
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One Response to Newsletter #18 Kenora to Thunder Bay, ON Boundary Waters to Lake Superior, ON May 8 – June 15, 2011

  1. Chris & Marsha says:

    Came across your newsletter #18. My wife (aged =62) and I (65), Americans, have been paddling from Kenora to Superior over a 35 year period, doing it in 7 segments every couple of year, pretty much following the voyageurs route like you did. I think we might be the oldest people to actually do the 8.5 m grand portage alone with a canoe. As you probably realized, the voyageurs never portaged a canoe, only gear and goods,

    I am really impressed that you did the trip with a dog, child and heavy canoe. By any chance did you calculate the total distance between Kenora and Superior? I had heard it was 450 miles (720 km) which seems long–I estimate 560 km.
    Best
    Chris

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