My Measurements 923-856-974

view at the beginning of portage one

We’re back from our weekend jaunt to Frontenac Provincial Park. It’s a lovely little park

fraser helping me balance before i shove off for the first time

and we did a short circuit of three lakes. As promised, or rather threatened, I followed through on portaging a boat for the entire trip. I’m very proud of myself, and while at the time I cursed every painful step, I’d do it all again. In fact, I AM going to do it again…and again, and again. This was just the beginning of what will prove to be a long portaging career.

We started out at Big Salmon Lake and paddled into Little Clear Lake. The first portage began with an uphill climb. Great. It was pretty muddy and there were some short bridges. All in all, it was fairly level with just a few inclines and a downhill at the end. For a total of 923 meters,

uphill after the bridge

I slogged it out. The entire time, with every step, I cursed my decision to carry the canoe. One of the bulkheads had taken on water and it was much heavier in the back then the front. We hung the throw rope and bailer on the front to help balance it out, but the sloshing water kept throwing my balance off at the most inopportune moments, like while dodging rocks and climbing over felled trees blocking the trail. Fraser strolled behind me with his own boat like a pro all the while shouting out encouragement (you’re awesome, you’re kicking that trails butt!). I love Fraser.

working on my balance

maybe there were more than a couple of hills 🙂

Day two was a paddle into Little Salmon Lake followed by an 856 meter portage. This one almost broke me. Let me put it this way…at the end I desperately shouted at Fraser to get the boat off of me because I was going to throw-up. I wanted to cry and laugh and puke all at the same time. My face was red and I was dizzy. I sat down with my head between my knees. It was fabulous. It’s really great sometimes to push yourself to the very edge of your capabilities.

the end of my first portage!

Day three, the portage out was a 974. The longest yet, and the most technically challenging. The trail was narrow and had little room for walking around the huge mud puddles that came half-way up my calf. At one point, there was a rock-face to my left and dense trees to my right. In an attempt to walk around a jumbo rock smack dab in the middle, I managed to bump the front of the canoe into a tree which threw me backwards. I tripped over said rock in reverse and fell over with a big thud. I laughed myself silly and waited for Fraser to come and rescue me. Near the end of the trail, there was an unmarked fork. Go ahead and guess if I made the right choice. Of course not. Zach went the other way and I heard him call out that he had reached the end. I think I was halfway back to the parking area!

day three - looking pretty with my pfd and fleece wrap with pack strap topper

What I figured out on this trip, is that I am nowhere near being able to pull multiple portages in a day. I also figured out that my bony little shoulders take the brunt of the canoe weight on one tiny high spot, that coincidently turned black and thankfully didn’t fall off. I used a yoke pad of course, but by the third day I triple folded my fleece jacket sleeves to further pad my sore spots. It was on this day that I also wore a pack for the first time while carrying the boat. This was not in an attempt to earn bragging rights. I saw those padded shoulder straps and was desperate to add ANYTHING to further protect the growing bruises on my shoulders.
I’m happy to say that my attempts were successful if not fashionable. Believe me, I threw any semblance of cool right out the window.

In conclusion…portaging a boat is hard. I need a lot more practice and stronger thighs. I must quadruple pad the yoke BEFORE my shoulders get bruised. I hate portaging a canoe. I love portaging a canoe.


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Roger Bartlett on June 21, 2011 at 11:05 AM

    I have a similar problem in that from carrying a boat for years, I have what I call my “grizzly bear hump” on my neck. I can only carry a boat on one shoulder at a time, in the little valley between the meaty outer shoulder and the coller bone.
    I’d rather have a thwart that a commercial, mass produced yoke.
    In the end, you’ll need to find what works best for you


    • I’m going to get enough practice soon enough. Fraser’s revised route for the BIG trip next year includes 49 portages. Oh boy, what have I gotten myself into?!


  2. […] and rewards of getting her and the family into the back country, on a regular basis. Find her blog here.  It’s filled with stories and advice that her and her husband, Fraser, have gleaned over […]


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