Monday, October 25, 2010

Bloodvein River - Part 2 No Two Alike

This portage weaved through a stand of jack pines growing
amongst a thick carpet of moss. What a beauty!
If only they could all look like this!


Like the uniqueness and exclusivity of our fingerprint, no two portages are alike. They all have something that makes them stand out one from another. There are longs ones, short ones, rough ones and groomed ones, and how can we forget about wet ones! Well even though we experienced lots of interesting portages on the Bloodvein, there was another one that made quite an impression on us.


The day started as usual with Lisa and I checking the maps and setting a destination for the day. It was to be a full day of paddling, including eight portages that would eventually get us into Knox Lake. I wondered why that lake was named as such, but I was betting the 1500m portage before it had something to do with it. Besides, I vaguely recalled the outfitter who shuttled us mentioning that it was pretty wet, - great!


We moved along at a steady pace, both making distance and enjoying the scenery. The weather was great, but the oppressive heat was hard to bear at times. Despite making myself drink often to stay hydrated, I was slowly being worn down by the heat. So much so that I even had a hard time taking in food to maintain energy. (It made me feel nauseous.) Late in the afternoon as we got closer to our destination, I knew the last portage, the one to Knox Lake was going to take everything I had to finish. Preparing for the inevitable, I washed down a couple bars with water for some energy, as little did I know, I was going to need every bit of it!



Exhausted and filthy, glad to finish the
first part of the portage!
Photo: Lisa Riverin-Thomas


The take-out to the portage was located in a marshy area. The landing was fine and even the start of the trail looked pretty good compared to the many wet ones we'd already trampled. Would we be lucky? I certainly hoped so as we strapped on the packs and optimistically set out. The slightly wet mud trail among the reeds and alders was totally acceptable and seemed promising; that is until we had carried a mere 50 meters. As we both stood gawking at what laid ahead, my spirit sunk.




video

Leaving dry land, Lisa shot video of me heading
back into the muck for the canoe.
(And that is without a load!)


Stretched out before us was a distinct path of unmistakable, dark and foreboding boot-sucking mud! Clearly it had the undeniable signature of many footsteps gone before. (And possibly many victims!) Like the wet portage earlier in the day, the inevitable began in earnest as the mud pulled us into its depths. Luckily, we didn't go any deeper than our knees, but the biggest issue was the consistency of the mud. It was thick like molasses. We most certainly would have preferred the wetter version as you can walk through it with relative ease, but here each step felt like a foot entrapment. Like a predator not willing to release its prey from its maw, we had to expend an incredible amount of energy just trying to pull our feet out. Considering it was only day two of our trip, our heavily laden packs didn't help in any way.



video

Resorting to dragging the canoe just diverted my
pain elsewhere. Talk about exertion, listen to
Lisa trying to catch her breath while
shooting footage!


Approximately 300 meters later, exhausted and filthy, we finally saw the end in sight. Hallelujah! It was cause for celebration, but short lived as we decided to go back for the canoe and the other pack before setting off on the rest of the portage. Round two wasn't any better trying to balance the 80 pound canoe through the mud. It was an ordeal to say the least. Almost falling over several times, I put it down and resorted to dragging it. The exertion needed to both drag the canoe and pull my legs out was brutal on my lower back and totally spent me. When it was finally all over, exhausted, I dropped like a sack of potatoes.


The muck was so thick it forced it's way into my pants and
wouldn't come out! Elephant-titis feet!
Photo: Lisa Riverin-Thomas


After a much needed rest, the fact remained that we still had roughly 1100 meters still to go, - twice. Lisa saw my pathetic plight after the first carry and graciously offered to carry the canoe on the second run as I was spent. Normally my stubbornness would get me through, but the heat, lack of food and 'mud hell' had me totally beat. Therefore I humbly and thankfully accepted the kind offer.


Some higher power must have either felt sorry that I had to endure heat exhaustion or was turned off by my filth, because at the end of the trail the skies opened up and literally dumped on me! (us) Refreshing to say the least! Maybe the just reward for surviving the portage to Knox Lake. Whichever the case, I know exactly now why the lake was named as such!!
Cheers,
tPP




The reward for making to Knox lake alive!
I really did need it!!
Photo: Lisa Riverin-Thomas


PS. After the first run through the mud hole, we noted a nice dry trail coming from the left. We thought that this may have been a new trail to deal with the one we just endured. Judging from where it was coming from, when we got back to the original take-out, we actually paddled out into the lake hoping to find this new portage. Once we thought we found it, but after carrying the canoe and pack in, we were soon caught in a massive tangle of downed trees! Sigh! (It ended up being a well worn animal trail.) Wasting time and energy as well as being disappointed, we reluctantly headed back into the mud hole for round two. We never did find out where that newly created trail came from as I didn't have the energy or time to walk it to its end, but if anyone knows, I would love to hear from you!
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