Portage voyage creates plenty of pesky problems

“This is too dangerous!” I shouted.

“This is too dangerous!” I shouted.

I was up to my armpits in the stream, hanging onto the canoe, which was the only thing keeping me from losing my footing on the slippery river bottom and falling in the turbulent waters. If that happened, my partner, Vince, would lose control of the canoe, which, fully loaded, weighed 400 pounds. It would swing from parallel to the current and in control, to perpendicular to the current and out of control and then become pinned on a rock. Broken legs and crushed hands or feet could easily result, not to mention a broken canoe. I gave a wave as a signal to the rest of the team to move to shore as Vince and I wrestled the heavily loaded canoe to the right shore and beached the boat.

As expedition leader, I had told my five teammates – Bill, Vince, Dave, Bob and Julio – that this stage of our expedition would take three days. We needed to cross a divide to reach the Duhamel River, a tributary of the Manouane River, our ultimate goal. I thought the team morale was fragile because we were on the fourth day of work trying to cross from the watershed of the Peribonca River to the Manouane and there seemed to be no end in sight. Moving this expedition of three canoes, food and equipment for six men meant cutting a trail where none existed.

The portage had started four days ago on Peribonca Lake, a 50-mile lake in central Quebec. The surrounding country was low, rolling terrain covered in a dense forest of spruce and jack pine about 6 to 12 inches in diameter. A soft, light-green blanket of moss covered the ground.

With no trail to follow, we were explorers finding the way and nothing could be more exciting.

Day two of the portage brought more trail cutting and load carrying. At the end of the day we reached a lake a quarter-mile across which Julio named Echo Lake because it echoed his joyous shout at its discovery. Day three started with searching for the outlet of the lake, where the water of Echo Lake began its descent to the Duhamel. We hoped that being downstream, it would be easier going than the previous “uphill days.”

I was grateful for such teamwork and spirit in the face of adversity. Unfortunately, as the afternoon waned we found no river in sight, so we camped in a nondescript patch of woods. At least the guys could see the valley walls closing in as I had seen from a tree.

Day five dawned cold and clear and five minutes through the woods brought us back to the stream. Loading the boats, we waded in icy water up to our waists, pushing, shoving and floating the canoes around and in between the rocks. In less than an hour, we were paddling our boats and the current shot us out on to the wider waters of the Duhamel River. The hardest four days of our lives were over and now we could paddle and drift with the current. We had pushed ourselves to the limits of effort to reach this place. Passing from one watershed to the other was our entry into Shangri-La. It was no matter that we still faced the unrunnable Duhamel Gorge, 15 miles down the river. We were ecstatic. Our life on this side was all pleasure.

Brush and blowdowns by now have probably covered what crude track we left on the ground. I have no doubt few have followed our route. But the blazes we cut in the trees almost 30 years ago are probably still visible to a discerning eye. I know that the portage cut something into me that, like those blazes, I can still see if I look carefully. Great efforts lead to great places and many times I have summoned the memory of the Manouane-Peribonca portage to help me through a tough spot.




Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@courierherald.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.courierherald.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 500 words or less.

More in Life

PHOTOS BY KEVIN HANSON
The River Trail at the Mud Mountain Dam Recreation Area provides a walk that offers occasional looks at the White River. The entry off the Rim Trail is well-marked and, of course, warning signs are necessary.
Mud Mountain trails offer a quick, and not too challenging, getaway

Looking for trails? The Mud Mountain Dam recreation area has three within easy access.

PHOTOS BY KEVIN HANSON Every Tuesday at 11 a.m., Aubree Axelson can be found at Enumclaw’s Flensted Park, reading stories to kids and their parents. It’s a volunteer effort by Axelson, who spends most of the year in front of youngsters while serving as a kindergarten teacher at Elk Ridge Elementary in Buckley. The Tuesday events are a drop-in affair, no cost and no need to register.
At a glance | July 2021 events

The Courier-Herald is excited to bring back our monthly “At A Glance”… Continue reading

Rajiv Nagaich is an elder law attorney, author, adjunct law school professor, and retirement planning visionary who has achieved national recognition for his cutting-edge work with retirees and his contributions to the practice of elder law. He is the founder of two firms based in Federal Way: Life Point Law, an elder law and estate planning firm, and AgingOptions, a firm that provides retirement-related education to consumers and professionals.
You probably won’t die in your sleep | Senior Lifestyles

Traditional estate planning is based on notions that are out of sync… Continue reading

2021 Lexus IS350 AWD F-Sport
Car review: 2021 Lexus IS350 AWD F-Sport

By Larry Lark, contributor When it comes to manufacturing compact luxury sports… Continue reading

2021 Mercedes-AMG E 63 S
Car review: 2021 Mercedes AMG E63 S sedan

By Larry Lark, contributor The latest incarnation of the Mercedes AMG E63… Continue reading

2021 Mazda3 Premium Plus
Car review: 2021 Mazda3 Premium Plus

By Larry Lark, contributor The Mazda3 has always looked the part of… Continue reading

2021 Toyota 4Runner 4x4 Trail Special Edition
Car review: 2021 Toyota 4Runner 4×4 Trail Special Edition

By Larry Lark, contributor If the great outdoors is your playground, it… Continue reading

Image courtesy Public Health Insider
Taking an upstream approach to preventing LGBTQ youth cannabis use | Public Health Insider

LGBTQ youth report the highest rates of marijuana use in King County.

Kathie Nguyen embraces Eileen & Callie's Place founder Dr. Natalie Ellington. Celebrate 18!, hosted on July 13, 2019, was also the day of Ellington's birthday. Olivia Sullivan/staff photo
Nonprofit to host birthday party for girls aging out of the foster care system

Eileen & Callie’s Place is hosting Celebrate 18!, a celebration and resource event, Saturday, July 17.

The Blues Brothers was one of the acts to grace the Buckley Concert Series in 2019. The 2020 concert series was canceled due to the pandemic. This year, the Blues Brothers will not be making an appearance during the series. Photo by Kevin Hanson
Free and outdoors, summer concerts set for Enumclaw, Buckley

Rock n’ roll, blues, jazz and more coming July, August

Image courtesy Public Health Insider
Supporting survivors of domestic violence during COVID-19 | Public Health Insider

DV-related homicides in King County nearly doubled in 2020, as compared to 2018 and 2019.

This scooter, along with other prizes, could be yours if you donate to Bloodworks Northwest this summer.
Donate blood, win an electric scooter, sports memorabilia

Regional non-profit Bloodworks Northwest faces a shortage of blood donations