7/18/2000 (Tuesday) 11:10 pm
Diamond Lake

I feel like a tiny speck in the canoe tripping universe. We crawled, scraped and pried our way to Diamond Lake today. It was a somewhat demanding day to be sure but that’s not why I feel like a speck. Oh no. We ran into two groups of kids on trips. The first were a bunch of young women/girls from Camp Pinecrest who were into day seven of a ten day trip. They started at some lake a long way from where they were. They seemed a little disorganized coming across the 800m portage but they were lean and mean, their canoes relatively empty.

And then we were overtaken by a group of 14 to 16 year old boys from camp Wabun. They were just starting – it seemed – on a 22 day trip. And they were doing it with coureur des bois-era equipment. Wannigans with only a head strap, paddles instead of a portage yoke. Their wannigans weighed easily 100 pounds. It was unreal. As they hit the portage, you could feel the tension and urgency flowing through them. It was unreal. Did I say that already? Yes. I believe I did. So our puny little jaunt with seven portages – none longer than a kilometre – seems speck-like in comparison.

Really, though, our trip reminds me of the trips I used to ridicule when I was at camp. As a 15 year old I remember writing derisively about a group of overweight tourists I spotted, describing them as a sort of floating banana split, three mounds of flesh poking up from two mounds of equipment piled high above the gunwhales, all smothered in coconut-stinking suntan oil sauce.

That wasn’t quite us today, though. It was cloudy, so we weren't basting in oil, but our equipment sticks way up over the gunwhales. We we’re all quite fit. And our gear, though plentiful is well organized and all – really, trust me – quite necessary. But our route is certainly not a Rambo trip like the Wabun group’s.

The first portage featured a steep, rock-covered incline just past the put-in. We hauled our stuff up to the top (no lean feat I’m sure you’ll agree) and then tried to plan the two trips. I’m not sure where things started going awry, but they did. We must have looked pretty goofy traipsing back and forth across the portage. But we did it, and pretty well too, given how new most of us are to this.

It must be said, though, that a little chaos is normal on the first real day of any trip. Portages need to be choreographed and even the best can’t do that much with a new troupe of dancers until they figure out how to move in time.

So the main reason we have all this gear is because of the food. Dennis is cooking these spectacular meals. Tonight was vegetable kebabs, baked potatoes with sour cream and cilantro, roast pork (for the carnivores) and tofu patties for me, with a choice of red or white wine. This evening he also hauled out two cantaloupes for dessert. The mind boggles.

But everyone definitely appreciates the food. At camp canoe trip food was always so crappy (I remember writing about crushed bread and industrial glue). It’s amazing to see what you can actually do on a canoe trip. Fresh lettuce for sandwiches, hot breakfasts every day.

Mind you I don’t think anyone could pull that off. Dennis is very organized and together in the kitchen.

He’s also a bit of a practical joker. For a moment he had Luke believing that loons have no legs. “Well, have you ever seen one walking on land before?” he said.

Tonight we’re on an Isthmus of sorts so bugs won’t be as thick as they were last night. The sun came out as we were eating dinner. Tommorow looks really promising.


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