Three cardboard boxes lay open, their contents scattered across the floor. Bags of groceries sit next to them, fifteen, maybe twenty days of food. A wetsuit lies on three pounds of granola. A sleeping bag leans on boxes of pasta. Bottles of fuel are piled next to gloves and a tarp. Everything I have in the boat is there with everything I asked my dad to send. It covers the floor and I take it up piece by piece over two days trying to decide what stays and goes.
Everything changes now. Superior is a different piece of water than any other. It’s cold and big. There are long remote stretches. Cliffs guard the shore for miles at a time. Storms appear fast out nothing. And when that’s over, portage after portage await me with winter knocking at the door before I’ll have a chance to change gear again.
Thoughts and possibilities flood my mind. I form two piles and watch equipment migrate from one to the other and back again as I digest a thousand scenarios.
I sit still for days in Sault Ste. Marie, resting in Sue and Jeff’s quiet home on the St. Mary’s River. I watch freighters pass and look at maps. I eat until my stomach hurts and I don’t feel hungry anymore. I take a shower for the first time since Ottawa. The hot water runs over my shoulders, wipes away weeks of dirt, and I feel human again. I give my body a chance to fill in the thousand tiny cracks that fourteen months have worn into it.
Then piece by piece, I pack until every inch of space is full. I shove food as far up the nose and tail of the boat as I can. I squeeze in sleeping bags and tarps, shove first aid and warm jackets into drybags, and find space for fuel bottles, a wetsuit, and the wheels of my cart. I strap the two Franks to the back and ship a box of extra gear to International Falls, just a hundred miles from the end.
“Two and a half more months,” I think. “Two and a half more months and this is all over.”
The words sound long and short at the same time.