North End of Sturgeon Lake, Quetico – October 7, 2013
I watched the man work through the portage. He moved methodically, first with a bag of food, then with his boat. He dragged the boat across because it was easier than picking it up and he knew the plastic would hold up well against the dirt and mud. I never saw him smile much or complain, he just moved.
At the end of it, he sat on a log and ate slices of cheese with crackers. It looked like he enjoyed them. Then he brushed his hands off against his pants and packed the rest of his food back into the boat.
He paddled away through a pair of small lakes and I followed him. A beaver lodge caught his attention. He stopped and watched them slap their tails while be tried and failed to get a picture of them. Then he crashed over their dams to get down a small creek that spilled into Sturgeon Lake. He was glad the creek had enough water, but didn’t really show it too much.
From there he paddled without much haste, just slow and steady for a few miles. He saw another beaver, but didn’t try to get a picture, and startled a few ducks who rose off the water squawking into the still air. He didn’t try for a picture of them either.
He found a campsite with nice, flat rocks and checked his compass to make sure they were open to the east. He knew it would be a cold night and wanted the morning sun to burn the due off his sleeping bag and warm up the air.
He built a small fire and cooked dinner as the sun set. It was ok, but he never got the fire burning like he wanted. It smoldered. He could have done something, but it seemed like a lot of effort to tromp through the forest looking for the right wood.
The sliver of moon followed the sun to the horizon and he rolled out his sleeping bag to look up at the stars. A few fell in bright long streaks that cut through the darkness and he could see the white glow of the Milky Way before he closed his eyes. He wondered why the day felt so far off. He felt like he was somewhere else, like he was watching himself instead of being in this beautiful place.
I think it made him sad because he knew there were so few days left and he didn’t like to waste any.