End of Great Dog Portage, Dog Lake – September 23, 2013
Rolling, dragging, pressing into the forest. Over fallen trees. Through branches. Under trunks. Cutting away. Flashing steel teeth. Moving forward. Moving up. Breathing heavy into the night. A headlamp glowing. Clouds of breath like steam pouring from a train engine, curling in the air, swirling in the darkness. Stopping seven hundred feet short of the road. Staring at a massive blowdown. Out of water. Exhausted. Too tired to go on.
I slept there last night, right on the portage in the shadow a fallen tree, its branches tangled across the trail. Two bags of frozen chili Rose had given me were the only water I had left. I ate them slow and dreamed of Dog Lake waiting so close ahead.
I sawed through the tree in the morning light, cutting away branches, hauling them to the side, cutting away more, digging a tunnel through the deadfall. I reached the road a few minutes later. An easy half-mile down a well worn path took me the rest of the way. The trees broke apart and I stared out at all that beautiful, flat water, miles of it, stretching into the distance.
I drank and drank and drank until my stomach hurt. I didn’t think to move. I just let the afternoon slip away and lay on the cobblestones in the sun until the colored sky nudged me up to collect stacks of driftwood, to light a fire, to sleep under a big starry sky on a beach that has been camped on for a thousand years.