Angle to Key West: Easy Street (10/3)


French River near Highway 11 – October 3, 2013

I slid into the landing for the Brûlé Portage, beached the boat, and left to scout the trail. I wanted to look at it, to make sure it existed, to figure out how to get the boat across.

It started as a well-used dirt road, but a sharp left turn dead ended into a closed gate hung with “no trespassing” signs. I stared at them for a moment, then saw an overgrown path continuing straight from the turn. It passed a forgotten old pickup and the rusted shell of a boat, shooting through knee high grasses and over a few deadfalls before dropping down into a creek under an old railroad bridge.

I went back for the boat, rolled it down the road, past the old pickup, and dragged it over the deadfalls. It slid into the creek and followed me like a dog on a leash until Brûlé Lake opened up in front of us.

I looked around like I’d just cheated, got in the boat, and paddled away.

I felt the same guilt yesterday on the Baril Portage, a nice, quarter-mile path through the woods. Muddy in places, a few tricky parts, some rocks, but nothing really beyond a chance to walk for a bit.

The memories of unused paths and trails that disappear hang like specters behind my eyes. I see a portage and I think of sinking into bogs and crashing through woven branches, of staring at the needle of my compass and rejoicing over a few feet of packed earth, not of a path through the forest from one lake to the next.

The Kam, the Prairie, the Savanne, they pushed the concept of difficult so far out that it makes hauling a boat a half-mile down a path seem easy, forgettable even, just a few minutes on a trail. Lakes disappear behind me. Rivers fade. I move again. I see it on maps, the world breaking off in pieces, and wonder how many I have left.

3 thoughts on “Angle to Key West: Easy Street (10/3)

  1. From Wally’s secret blog: “Yes, I am keeping quiet because you never know about this guy. He is now getting sentimental (all of you are not helping) here at the end and decide to go through Alaska in order to get to Angle, MN. He will just say it was an old portage trail about 3,000 years ago. Believe me, once we left Thunder Bay every single so called ‘old portage trail’ was a figment of his imagination. Rational people would have called what we did ‘jungle survival training.’ And I hear the Yukon Territory has no ice cream.”

  2. Have you gotten to international falls ? To read of the trek back through Canada is staggering…(probably literally!)

    Sent from my iPhone


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