Yak Attack

A place to unwind and spend some time yakking.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Day One on the Circuit

For Day One on the circuit, we had to get all of our stuff to the park's registration center and load up our canoes, after getting the gear going into our canoes weighed. The park allows only 60 pounds of gear to be loaded into canoes. If you load more than that, the trails you use through out the park will get mucked up by the heavy loads, producing nasty ruts and pot holes.

Day one on the circuit actually contains about three miles of walking. Portaging, that is. This is where you carry your stuff, including your canoe, around water obstacles. Most people use a cart to lug their canoes on these trails. We were no different. That's why there's the weight deal, because the wheels get bogged down on wet trails, causing the ruts and pot holes. These extra obstacles make potaging a real bitch, so I completely understand the concern about weight.

So, we arrived at the registration center with all of our gear, our canoes and carts. As we unloaded the canoes from the truck, Renton, my friend D.'s husband, realized that he'd left his waterbottle somewhere. He couldn't go out for eight days without his waterbottle. The guy who delivered our canoes needed to run back to his shop to get three more bailers and bowlines for our canoes, so Renton hopped a ride with him to hunt for his water bottle. D. told me that Renton, and her son Little Dee, were notorious for leaving things behind, so I got a quiet chuckle from this mishap. He was pretty sure he'd left it in the car he rode in on the way to the center, which narrowed down his possible hunting places.

The commotion associated with this whole process was immense. Our gear boxes were weighed by a park employee. We'd hope and pray during the weighing, because unloading a few pounds of our pack gear into the canoe would be a nice deal. Tee and I lucked out-- eight pounds of our pack gear could ride in our canoe, so in went the little chairs we brought with us. I know this sounds like a vain luxury, but keep in mind that none of the sites without shelters have picnic tables (only three of the sites we camped at had shelters, and two were very far away from our sites). Only crude benches are nestled around the site camp fire grates, and when they get wet they're slimy.

And what about our backpacks? Is anyone curious about how much they weighed? Before L. and J. left, my pack weighed 36 pounds, with my chair and an empty waterbottle. Tee's weighed 30 pounds, with no chair and an empty waterbottle.

With their departure, we had a major change of tenting arrangements, because of the extra weight we'd all have to carry. Our group was down one canoe. They were slated to carry all the tents, so each canoe duo had to carry their tents now. We ditched the tents the boys were going to use, in favor of each parent tenting with their own child. This way, we brought along six tents instead of eight. Tee and I squished our tent into a smaller dry bag, which Tee carried, and I carried the tent poles and pegs. So, once we put our chairs into our canoe and filled our 32 oz. waterbottles, both our packs weighed around 36 pounds.

Renton didn't get back until most of the boxes were weighed. He was successful in locating his bottle, and would not have to beg for sips of water from other members of the group. This was a huge relief for him.

Getting our canoes to balance on the carts, with weight inside, was a chore. We had a ten minutes tutorial on this task before L. left the day before. We received a few more pointers from the canoe delivery guy, but it turned out that the best tutorial was just doing it as we muddled through our way around the circuit.

After watching the scary "Be careful, or the bears will get you" video, and receiving our orange garbage bag (which doubles as a rescue flag when placed on your canoe paddle; Tee quipped on day four, "That is so stupid. We haven't even seen a ranger. Who'd even be around to see you waving your paddle as your canoe sinks?"), we were ready to trudge up the hill and portage to Kibbee Lake.

L. told us repeatedly that the first two portages of the circuit, both during Day One, were the hardest. This kept me going, I admit, as we reached the crest of a hill, only to see another hill in front of us. Tee and I didn't get very far before Vlad, the firefighter, offered to help me with our canoe, while Tee helped his son E. with theirs. Tee and I had done a poor job of balancing our canoe, so it was extremely difficult to portage. Vlad and I didn't comprehend this, however, until we went to balance the canoe for the second portage.

I'm very grateful to Vlad and E., because there was plenty of "asshole" potential, with my huffing and puffing up those hills, and the way we loaded our canoe. Instead, they were kind and just helped us without ill comment. During the first portage was the initial glimpse I got of the way Vlad's mind works things out to make tasks run smoother. He created a harness out of the bowline on his canoe, so Tee or E. could hook themselves up to it and pull the canoe up the hills. It worked like a dream.

I'm proud of myself for making it through both of these portages without keeling over because some of the hills were very strenuous and Vlad and I never dumped our canoe off of the cart (the guys in front of us did it five times; he whispered to me, "Let's not be like them."). Also, I'm 5' 3" and he's well over 6' tall, so one of his steps is like three of mine. I was doing double time up and down those hills. I needed twice the amount of rest breaks, but I made it without incident!

The first lake we canoed was Kibbee Lake, and it was pretty small and marshy. After the second portage, we canoed part of Indianpoint Lake, and when we set up camp, we were gleeful at the good weather we'd had all day. We knew the other group must have encountered some icky weather the day before, as they portaged, and our good fortune made us giddy.


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