Thursday, May 11, 2017

It Grows More Interesting - 2000

     Each time I woke in the night I listened to the abating wind in the pines and fell back asleep assured. Come morning the sun was out and First Cranberry was glassed over. Yesterday appeared only a miserable start to what I figured would now be uninterrupted, wonderful weather for the remainder of our fourteen days. Yup, this year we were doing a full two weeks on the water and had intentions of fishing several areas of Grass River Park. For the moment, everything looked rosy. No need to hurry, we took our time with breakfast and moseyed our way through breaking camp. Once again we intended to be set up on Wedge Lake no later than early afternoon.
     As it turned out the wind was doing as we were and in no hurry to leap into the day. Minutes after we paddled off from the tiny island and set our course straight down the middle of the lake, the wind woke up, yawned a bit, and hustled over to join us. By the end of First Cranberry we were bucking sets of ever-growing whitecaps. Sure seemed familiar.
     A mile and a half down the channel found us smoking a last cigarette on a spit of sand before paddling off into the misery of Second Cranberry. Yeah, the waves were every bit as big as yesterday though we'd come to learn a bit about choosing direction. Because of the angle of the wind we were facing a mile and a half of wave and storm bucking to reach the protected, east shore. Not easy, maybe still stupid, but once we paddled into the combers there was no turning back.
     We were creeping along and doing fine so long as the new canoe could be directed in a straight line. Any adjustments to line were difficult, frustrating, maddening, and sometimes close to impossible. Don't know if the problem was the size of our load, figure that with the two of us thrown in as pushing six hundred pounds, or how the boat was loaded. It had seemed trim when we'd started out but under the circumstances a little bit off might make a big difference. The reason why didn't matter once the canoe started moving right or left, then it was Katie-bar-the-door and all we could do to bring the boat back on line. Sometimes we were forced to do straight pull strokes to correct our course, not something canoe men relish when inching into a stiff wind. An occasional glance toward the shore assured me that under the worst of it we were at least holding our own and not moving backward but it was hard to tell.
     A little over an hour from setting out we finally reached the lee shore, pulled out smokes, and had a good laugh about how miserable it was, also a little scary. Could be our fear was the driving force behind our effort. Bobbing in the gentle swells, feet on the gunwales, we didn't even mind the slow drizzle that'd come to play with us. The remaining nine miles to our portage was child's play and the occasional blast of crosswind though the gaps in the forest, nothing more than dust on our shoulders. We paddled in joy.
     As usual, the off-load was tricky. Hoisting sixty pound packs while balancing on a canted slab of basalt begged for a headlong dive onto the rock-strewn shore. But all went well; ten minutes later the canoe and gear was resting fifty yards inland atop a gently sloping hill. Though heavily overcast, the drizzle had stopped and once again life was looking pretty good. We lit up, sat on the wet grass, and for a few minutes enjoyed the mayhem out in mid-lake.
     Our break over, I rose and threw a pack over my shoulder. My mistake was simple, I should have been facing the lake and thrown the pack uphill. After a clumsy stumble or two, I'd have been loaded and trotting off down the path. Instead I found myself in a tug-of-war with inertia for a few moments before pitching the pack and diving headlong downhill. Oops. Allan said my head landed between a pair of rocks. Lucky for the rocks I guess. However I did manage to land belly down with an arm across my ribcage. I'd cracked ribs before and when I stood I knew I'd gone and done it again. Damnation.

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