What a strange feeling, to have gone so far and worked so hard, and have it end so suddenly. Lake Superior literally snuck up on us, a good 1/2 kilometer earlier than we thought it would. It was a beautiful day to emerge from the woods after two days of hiking, and see what might as well have been the ocean in front of us. It felt like it too, with the cool misty air and wonderful breeze.
We had been tracking our progress with the GPS along the Grand Portage, shuttling the canoe for 2 km at a time and then going back for bags (we couldn't do a single carry for that beastly portage, so it ended up being about 40 km of walking over 2 days. The gear was extra heavy after a solid day of rain, and the canoe was just too heavy of a boat to carry with a pack). At some point, I think after crossing Hwy. 61, we stopped tracking progress and just hiked, feeling a bit emotional at the end approaching, and knowing there was under 2 km left.
The last 1 km of the Grand Portage is definitely the most well-maintained and well-used. We weren't really sure where along the water the trail would emerge, but it led us right to the old fur trade headquarters, and we were able to portage right under the gate and out to their wharf, for a short paddle to the marina. Is it crazy to say I really didn't want to stop paddling, after 2350 km and 61 days? There was much talk in the last few weeks about the next leg, from Thunder Bay to Lachine, which Karl and I would both love to do in a few years.
I can't begin to express how well things worked out all summer, from people helping us out along the way, to support at home from Karl, to the unbelievable weather. I believe there were about 3 days during the whole summer where it rained during the day (and only a few hours each time), and any other rain came at night. We had beautiful blue skies and calm, glassy water on some of the biggest lakes (Lake of the Woods, Rainy Lake, Namakan) and exciting tail winds on some of the other biggies (Sagananga, Knife, Gunflint)-- we discovered that 11 km/hr was about the max speed at which we could safely sail the canoe. At that speed the boat wanted to carve (we had no keel) and Karl could barely hang onto the sail.
After the busy Quetico/Boundary Waters section, we had a beautiful string of lakes all to ourselves on the border route, with under-used but well maintained portages -- we weren't sure what to expect as far upkeep, but someone is doing a great job!
It feels like a great accomplishment, to have seen so much of the country by water, and to come out feeling so good and on top of the world. It really kicked in, the distance we covered, when we were driving back through Minnesota, North Dakota and Montana.
I'm so appreciative to Angela, Erich and Karl and for everything.
Angela and I shared the planning and the excitement of starting the trip together. We had both had it in our minds to do a big trip, for a few years, and had tossed around the idea of a cross-Canada journey. Last Christmas was the final stick in the mud, when we decided to commit to planning it together! We both had butterflies at planning something so huge and investing in food and gear. I wouldn't have stood on the shores of Superior if it weren't for Angela committing to head out with me in the first place. There aren't many people in the world, let alone that I know personally, willing to take on big expeditions. Angela, I really hope your back heals up for good, so you can confidently take on new projects and trips!
To Erich, I feel lucky to have spent a month with you! You sure are a busy guy, and like the wind, always embarking on new adventures in new places. We laughed so much, and pushed each other across big lakes and up many rapids. I wouldn't have made it upstream in such good time without your knowledge of currents and amazing ability to read water. It was great fun navigating rapids and pushing farther and farther upstream. I won't ever forget those beautiful glassy, glassy days on Lake of the Woods. We couldn't have been any luckier on that lake, to have such good weather and blue skies.
To Karl, much thanks for helping us from home, even before you were a part of the paddling 'team.' From sending out food boxes and surprise packages, to making calls and inquiries, to letting Angela and I take over the house with packing, to being a great listener when I used my cell to call from odd places along the way. And of course for putting the bug in my ear, for reminding me that I was fully capable of continuing on solo, when I thought the trip might be over early. Thank you so much for rearranging your whole summer and work schedule to be able to paddle the last leg, and drive out early to switch places with Erich. I threw someone who had never been on a canoe trip into the hardest leg of the journey-- you fared amazing on the long days and even caught us a few fish (and rocks!)
Thanks to Jay Morrison for being inspirational and so helpful along the way. I hope this trip allowed you to re-live a bit of your journey!!
Of course to my family for always being supportive and encouraging of my adventures, and for not batting an eye when I decided to go solo!
Erich has already thanked many people, so I won't go overboard.
I guess this really is the end, which is hard to admit, but I hope to write an article soon so I can share the story with more people.