Canoe trip is about worthwhile memories

The misty, clear blue lake is a wide door to freedom as we push our canoes from the shoreline.
I think Sunset Country has the best canoe trip opportunities anywhere. Unlike Quetico or Boundary Waters–highly marketed neighbouring canoe parks—here we don’t need to purchase a permit, but we’re still surrounded by endless rugged beauty.
We start from Clearwater Lake, north of Emo, where Brian Hagarty operates Sportsman’s Landing—a full service marina. Brian offers parking, food, maps, great advice and canoe rental.
We’ve packed four canoes, each loaded above the brim. Our four day route will loop us back to Clearwater.
Before long each of our special strengths emerges—we’re part of a team.
Tim, age 14, is our most knowledgeable fisherman.
Wes, age 11, is a precise stern man who leads most of the trip.
Owen, age 9, is so tough he portages huge packs on his back through a swamp.
Rose and Tristan is a young couple skilled enough to take this trip on there own, but we’re so thankful they want to spend time with us.
Shaun, the father in the group, is the visionary. He inspires us to believe that we can paddle over 50 kilometers this trip, and we do.
As my husband examines the map placed at his feet, we push forward, each with our important roles and one ancient task–the rhythm of the paddle.
The beat of the lapping water, and our hearts, both call on some kind of forgotten nomadic inheritance.
Soon we find ourselves singing and picking up pace.
The current, which runs through our arms, pushes the water. We are part of the canoe, doing what has been done for countless centuries.
I’ve taken parts of this route by motorboat several times, but the land looks different now.
Like prowling animals, we smell the heat and are alert to the buzzing of cicadas.
Sometimes we’re fooled.
“The next turn is just around that point,” I call out. But those points, reaching out like boney fingers, only tease.
The next passage is usually further than expected.
Tim and Wes paddle their own canoe, dragging a bobbing fishing line. Their seriousness surprises me.
While keeping pace they haul in a smallmouth bass for lunch.
I’m in awe—somehow these boys turn into men right before my very eyes.
Like Owen, they also pull their weight through the portages, which have personalities of their own.
One portage is avoided by simply gliding over a smooth shoot of water instead. Easy!
The next portage is a fairly long hike, so Rose and Shaun run another set of rapids.
Their canoe tips against some rocks and starts to fill with water. Quick action saves the day. At the next portage, we simply pull our canoes upstream through a bubbling brook.
The final portage is by far the crankiest—we’re knee high in swamp mush for the first half and scraped by raspberry scrub for the second half.
By the time we reach our vehicles we’re sore, scratched and dirty, and our deeply tanned faces look worn—such a contrast from the white eagerness of that first morning.
Yet there is a sense of triumph. As we pull away, I think about how the trip as a whole reflects life—it’s full of perks and punches, but it’s the freedom and adventure that we always remember.
The aches will lift from our memory like the mist of that first morning.
• • •
I hope to hear from you. Please report about your own cabin and outdoor lifestyle experiences by e-mailing me at joanna@escape.ca.
Whether it’s your own canoe adventure, an unusual bird sighting, or some quirky cabin ritual, it’s all exciting to news to me.

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