Friday, January 30, 2009
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Continuing about our 1948 canoe trip from "Wooden Canoe".
"In portaging as well as in paddling the two teams were well matched. The huskier team carried the heavier Old Town and the smaller team carried the lighter Penn Yan. All portages were two man carries. No one had the skill to carry an 18 footer solo.
"Attempts to emulate the Indians by carrying gear with a tumpline over the forehead failed miserably. They could not stand the pain in the neck caused by the weight of the packs. The four college guys had to admit that volleyball, downhill skiing, or elbow bending does not develop neck muscles. The best pack turned out to be a war surplus ski trooper rucksack. It rode on the hips, had a low center of gravity, and had room to lash bulky gear on top."
Another pack we used was a war surplus bent-plywood packboard that the Infantry used to carry mortar parts or the Quartermasters used to backpack ammunition or jerry cans. It worked OK but you always had to lash or unlash the load. We also had a traditional frame and canvas packboard. We placed the packboards in the bottom of the canoes to keep the loads out of the wet. We used GI ponchos to wear in the rain, cover the load or string up as a kitchen fly. Let's put it this way, most everything an infantryman wore or used to live and fight in the open was useful to the canoeist traveling in the wild, GI mess kits for instance. Of course we didn't have to wear helmets or carry rifles.
The cover photograph of the June 1997 issue of "Wooden Canoe" that carried Adam's story showed Ned and Ken portaging the Penn Yan upside down over their heads. It shows that for shoes they wore regular sneakers. Brother John wore war surplus canvas jungle boots from the South Pacific. I wore L.L.Bean canvas canoe shoes. I think the L.L.Bean shoes were best.
REMARKS ABOUT PORTAGES
These are from my narrative/monograph "Locating Michigan's Old Canoe Portages":
In an article in the August 1893 issue of "Harper's New Monthly Magazine", Frederic Remington, famed for his western art, tells of a canoe trip on an Ontario river:
"...a mile of impossible rapids made a 'carry' or 'portage' necessary. Slinging our packs and taking the seventy-pound canoe on our shoulders, we started down the trail. The torture of this sort of thing is as exquisitely perfect in its way as any ever devised. A trunk porter in a summer hotel simply does for a few seconds what we do by the hour, and as far as reconciling this to an idea of physical enjoyment, it cannot be done." At the end of the portage he concludes, "...and it is with a little thrill of joy and the largest sigh of relief possible when we again settle the canoe in the water."
The late Canadian canoeist/artist Bill Mason echoes this sentiment in his beautiful video Water Walker: "Anybody who tells you portaging* is fun is either gotta be a liar or crazy. Now the walk back for the second load, that's the part I like."
* He pronounced it port-ta'-zhing with with the "a" like in "tag".
Deep River Jim said: "Nothing feels quite so good as the rest at the end of the carry."
NEXT: Wind and smoke
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Like Hugh Heward in 1790, I kept a journal of my 1948 canoe trip only I called it a Canoe Trip Log. After studying Hugh's elegant journal I am a little ashamed of mine. Here are some samples:
"Sat. 30 July: O515 left civilization between railroad and power line. Paddled 1/2 hour to Homestretch Island. Lost big muskie by horsing...caught 16" pike (Northern pike, the natives called them "jackfish") 10 minutes later Ned caught big pike at island. Ate breakfast at 1000. Canoes lashed together for rough water. Rained in at Hook Island .Long haul in rough water (We are on Rainy Lake) to Standingstone Point. Spent night. Caught pike".
" Windbound Sun July 31 Took refuge on island off point. Noon meal on island...swim. Camp Sun night..2 pike".
"0900 on way Mon AM. (Aug 1) Big bass..largemouth. Hector (Ken) caught pike. Stopped for lunch. John no longer virgin...his first pike. Camped Mon night on Sphene Lake after portage from Rainy Lake. (RAIN), Hamburgers, fried onions, macaroni and cheese and cocoa for supper...saw two deer."
"Picture #4 at Devils Cascade, #5 at Sphene Lake. Picture #6 at first portage of Manitou River. Camped above rapids after 2 portages, 3 wades & 2 paddle-through rapids.
Two canoes and four guys passed us. They are going to go down the Albany."
Very soon I tightened up the herky-jerky narrative and quit counting fish and describing menus. In re-reading this log I have enjoyed reliving some of those upstream struggles of six decades ago.
Here is a sample of Hugh's journal. On April 23 the party (Hugh and seven French-Canadian paddlers in two 20 foot birchbark canoes) encountered some Indians spearing sturgeon (near present day Onondaga). He called them "an ill looking band of about 12". They traded some tobacco for a sturgeon and took off when they saw more Indians coming. They ran the rapids at present day Eaton Rapids and kept going and camped probably about where Burchfield County Park is today.
"Saturday Apl 24th 1790. Refited our Cannots with Gum & set off passed a Rapid in about an hour (Dimondale) after which high broken Land & some pine Trees the banks of Red land from thence came to a River from the East (Red Cedar) & a little lower two cabins of Indians from Sagana (North Lansing) they were providing Cannots for their Departure the course to this Time nearly Nore West by Nore from thence high broken Land & some pine & Cedar about 11 oClock came to an island in the Middle of the River & a long Rapid & afterwards another Island about Mid Day. (Delta Mills) Dined the Course West Nore West & came to another Island afterwards three Small Islands and some Pine trees on each Side of the River & high Rocks on the North (Grand Ledge) & a small Run of Water from the South (Sandstone Creek) after which another small Island & and a long and pleasant drift of an equal and strong Current the Banks high but the Beach level & Gravelly bottom to a long but not very strong Rapid & to another Island the Course West by North to again high Banks to the North to another Island from thence to four others all together following from here a high Sandy Bank with some pine Trees on the south side after which a Large Island & two small ones following afterwards three Small Islands & two small meadows to North this last Course nearly West heavy Wood on all Sides Encamped Opposite an Island" (In Portland State Game Area near Sebawa Corners).
I took the time to insert punctuation at the logical places when I was doing my research in 1989 and 1990. That made it easier to follow his route on maps and along the river.
This is the day's paddle commemorated by the annual 50 mile Hugh Heward Challenge. This year's Challenge runs from Dimondale to Portland on Saturday April 25 2009.
NEXT: Shooting rapids.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
I suppose I sound like an old man nostalgic for the " Good Old Days" but I am glad I did my canoeing before GPS was invented. It must take away a lot of the thrill of wilderness travel when you know you can't get lost.
This is a re-telling for the Ultimate Hugh Heward Challenge 09 audience of the story of my 1948 canoe trip in Western Ontario which was first published in "Wooden Canoe", the journal of the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association, in its June 1997 issue. The article was entitled "Grandfather's Collegiate Canoe Trip". The author was my grandson Adam Tury.
I will Email this in what my nieces call "digestible bites" to those who were last year's recipients of my almost-daily reports on Charlie Parmelee's Ultimate Hugh Heward Challenge progress paddling and wading and portaging from Lake Erie to Lake Michigan. If you want off the list or know anyone who would like to receive this year's reports let me know. Once th UHHC 09 gets underway I will send out daily reports.
Canoe and eqipment-wise in 1948 we were much more like the 1790 Hugh Heward party than the Challengers who will be paddling and portaging across Michigan's Lower Peninsula this Spring. Grumman was just converting one of its World War II fighter-plane factories to the manufacture of aluminum canoes. Royalex and Kevlar had not yet been invented, graphite was for pencil lead, bicyle wheels were for bicyles not canoe carts, and what I might call the Kruger Revolution in canoe design was still decades in the future. In fact, this trip took place 15 years before Verlen first paddled a canoe of any kind.
"Once upon a time four college guys went on a canoe trip to Western Ontario. Two were veterans (war veterans, not canoe trip veterans) and two were not. I shall call these collegiate voyageurs Ken, Ned, John and Jim.
Ken and Ned purchased an 18 foot Guide Model Penn Yan wood and canvaas canoe from a War Surplus store for the trip and sold it back to the same store afterwards. They were both of rather sleight stature and quite inexperienced.
Jim and John, the veterans, had their family's 18 foot wood and canvas Old Town Otca which had been built in 1921 The Otca had spent most of its previous career on a local resort lake surrounded by cottages and big-band dance pavillions, and where the only wild things were the Saturday night parties. Jim and John were both over six feet tall and had paddling experience.
I turned out to be an even match. The Penn Yan had a low bow and stern and was sleek and light in weight. The Otca had the clssic high ends and was heavy with many layers of paint and varnish. Thus the two smaller, inexperienced canoeists in thei fast Penn Yan kept right up with the two larger, stronger, more experienced paddlers with their heavy weight wind bucker. Actually the Penn Yan traveled more miles than the Old Town because Ken didn't believe in the J-stroke. He insisted on switching sides to steer when he was in the stern, a practice which resulted in a lot of zigging znd zagging by the Penn Yan.
NEXT: Trip planning