Portaging and You! A Guide.


It’s been a very, very long spring.  This year has been one of the hardest for me to wait through, being as I’ve found an almost spiritual appreciation for canoeing Ontario.  But life is good again, the ice is out and the sun is shining.  Time to head into the bush!

As of tomorrow, I’m getting my first taste of 2013.  I’m heading into the Kawartha Highlands, a very easy place to camp.  Most of the sites have picnic table, and the routes are well-worn.  That being said, I’m taking the second-longest portage in the park to get to my campsite, and I’m almost crazy enough to be looking forwards to it.

With that being noted, it’s made me look at the finer points or long-distance portaging that I can remember (it’s been years since I’ve had to go over 400m on a portage):

Know your job – Whether you’re in a large group or just flying solo, you’ve got to set up a routine as soon as you can for portaging.  Assign people roles, who carries what, and the order of people going down the path.  This will save you a lot of time as you get to more portages in the trip. 
Be courteous – Regardless of if you’re making a single carry or multiple trips, make sure you know your ediquette on the trail.  Always, and I can’t stress this enough, ALWAYS give the person with the canoe right of way.  They’re more tired and cranky than you are, and have a boat on their head.  If you’re unloading or making multiple carries, make sure your gear is off to the side of the path so that other people can get through as best as possible.

Make sure everything is squared away – There’s nothing worse than following behind a hiker who’s dropping things or getting snagged constantly.  It slows the process unnecessarily, and that’ll piss you off.  Or consider coming to the end of a portage only to find a small group’s living room spread over the put-in.  Taking a extra minute or two for planned packing, and stowing small items like waterbottles and fishing tackle beforehand can make portaging much more efficient and less tedious.

Lashing big things – In a similar vein to the notes above, particularly if you’re going on a solo trip, lashing things to you canoe for the portage can be supremely handy.  Last time I went, I simply used electrical tape to hold my paddle and fishing rod in place (it looked stupid but it worked for the short portage).  This year, since I plan on making many more kilometers per trip over land, I’ve upgrades to lashing elastics.  They’re from Canadian Tire’s bungee cord section, and there’s a ball attached for self-tightening holding power!  (It’s hard to describe).  But the point is that you can use bungees, tape, magic ball things, or eleastic bands to hold bulky items.  Great for going hand’s free.

Go at your own pace – Make sure you’ve got plenty of energy and proper nutition before going out on the portage.  It’s hot, heavy, often painful work.  So make sure you don’t hurt yourself too badly, and try to keep your mind occupied.  Sing under your breath to the beat of your steps, play mind games, talk to someone you’re travelling with, just keep your mind off that terrible weight.  Stop if you need to, enjoy where you are.

Ontario’s got the best backyard in the world, I truly believe that.  There is a growing problem with this human infestation we’ve got, but you can get away from them with a little courage and some steely resolve to make it to the next lake.  I’ve got a laundry list of places to go this year a mile long, and most of them have little portages, or long ones depending on your point of view.  I welcome the challenge, and hope to see you on the trails!

Just stay away from my lakes though.  THey’re MY lakes. 😡

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