I’ve been thinking of putting a few "episodes" of this blog into permanent form in a scrapbook. This led me back to its beginnings more than a thousand posts ago. I’m making a list and checking it twice and with a few minor revisions some these will be reposted. There were few readers back in those days but I love writing and so kept going.To be certain, the following true story occurred when I young and foolish. Unbeknownst to me, at the time, my young wife, showing more sense than me, and with our first child and a home mortgage in hand, took out a large short term life insurance policy on me and said somewhat skeptically, "go for it tiger."
Part 1: LaBatt versus Molson (Mid 1970's)
It was one of famous author Cliff Jacobson’s books on wilderness canoeing that led one of my younger brothers and me to believe "we can do this." We were experienced canoe campers in the semi-wild Boundary Waters Canoe Area of northeastern Minnesota’s Arrowhead Country. "This" was a two man-expedition into the true wilderness of Ontario, north of Lake Superior. We were sure it was not beyond our abilities and experience. The deciding factor was that it was a "loop" route which we would be paddling. No roads, no people and no cell phones in those days in case of serious accident.... you were on your own. It also meant we would make a giant arc for more than a week, through a chain of lakes heading north, and then enter the Steel River drainage, completing the circle south to our starting point. Neat idea we thought.
The plan was to drive from the Twin Cities and cross the border into Canada. Then follow the highway, along the northern shore of Lake Superior, till we came to Terrace Bay, Ontario. Here we would get permits and some maps at the local Ranger station and then proceed about 16 miles east to a turn-off heading north a few miles to Santoy Lake.
I mislabeled the old slide as Steel Lake. I'm on the dock at SantoyWe arrived at Santoy early in the evening, and checked out the landing.
It didn’t amount to much but canoes don’t need much either. Santoy was a beautiful lake which stretched north into the distance for more than 12 miles. It would be some distance to find our first portage along the western shoreline. We had been warned by the Ranger (among other things) to keep a sharp eye. None of the portages were marked. We headed back to the van for a sandwich supper and intended to turn in early as it had already been a long day and drive. As dusk settled around us, a number of pickup trucks began to arrive down by the lake. Soon a bonfire appeared and much laughter and shouting ensued. Of course, we had to investigate.
It was the Friday night gathering of local pulp mill workers. Discovering that we were Americans, they felt it incumbent upon themselves that they should offer us several choices of beer. It was Molson or Labatt’s.
As the evening progressed it became apparent to us that one of the most vital controversies facing the Canadian nation, at that time, was the relative merits of each of these fine brands. As the discussion on this sudsy issue became more heated it occurred to me that, at some point, we (the neutral Americans) might be drawn in to "settle" the argument." "Not a good idea," I thought.
I was able to turn the discussion at a few points to the question of fishing along our planned route. Some advice was given but the name of the "Diablo Lake portage" appeared frequently and even ominously it seemed to me. Pleading an early start in the morning, we managed to escape (beers in hand) from further heated argumentation. A "devil" of a portage, they said. How devilish could it be we wondered? We were soon to find out.
To be continued…..
To be continued…..