Lost and found across Ontario

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“Mountain teeth, tips of anemious rippled stone,
a glacier of white cloud settled into the tilting passages”
–Eldon Grier, ‘On the Subject of Waves…’

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Items lost, Ft. Frances to Sault Ste. Marie:

–Adam’s spork: Ever-hanging from his neck by a shoe-string, this was presumably misplaced during a glorious hour-long blueberry-picking bonanza on the last portage of one particularly gruelling day through the Boundary Waters. Blueberries (and raspberries, though to a lesser extent) were especially plentiful throughout Quetico and the Boundary Waters Area; in this case, we were eating the fruits of our labours (in pancakes, jam, etc.) for a good three to four days.

–Pulaski (also: Paul Laski, Roman Pulaski, etc.): For those not in the know, a pulaski is a firefighting tool (part hatchet/part shovel) that has proven its use on this trip in various ways, but above all in the regular morning exercise (typically post-coffee) of hole-digging. In attempting (unsuccessfully) to pull the canoe up one set of rapids, the pulaski was, alas, lost overboard (and, of course, promptly sunk). (Lesson learned for the umpteenth time: if there’s a portage, take it.) In any case, though the pulaski is gone for good, the related euphemisms (to pulaski; to take a morning constitutional with Paul; etc.) will remain.

–Dana’s left Croc: Dropped somewhere along the portage into Rose Lake. It takes about three or four dozen portages, ranging from 20m long to 13.6 km, to get from Ft. Frances to Lake Superior. These are of course made exponentially more physically demanding by the presence of a 240-lb. beast of a canoe. Though there was plenty of trial and error, I’d say we were damned efficient by the time we made it to Gitche Gumee. Quick switch-outs, and lots of communication. (The sound emanating from beneath the 22-foot grunting beluga lumbering through the wilderness might typically go something like: ‘sharp left turn!’ ‘stern’s gonna hafta go way right.’ ‘hands right.’ ‘watch hands right!’ ‘hands left.’ ‘Hans left?’ ‘big log; slow down a sec.’ ‘captain’s log!’ ‘I’m over.’ ‘ok hang on.’ ‘yep.’ ‘alright I’m over it.’ ‘only about 200 metres to go, anyone want a switch?’ ‘YES.’, etc. etc.) In between essential communications, it also offers a fine opportunity for Adrien to try out some of the hip modern English idioms Hugo’s been teaching him (e.g., if a man knocks over your flagoon in a tavern: “Forsooth! I’ll lick you faster than hell can scorch a feather!”). Anyhow, one of Adrien’s flip-flops broke, so he generously offered the remaining one to replace Dana’s lost Croc.

–Some ballbearings/casings from our canoe-wheeling cart: Our portage into Lake Superior was a long haul, and a major test for our cart, refurbished in Ft. Frances. By and large, it held up impressively well, though was assuredly a bit worse for wear by the end. In typical M2M fashion, we found a shortcut (/longcut) alternative to the actual Grand Portage: with the wonderful assistance of our friend Mark (whom we’d met a few days earlier, doing a solo kayaking trip through the Boundary Waters), we packed all our gear into his truck, put both canoes (300+ lbs.) onto our set of wheels, hitched Mark’s bike to the front of it, and lugged/biked the boats around Grand Portage, along old Highway 61 (Hwy 61 revisited?). Instead of 13.6 km, it was probably a little over 20 km, but assuredly less painful than hauling the things on our backs. Many thanks again to Mark for making Grand Portage a little more grand and a lot less gruelling.

–my water bottle: Presumably left in the back of the Parks Canada truck that took us from Marathon to Michipicoten Harbour. Unfortunately, with Pukaskwa Park being closed due to a recent bear attack, we were forced to skip a famously gorgeous portion of the Heritage Coastline. On the plus side, we gained a good 4 or 5 days of paddling. With that boost, and impossibly good weather for our whole time on Superior (with only two fully windbound days), we paddled Grand Portage to the Soo in about two-and-a-half weeks. It also probably helped that, on Superior, we also lost our propensity for sleeping in all the time.

–Dana: On our 100th day, we lost Dana. He opted to switch out for a day with Yann, one in a trio of French cyclists we met, also crossing the country. Each gained a considerable amount of admiration for how arduous the other’s journey can be, and both seemed all the more glad to return, the following day, to their vehicle of choice.

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Carta Canadensis
by Ralph Gustafson

The land starts dentelle, indented,
With tidemark of hills, broadens
Into dark green canting
Over rock eternal with loneliness,
Northwestward tilting from granite
The ochre lakes. This
Is the great Shield clamped
On the place of love. Only
At the tide and inland littoral
Is there literal love. Wharves
Wash on the waves of wheat
Husky with summer luck,
In autumn harvested on the plains.
Fish and wheat, the promise,
Christ and bread,
Brought to the tables of
An iron land.
Backward
Up against the possible
East, the broken mountains
Of magnificence
Sheering the plainsoil northward
Out of sight, roses
Lean, provincial, burning
In their plot.

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