There’ve been many blessings in my life. Being chosen as one of 26 Boy Scouts and two adult leaders to make a wilderness canoe trip in Canada was a real treat … of sorts.
Most guys on the trip were older and bigger. I was 14 and weighed maybe 130 pounds, soaking wet with a rock in each pocket (and, as you will see, that will have a bearing later on in the story). Included were eight older, bigger guys that I would later play high school football against. Whoops!
On the charter bus to Ely, Minn., where the canoe trip launched, I got short shrift with seats. Back of the bus. Aisle. No window. Gripe, gripe, gripe.
But, I was still having fun and that was what the trip was all about.
We arrived in Ely and spent a night in barrack-like structures, before paddling off the next day. After breakfast the next morning we spent time outfitting canoes, putting our undie changes and minimal toiletries in our back packs (carrying only the shirt and jeans you wore each day) and we had to wash out drawers in the crystal-clear waters of the lakes we were to traverse.
We were divided into two groups, 13 Scouts, one adult leader and a canoe base guide. There were a few special supply packs in addition to the personal packs.
Some of us were chosen for special pack duty. Three food packs had to be carried plus a pack that held three five-man tents.
Yep, I got the tent pack, the only one that wasn’t going to get lighter as the trip went on. I didn’t know that and cheerfully accepted the heavier pack. What did I know? Less than I did by the time the canoe trip was over. A couple of nights it rained which increased the tent weight by 50 percent. I complained.
Other guys began to pass me by as their pack sizes dwindled. I griped.
Actually, it was a great deal of fun and a real adventure. Each 15-member, three-canoe group took separate routes.
The scenery was so beautiful and unspoiled that even a grouchy, spider-reared 14-year-old could gawk and enjoy.
On our trek, we saw three other people in 10 days — a honeymoon couple (they really wanted to be alone) and a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman, except his “mount” was a canoe, not a horse. We saw bear, moose, several elk and various smaller wild animals and schools and schools of fish.
Most fish were walleye pike (I caught a 3.5-pounder) or northern pike (slightly smaller and slimmer than the walleye). In one stream, rather than a lake, we caught a few rock bass. There several 5-plus pound pike caught plus one 10-pounder hooked for the trek championship.
We carried tin cups on a lanyard around our necks because you could zip along in your canoe and if you got thirsty, take your lanyard from around your neck and dip the cup in the very pristine, clear water that was often well over 100 feet deep.
There were portages — short hikes, the longest less than a mile — between lakes that didn’t connect but many did. It rained on the last night out. Moan.
That last time to carry the packs was at the base camp and the supply building was at the top of a steep hill. The tent pack seemed to weigh 500 pounds. I stumbled and fell a couple of times. I griped and moaned all the way up that rocky hill.
When we go to the supply building, I opened the pack to get the three wet tents and there were three rocks about the size of a volleyball. I threw them down the hill. Fortunately, I was the last one up the hill.
It was a great trip and a better lesson.
Willis Webb is a retired community newspaper editor-publisher of more than 50 years experience. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.