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Introducing, at our after breakfast coffee, left to right: Frank, Tony, Don, and Andy.

We broke camp and loaded the canoes in the early morning for our first portage of 1745 metres distance and a 61 metre assent to Grace Lake.

We set out on the water in what was to become our canoe crew configuration: Andy and Frank in Andy's commissioned and handmade 2 man cedar slat fibreglass canoe. Tony, Don, and myself in the 3 man kevlar rental.

credit: Don

It looks as though I was partied out and exhausted at the beginning of the portage.

center: Andy
right: Frank

Left, my little pot belly. I lost that somewhere in the mountains. If you found it send it back to me at...

Barry Smylie

Tony carried the canoe and his paint pack. Don and I carried the bags. That was to be our portage configuration for the next 7 days.

At the top of the portage on Grace Lake, I was exhausted. I could not do the dead head return to pick up more baggage. I was done.


The other guys hiked back 1745 + 1745, picked up the remaining packs and hiked back up the + 61 meter hill, for 1745 meters or: 5235 linear meters and a 122 meter ascent.

Finally, disgusted with myself, blaming my lack of weight simulation training; I started back down the portage trail. I got about 1/3 the way and Andrew gave me a feather weight birch bark scroll to carry for them.

We spent the remainder of August 22 and the next two nights at a provincial park back country campsite on Grace Lake.

Over campfires we told stories and reminisced.

We all missed David, for many reasons, we agreed.

Andy told us the story of the birth of his grandchild two days before. He had promised his daughter that he would stay and to be with her until the baby was born.

Birth is a joyful occasion. I imagined what it would be like without Andrew and David at the campfire and out of that imagining a theme for my eventual story of what felt like the beginning of an epic journey...

Birth and Death.

I don't like these thematic things to happen before a story is told; especially a story with living characters.

I said to the company, "I think we should turn back."

credit: Don "Moonrise on Grace Lake"

Ahead of us lay what we didn't talk about in the planning stages, the unpredicable wild card variable... the crazy challenge that we all, though abstention, had accepted. We were, after 2 nights and 1 day of relaxation on Grace Lake, facing three portages of 2085 (Grace to Nellie up 16 ), 1470 (Nellie to Murray down 70), and 645 meters to our next scheduled campsite on Howry Lake. We planned but had not planned a distance of 4,200 meters three times totally 12,600 meters of portage... and, 6000 metres of paddling in one day.

There were several scenarios discussed but, the one most widely accepted was to take the route, difficult as it was, that we had all taciturnly accepted and had purchased and logged with Ontario Parks. We were to take the lawful path of our contract with the government.

My vote, was the only one for my return to the automobiles plan. I accepted the majority decision as my own.

We drank our 2 ounce daily portion of whiskey each in salute of the decision and turned to lighter topics like:

Which was the best method of disposing of plate scrapings, in the water or on the land?

I like being with this company of men.




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