Day 12, and we were slow to get moving. The dreaded Dickson/Bonefield portage was waiting for us. It’s a total distance of over five kilometres. Yikes!
That definitely called for pouring a second cup of coffee and extra flapjacks. Thinking about it, though, the distance was below average. Seven kilometres was becoming the norm most of the time. Day 12 just had us doing three other short carries, one leading into Dickson Lake where the long portage began and two more taking us to Opeongo — Algonquin’s largest lake. But I still procrastinated. This portage was different in a way. It was one solid carry — one that takes approximately two straight hours to complete. I’ve also done it before — several times — and each time promised myself never to do it again. Now I’m doing it again.
Andy and I completed the portage in two hours and 10 minutes. Not a bad time, but definitely not my best. Trees were down across the trail due to a recent storm and that slowed us up a bit. My wife and I completed it years ago in one hour and 40 minutes. I was much younger of course; and we also had a nuisance bear stalk us most of the way. Our plan was to stop every 20 minutes for a break. Each time I put the canoe down; however, the bear was standing on the trail behind me just waiting to rummage through our packs, so my wife and I just continued on.
Andy and I had the luxury of a boat shuttle waiting to take us across Algonquin’s Opeongo Lake. I used the satellite phone to call Gerry Shmanda, manager of the Opeongo Algonquin Outfitter store. We were privileged to even have Gerry himself do the pick-up and he gave us a personal tour of all the historic hotspots on the lake. He also hand delivered our third and last food-drop organized through Algonquin Outfitters.
Taking the ride across Opeongo caused a bit of a stir on social media. It seems a few Meanest Link alumni didn’t agree with us taking the boat across; some even labelled Andy and I “cheaters.” They had a point — the traditional way to cross this huge lake is by paddling across. In our defence, we had planned to cheat — and here’s why. Andy only had 16 days off work and I had set out 20 days for the trip. Our plan was that Andy would leave the trip on day 16, which we thought would be the Opeongo access point. At first, not completing the full loop was okay for Andy. He’s not a Type A personality and had no desire to finish the link — he just wanted to be in the woods for a solid amount of time. Best laid plans, however, don’t always work in the bush. By the time we reached Lake Laveille Andy calculated that we could both make it to the end if we paddled longer days — and broke a few rules along the way.
It came right down to group dynamics. Should I keep to the plan and leave my canoemate a few days from the end, following “tradition” — or should Andy and I change things up a bit and cross the finish line together.
According to Facebook statistics, 3,894 agreed with our decision and 5 were against. Andy and I paddled on guilt-free.