Portage: a beginning

Come, beach your canoe where I beach mine. Plant a dripping Teva sandal on a firm rock that won’t teeter, climb out of the canoe and stretch your legs. The portage is a green, leafy tunnel leading into the woods. Let’s take it and see where it leads.

Sometimes a portage is a passageway between two lakes, a link when canoeists paddle a circle route. It is marked with a black dotted line on a map that gives no indication whether one’s Teva sandal will scramble over pine needles or sink into muskeg.

Sometimes a portage circumvents a waterfall or a weir. In this case, the portage makes navigation of the waterway possible. It opens a passage that would otherwise be closed.2010 portage sign Killarney

The Leafs take portages in my new book, Portage: a Family, a Canoe, and the Search for the Good Life. Sometimes we decide not to take them, and conclude later that it was a mistake. Or, we bask in the exhilaration of having tested our skill and run white water.

In any case, a portage is an interlude, a chance to leave the canoe and live differently for a while. Exchange water for land. Wind and waves for biting insects. The far view of shorelines for the near view of mosses and flowers. In this blog, I will write about the journey—what we bring along, what we leave behind; whether we choose to travel with crowds or opt for solitude and an unconventional landscape.

So, shoulder your pack and head up the path. Let’s go into the woods.


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