June 24 – June 28, 2017
Pascal started the historic but arduous 13.7 km (8.5 mi) Grand Portage which has a elevation gain of 220m., in the rain. Right off the get-go the toboggan didn’t work. So he carried his 60 pound canoe and 40 pound food barrel about 400 meters, and then walked back to get his 80 pound pack, carrying his Pelican case with camera in his hands. Then started all over again, slowly but steadily making his way up the trail. The conditions are awful at the best of times but it had been raining for almost 2 weeks so the trail was muddier than usual. Pascal had to walk in mud over his ankles, he said the bugs were the worse so far and it poured rain over the 15 hours over 2 days it took to do the portage. En route he met “Dr. Juice” (Gregory Bambenek) who gave him some fishing gear and offered some fishing bait “juice” made from an Amazonian recipe. He declined the latter but in retrospect wished he had taken the special concoction. Dr. Juice even tempted him with a ride to avoid the portage but Pascal declined, feeling he would have wimped out had he not done the whole portage. Even though he found it to be extremely gruelling and challenging to say the least, was he happy to have completed it.
Once he made it to the Pigeon River, Pascal paddled upstream as far as the Partridge Falls for the night. He found the river to be very fast and the next day he reached a point about 4 miles up from Partridge Falls where the current was so fast he could not move forward and he was unable to find a portage trail. The river reminded Pascal of the Riviere des Prairies (runs on north shore of Island of Montreal) during the record breaking spring floods and the height of the snow melt this spring. It turns out there isn’t a trail and people must wade upstream to get by the two sets of rapids. But because it had rained heavily for the past 2 weeks, the river was too fast and too high for anyone to get through. Pascal turned around and contacted his Mom to see if she could organize someone to come get him near the falls since he really didn’t want to redo the Grand Portage; once in a week was enough.
Danielle managed to get a hold of the staff at the Grand Portage National Monument who immediately stepped up to the task. Craig, the superintendent, got his team going in no time. He passed messages on to Danielle who in turn communicated with Pascal via the inReach satellite communication (there is no cell service here). Brandon and Mike met Pascal at the parking lot near Partridge Falls and drove him and his canoe to McFarland Lake which is above those difficult rapids. This enabled him to continue his journey as planned; he was tickled pink and so grateful to the guys for all their help. It was far more than he ever expected. Many, many thanks to Craig and his entire team. You were amazing!
On Wednesday, June 28th, Pascal did a relatively easy portage called Height of Land when he went from South Lake to North Lake. The water of South Lake flows south and east to the Great Lakes and eventually to the Atlantic Ocean while the water of North Lake, only 400 yards away, flows north to Hudson Bay. Cool! He will now be paddling with the current for a change. For this reason this portage held special significance for the Voyageurs.
Pascal made it to Gunflint Lodge and Outfitters by mid-afternoon on June 28th. He stopped here to pick up a food drop-off that his parents had mailed to him. Brandon Trapp, along with Mandy Husky helped organize this for him and were very helpful in getting Pascal set up comfortably in the bunk-house. To be continued…..