August 13, 2019
Big Lake, Height of Land, Starvation Lake
Today we summited the height of land. We are now in our final watershed of the trip, and we will follow its course to the Polar Sea. It is a major turning point for this section of our trip and I can finally say with confidence that the hardest days are behind us. The past fifteen days have been a gauntlet, but it only sweetens what is literally a watershed moment for the ardor and frustration it wrought.
We awoke at 4:30 AM, sleeping in just a tad after yesterday’s trials. We discussed our options to get into Big Lake over breakfast. We could either pull up some shallow rapids and then portage into a small arm of the lake, or we could portage up an ester and walk along it until cutting down into the lake. The majority decided to pull over and portage the shorter distance, much to Zachary’s chagrin. Fear of boulders and wet feet first thing in the morning can make a man go to great lengths to avoid them.
The morning was frigid but clear and by the time we finished pulling up the short rapid we were a bit warmer. The portage was more friendly than anticipated and Big Lake stretched out before us. We paddled 10 km in a cold side wind and reached the northeastern bay of the lake where we had decided to attempt our height of land summit. We chose this route because it offered fewer albeit longer portages.
We scarfed some nuts, took out the drone scout, and started humping over the barren lands. We elected to reintroduce our Methye system, going with six pieces of gear to what we believed to be the halfway point before splitting up, one group returning for the first load while the others continued to the end.
Bram, Zach and I took two boats and double load to the end. Turns out we had probably gone ¾ of the way before splitting up. We returned for the gear and everyone was at the pothole in less than two hours. The portage was probably 1.5 miles long, but it felt much easier than any of us were expecting. We had one more short portage into Starvation Lake and then did a floater for lunch.
The afternoon was sunny, the winds blowing. We threw up the sails and coasted to the end of the lake, camping on a small island before the river. I was even able to read my kindle while solar charging it while we sailed. 21st century canoe trip, baby. We dried our things and took a much needed afternoon rest. The boys are tired, hungry, excited. We are 8-12 days away. Wow.
P.S. Have not caught a fish in 40 days