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The portage

This story featured in the 2013 March 40th Anniversary issue.

Photo: Layne Kennedy shooting Erik Simula portaging

“Park and play” wasn’t in the lexicon of the voyageurs or Lewis and Clark. When the water ran out or the river became too steep, they portaged. As much as we modern paddlers enjoy the easy road access to our favorite day-trips, it’s portaging that makes the journey. On a weeklong whitewater canoe trip on the Dog River north of Lake Superior, a friend and I endured a mile-long portage on an overgrown trail with two sections of sheer cliff, the second of which ended abruptly in a powerful whirlpool laced with floating floodwater debris. The ordeal took us an entire day, nearly leaving us stranded without boat and gear at the harrowing end of the trail. Strange how hardships soften with time and morph into compelling memories: I wouldn’t want the Dog River any other way. —Conor Mihell

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