Maybe you’re a bit like me and can understand this: I’m a little weird about rules. Some I follow, some I don’t. Some I don’t care how you do it, whatever you want. Others I get all (I like to think surprisingly) grumpy and controlly about. (I’m not talking about regulation, environmental or safety rules here, I mean more like guidelines, best practices, that kind of thing. So “rules” – which I won’t put the little quotes around from here on out.)
One of my most strict rules is about packing up and transporting your stuff: Do it exactly the same way every time. Everything gets packed in the same bag or sack and goes into the same pack. Everything gets put into each canoe the same way, in the same place. For example, my stove and all it’s parts go in the little black bag with MSR on it, which goes in the green “Kitchen bag”, which always goes in the big blue pack, which gets placed in back area of the blue canoe. (Easy for me when it’s the only pack and one canoe, but you get my point.)
I know what you’re thinking. That might seem a bit compulsive. It is. I’m not a control freak though, or more precisely, I’m not doing it (just) to be one. It has to do with two things. First, you’ll know where to find something as quickly as you need it.
Secondly, it also helps in bigger groups because everyone can learn where everything goes to make it easier to set up and break down camp. Further, it helps with that typical teenage practice of standing around staring at things not knowing what to do. (Not exclusively performed by a teenager, but they’re most famous for that.) Instead, each day is the same, with the same general tasks to packing up to go, everything goes in the same place so just do what you did at the last camp, take-out, put-in etc.. Many a niece or nephew has heard me repeat at the portage “C’mon guys, you know what to do. We’ve done it several times today. Bags out of canoes, canoes off to the side, organize your packs and let’s go.” (Which, in fairness, they would reply, “True, but haven’t we done it enough today?”)
Bonus points if you organize all the packs from the beginning with this idea in mind, with each person’s pack half their stuff, half group stuff. Where’s the water filter? Sue’s pack. First aid kit? Larry’s pack. (Much easier than “Oh, it’s in the red pack, the smaller one, with the dirt stain. No, the other small red pack with the dirt stain.)
So where was a going with this? Right. The big reason I’m strict about this is about not losing anything. The routine helps with this, along with another rule about always doing a last walk-through check at camp and on take-outs.
But like every good practice, tough lessons remind you why you do it, which is what happened at the end of a very long day. (Of course!)
I already talked about my broken seat in the bog the other day, after which I managed to get across the buggy portage without incident, ready to pack the canoe for the 3-4 km paddle to camp for the night. But having to jam the pack under the seat required removing a few things so it would fit, and obviously the pack wouldn’t sit in the same place. Whatever. Let’s just get this canoe packed and go. Tired, annoyed at the seat, not to mention the swarm of bugs, I was very eager to pack up and paddle off to find a campsite. To keep myself motivated, I thought of the spaghetti dinner I packed for tonight. That will be perfect to end this day.
The pack jammed under the seat wasn’t exactly straight, but I leaned my way to camp sometime around 5:30, swatting bugs the whole way. I set up my tent to give me a little breather from the little buggers, and I was ready to have myself well deserved little nap, resting my finally-straight back. I’d eat dinner a bit later, I thought, once I’m a bit more recharged.
My thoughts drifted to the impending sunset and taking some pictures with my… wait… where’s my camera?
I hemmed and hawed (and maybe a little did bit of whining) for a bit. I was barely energetic enough to put up the tent, not paddle an hour or so to where the camera was most likely located – then back again! But really, I had no other choice but to get back in the canoe. As a new fun, screw-you-preston, I also had to re-pack the pack just to be able to jam it under the seat so I can paddle back.
And so I paddled, with lots to think about on the way. How could I have forgotten the camera bag? Never break routine, Preston. Double check, Preston. I must have been so distracted with the seat, the pack, the new items in different places. (Oh, and the black flies certainly added some urgency to the whole thing.) Hopefully it was still there. Ah man, I had a couple of granola bars in the pockets. What if some animal got in there or raced off with it? What if someone had already found it and it was instead already on it’s way out of the park? How would I get it back then? What if someone had already found it and took it to the other side of the portage, or with them for their trip? How the heck would I get it back then? Man, I hope those granola bars are still there. I’m hungry. Ah man, what if someone already found the bag and was eating my granola bars?!
As I finally approached the portage, I intensely stared at the shore slowly getting closer. Is that orange? Yep. That’s a bit of orange. It’s there! What a relief. No, wait, that’s not orange at all. Weird what the shadows do at this time of night… focus, Preston. Is that it?
It was. Whew! (But I was wrong about the granola bars though. I must have eaten them earlier.)
So what would you do after a long paddle to retrieve a camera after a long day of paddling and portaging? You take some photos, quick. As you can see in the pictures, I arrived at 8:23, officially 21 minutes before the sunset that day. And because I was pretty tired anyway, I stopped for lots of breaks – err, I mean photos – on my paddle back.
I made it back to camp, paddling through darkness, which was really kind of nice, to be honest. It was cooling down and the paddle was pretty soothing in the calm, still waters, with no noise but the bull frogs and the trickles of water from the moving paddle. It was also finally when the bugs let up, and let me (re) set up camp and start to make dinner in peace.
Except… I found out I didn’t actually pack the spaghetti I was so looking forward to eating. Chili again. But again, all told, still way better than a good day at the office.
Next time: Part 3 – The better stuff from the trip 🙂 .Testing out new gear for me and Nancy, including some food she’d actually eat.
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