The crew has been hard at work fine tuning skills we have already learned from earlier meetings over the last week. Personally, my favorite have been our morning paddles on the Mississippi. We have been fortunate enough to have the Mississippi be smooth as glass, with fog rising off the water as the sun rises. To make the morning paddles even better, the paddling practice we have been doing has really been showing. The guys all seem a lot more comfortable with the different strokes and control of the boat. We have started to adventure towards Little Rock Lake in our paddles more and take "sneak" routes to get there.
To challenge the crew a bit at our last morning paddle, I had the crew pull up on shore farther downstream from Fred's dock on Pine Point. I wanted to show/explain how you look for portage trails when on trail. Now the "trail" that runs from Fred's dock to the point is hardly there because of its 2-3 uses it gets each summer. However, it was the perfect opportunity to have the guys practice flipping the canoe out of the water and portage on a less than perfect trail, which is more common than not on trail. The first 70 yards or so of the portage was what we call a "bush crash", or when you have to make your own trail because there currently isn't one for us to use. We will have to use our map and compass skills on trail to create a bearing with the compass and make our own trails from lake to lake to portage if there isn't one already established. The last 40 yards of our short portage from the point came out on the old trail that was not good, but better than no trail we had before. The guys carrying the canoe got a real good taste of how hard it can be carrying a canoeup on trail when the trails are not good. The guys were squatting to carry it under trees and constantly being jostled around by thick understory and branches. For their first experience in dense cover carrying a canoe, I was thoroughly impressed and excited to watch the guys tackle bush crashes and portages on trail.
Another key part to our recent meetings have been our route planning. Since our first meeting, we haven't been worrying too much about our route until now. For many Voyageur participants it is among their favorite parts of the preparation. The guys have enough maps to cover the whole floor in the meeting room in basecamp and the rest is theirs to explore. I wanted the guys to know how to read the maps and see what different features look like on a map, so I showed them how to find steep terrain, rapids, marsh, cabins, and flow direction of water. It made me so excited to see how enthusiastic the guys were getting about our route. The guys seem very adventurous and determined to go to new places Voyageurs have never been to before. A few highlights for the guys seem to be the "X" south of Old Shoes Lake, the "beach" on Lake Winnipeg, and possibly the Etomami River, a river never been done by Voyageurs north of the Berens River. In our last meeting, we used google earth to explore satellite images of parts of our route to see what it looks like. Although our route is far from done, I couldn't be more excited for our adventure ahead this summer.