New story in the Minnesota Conservation Volunteer Magazine:
“So we’re going to walk nine miles?” our oldest daughter asked.
“No,” I said, “only eight.”
“Why didn’t we train for this?”
“It’s not that far.”
Actually, the Grand Portage, a trail at the eastern tip of Minnesota’s arrowhead, was closer to 8½ miles. By the end of the day, we’d feel every step of it, as travelers had for the past 2,000 years, hauling their canoes and goods between Lake Superior and the Pigeon River.
There was no turning back. This was a trip we’d planned long ago. Besides, it wasn’t impossibly far, but it was impossibly cool: the idea that we’d walk the same path used by Anishinaabe and Cree travelers, French-Canadian fur traders, and British soldiers. We’d be traveling back in time on a true “por-taage,” as the voyageurs pronounced it in French. It means a “carrying,” and in this case, it would be a “big carrying.”
The four of us—me, my wife, and our daughters—had gotten our National Park Service backcountry passes to camp for two nights on the Pigeon River at the site where Fort Charlotte used to stand in the late 1700s. Our daughters, ages 10 and 12, accepted the plan when we’d made it. Now they were having second thoughts.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “You’ll be fine.”