My Beautiful, Cherished Memory

The challenge for this week is to write a post about a heart-warming, cherished memory with your family. The ones that will “stay with you forever”.

And I’m going to write about the time I nearly died.

I do feel slightly guilty about that. I mean, it’s not like my parents do that a lot. Or… ever, actually. They’re not like, hey, Mackenzie- I bet you can’t wait to go freeze to death this weekend! And I don’t roll my eyes and groan, moooooooom, do we really have to? I just got over the food poisoning. 

This was out of the ordinary. You know. Thought they’d spice things up.

For some reason, my dad thought it would be a fun bonding experience to go on a canoe trip in Algonquin park. It was a nice thought. Really. And… okay, I’m going to be honest here: I might’ve been the tiniest bit cocky when we were planning our route. But our longest portage that day was only 3,000 meters- a walk in the park (literally). I wasn’t worried.

We hadn’t even gotten into Algonquin yet when we realized we’d left our water bottles at home.

And it was the hottest day of the summer.

Still, I wasn’t worried. My dad and I bought new ones.

We kept going. And I think somewhere around the first portage, after I attempted to carry the pack on my back and our miniature food barrel on my front, that I started to get a bit nervous. At the camp that I go to, we always have as many canoes/packs as people. There was never any need to do the portages twice. I’d thought that since our food barrel was the size of a regular backpack and not a German Shepherd, I might be able to wear it on my front.

Then I actually put the two packs on, still feeling pretty confident, and walked all of ten swaying feet before promptly collapsing.

I guess it didn’t seem like such a big deal at first. That portage was around 200 meters, so between the first trip, going back to the start, and then doing it all over again, I only walked about 600 meters. No biggie.

So we loaded up our canoe again. And paddled. By the time we reached our last and longest portage of the day, the 3,000 meter one to Welcome Lake, my dad and I were already soaked in sweat. I don’t know if you know what that feels like, to actually be dripping with the stuff, but it’s very uncomfortable.

It was already four in the afternoon. And the lake we were coming from was all murky and grungy and gross- even with Aqua Tabs, I wouldn’t want to drink it. But our water bottles were almost empty. And it was the hottest day of the summer.

None of that really mattered, though. There was still a three-thousand meter portage between us and the lake we were camping on, and any misfortunate that lead us to that situation was not so willing to apologize.

It’s hard to explain what portaging feels like. Maybe it feels different for everyone, and you’re reading this and thinking, you’re glazing over the whole thing. There’s nothing motivating about walking in a forest with a fifty-pound pack on your back. It just hurts. A lot. And you get eaten alive by mosquitos. Literally, you feel like maybe you’re going to drop dead from exhaustion- but no one would know what happened to you, because your body would have shriveled up like a raisin from all the blood they stole from you.  

Well, all of that’s true. And I don’t want to seem like I’m glazing over it. Portaging is literally walking for long periods of time over uneven ground carrying something half your weight, and while I was trudging along that path, hot and sweaty and parched, I was definitely reconsidering a more “relaxed” vacation. A cruise to Hawaii was sounding fairly tempting. And I think that only makes my next point seem even more insane, but that’s why I love canoe tripping. It’s real. That might be because you feel like tiny flying vampires are eating your flesh- that might be because you start feeling like the inside of a lava cake might be cooler- but either way, it’s real.

You can’t almost die of heat stroke and say, “well, it was all right”. Take it from me.

Algonquin Park

2 thoughts on “My Beautiful, Cherished Memory

  1. Mackenzie,
    Your humour comes through so well in your writing. I was visualizing this trip and the portage sections in particular. If this happened in summer, I know how big those mosquitoes are – ginormous – half a dozen of them could have carried you away.

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