Wayne, in addition to uncovering the portage route, established that Mina Hubbard’s team went over it in 1905. He credits Job Chapies, one of the members of her team, with having mapped it out from a high hill. It covers over 17 kilometres of trails and lakes as it gets around the rapids in the gorge downstream of the Maid Marion Falls.
It starts with a real challenge, a 20-foot climb up a crumbling undercut cliff, a short distance upstream from the falls (Kilometre 25 on the map above). Wayne had warned me about this. I could not find any alternative route. I therefore spent a good bit of the afternoon pulling my canoe and gear up it by rope. A big complication was the need to climb down the cliff each time, tie the rope to the item to be pulled up and then climb back up the cliff. Protruding limestone blocks from seams slopping downwards, fell out each time, threatening to cause the entire cliff to collapse. The bottom of the cliff became so undercut that I finally had to tie a loop in the rope I used to pull myself up, so that I could put my foot in it and use it as a step.
The picture below, taken after pulling everything up and with me looking a little worse for wear, overlooks the cliff and shows the entrance to the waterfall in the background.
Below is the canal leading to the first lake on the portage, immediately behind the cliff.
Below is lichen forest, found in the easier parts of the portage. The challenge is to try and avoid low lying areas of bog, creeks and ponds, areas covered with windfalls and deadfalls, and areas of alders.
Another challenge is to not lose your packs or canoe as you make successive carries in trackless forest. My average carry would be about 200 to 300 metres and until the weight of my food barrel went down, I was making 4 carries. It is impossible for me to navigate even 200 to 300 metres by compass through dense forest, going around the obstructions such as windfalls and deadfalls, and not end up deviating anything from 5 to 40 metres. I thus made a point of taking a GPS reading each time I set my pack or canoe down for a new stage and wrote it on a scrap of paper in case my GPS should fail. I also carried my spare GPS in my pocket.
Below is one of the lakes on the route (Kilometre 26).
The picture below seems to be showing me deep in thought (Kilometre 40). Thank God I was thinking at that point and had secured the top of my tent to the trees you can see in the picture, as that evening I went through a very violent thunderstorm. My tent was lashed with wind and rain for 2 hours, with me lying inside with every scrap of bedding and most of my clothing exposed. There were lighting strokes about every 10 seconds and at one point my tent seemed to be lifting off the ground.
The latter half of the portage route was over burned country (Kilometre 42).
Below, finally making it back to the Naskaupi after 9 days of hard portaging (Kilometre 43).