Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Cart Portage

I’ve spent the last couple days going through all my gear to see what could be multi-purposed or left behind, trying to reduce weight as much as possible.  While we were at Canoecopia, I purchased a Cooke Custom Sewing (http://www.cookecustomsewing.com/) Explorer Hybrid canoe pack, which is comparable to the standard #3 Duluth canoe pack.  With everything packed, here’s what I ended up with:
Camp Bag: tent, ground clothes, stakes, spare stove bottle, sleeping bag and mat, pillow = 24 lbs.
Food sack: meals and snacks for two weeks = 24 lbs.
Wanagan: all cooking gear, coffee, tea, drink mix, soap, medicines = 10 lbs.
Canoe Pack: foul weather gear, camp shoes, Hippies, dry suit, clothing, SPOT, GPS, guide & maps, map case, and  everything else not mentioned above = 30 lbs.

So, with canoe, cart, food, water, gear, and provisions, the weight on the ground all came to 177 lbs.  With the canoe on the cart, I jiggled and jostled until the canoe was balanced, attached a tow line and pole to the bow, and off we went to give the cart portage a go.  All went well on the pavement and packed gravel, but in thick grass, I could feel every one of those 177 pounds.

The tow line was fastened to the bow handle and the forward thwart on the canoe, and then to a wide web belt I put around my waist.  It took only a couple miles to realize that with no skeletal support at the waist, that put all the strain on my spine, and I soon began to develop a sore back.  I stopped in the parking lot of the vo-tech school, lengthened both the line and pole, and after a short trial with the belt over one shoulder, pulled the belt up around my chest.  That helped a lot, but was still not the solution.  With this set up, however, I struck out and did 4.77 miles, which is just one mile shy of the Grand Portage.

It was obvious I needed a harness that would employ both my torso and shoulders.  My thoughts logically turned to the man-overboard safety harnesses that had seen Jean and I safely across several ocean crossings and thousands of miles of open sea.  I won’t need the tether, since that leads from the front of the harness, or chest, but will wear just the harness with the tow line looped through the back of the harness.  Short of putting a motor on the cart, I think that is as good as it will get. 
While a canoe portage wouldn’t meet with a second thought up in New England, you have to appreciate the humor in towing a loaded canoe through cattle and wheat country, in the part of the country Gen. Zebulon Pike called the Great American Desert.  I had a couple vehicles slow down to about 5 mph as they passed.  I had to assume they were giving me a good stare, as I couldn’t see them through their heavily tinted windows.  One woman did pull alongside and roll her window down to ask, “Are you alright?”  “Fine,” I said, pointing at the loaded canoe, “just out for a little stress training.”  “Oh, that’s cool,” and she pulled away with a thumbs-up.

The best reaction was from about a 12-year-old girl that pulled her bike alongside to ask, “Do you mind telling me what the heck you’re doing!”  I offered a brief explanation that didn’t register, so she added with a giggle, “What is this, your new car?”  “Sure, “I said, “and the other two wheels are supposed to be delivered next week.” 

With a smirk, she said, “Well, I don’t know about all this, but your clothes need a major makeover.”  Taking on the role of fashion police, she continued.  “First of all, it’s summer time.  It’s time to lose that hat.  And that red scarf around your neck just isn’t a good look.  It doesn’t work.  Also, the long sleeved shirt and long pants.  Like I said, it’s summer time.  You should be wearing a tank top and shorts, or at least a short-sleeved tee shire.”
I tried to explain.  “This is a wicking shirt.  The long sleeves are for sun protection, and the shirt draws sweat away to keep me cool.  And, I rarely wear shorts unless I’m going swimming, and they’re called trunks.”
“Trunks!!  No one has said trunks for like---forever.  Forget that word.  Promise you’ll never say trunks again.  They are called swimsuits.”
Feeling the generational gap, I said, “Men wear trunks, women wear swimsuits.”
“No.  No.  Men and women both wear swimsuits.  There are no trunks.”
“What is that, some PC unisex word to use the same term for both men and women?”
“Yeah, now you got it.  But never say trunks again.  And who the heck are you anyhow? as she changed the subject.

Altogether, it was a richly rewarding exercise.  I got a chance to do a portage dry run to test the cart, towing set-up, and test myself, and got a free fashion makeover all at the same time.

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