Sunday, June 12 - Day One
We left the Combs' household at 8:14 a.m., our parents with Cheshire grins waving ecstatic goodbyes. Perry Westhaus had worked on his van for our trip and it was indeed much smoother than when we took it to the Florida Sea Base in 1992. We drove nonstop for three and a half hours before making our first stop at a roadside rest area for lunch. After eating our sack lunches and watching Jeremy and Keith play drop the ball, we continued onward through the bland countryside. We entered into the central standard time zone (which will be used for the rest of the journal except as noted) and soon stopped for gas. Scouts were assigned pit crew duties such as checking the oil and power steering fluid, washing the windows, and pumping petrol. Rob learned the hard way that the gas splashes out of the tank when it becomes full. Refueled and refreshed we resumed our ride. Illinois' slogan may be "The Land of Lincoln", but we felt it should be known as "The Pick Pocket State" since we paid eight tolls for a grand total of $2.95. We made a quick stop for a picture at the Wisconsin state sign. Wisconsin's state slogan could easily have been "The Venison Road Kill Capital" in that we counted thirteen dead deer along the highway. We continued traveling through dinner time and Jeremy made sandwiches to tide us over until we reached a campground. We took a wrong turn on route 53 and it took us an additional 25 miles to get back on track. We finally arrived at Trego Park Campground just before 8:00 p.m. and were greeted by a campground host who resembled Lurch (from the Addams Family) in both appearance and speech. However, the $1.50 per person fee and the fact that we could get a campsite with a small picnic shelter convinced us to stay. The Scouts made a great dinner of hamburgers, tossed salad, BBQ potato chips, and soft drinks. The roof of the shelter was pretty low and most everyone got an opportunity to bump their head at least once. Before the evening was over, Sean was "crowned" the head bumping champion. Everyone was told to set their watches for 7:00 a.m. so we would have plenty of time to get to the canoe base in the morning. James and Sean went down to the lake and Jeremy and Keith set up a tent on the grass. The rest of us moved the picnic tables out from under the shelter and threw our ground cloths and sleeping bags on the concrete floor. We went to bed at 9:55 p.m. just as a light rain began to fall. A mosquito convention happened to be staying in the same campground and they decided to stop by and pay us a visit. Rick and John set up their tent under the shelter as did James and Sean. The rain continued through the night and into the next morning.
Monday, June 13 - Day Two
James' alarm went off at 7:00 a.m. EST, not 7:00 a.m. CST! Fortunately, the Scouts remembered the principles of the Scout Law seconds before attempting to murder James. John took a shower while the rest of the guys packed and prepared breakfast. We devoured sweat rolls and cereal while recalling our favorite Monty Python skits. We bid Lurch ado at 7:34 a.m. and hopped over to the little town of Trego for gas. The scenery was now becoming more beautiful with the hilly road being lined with aspens and pines. We arrived in the heavily industrialized town of Superior which sits conveniently along side of Lake Superior. A poorly marked detour was responsible for us getting lost, but faced us in the right direction to see a beautiful rainbow. We crossed a huge steel bridge which took us into Minnesota and the town of Duluth. Huge freighters were on the lake and many trains were busily shuttling their cargo to the docks. We finally got on the right road again and journeyed through beautiful pine forests and sparkling streams and lakes. We arrived at the canoe base at 11:52 a.m. and spent a hunk of time taking group pictures at the sign. We parked in their gravel parking lot and then used one of their shelters to prepare a lunch of turkey sandwiches, hamburgers, chips, fudge rounds, and left over sweet rolls. The mosquitoes quickly made their presence known, but we found that staying in the sun seemed to lessen their numbers. While repacking the van, we were greeted by our guide, Tero Mustonen, an international Scout from Finland. Since the staff was not ready to check crews in yet, Tero passed the time by answering any questions we had. Eventually, he took John, Rick, and Jeremy to the check in building where we turned in our paperwork and were given instructions about the base. We were told that our voyage would begin tomorrow and that we had to spend one night on Moose Lake before we entered into Quetico Provincial Park in Canada. Tero then had us load our equipment into a two wheeled cart and led us to our cabin. The camp itself is somewhat small with all buildings within an easy walking distance. There are only six small cabins for either outgoing or incoming crews. Each cabin holds four bunk beds which are separated just enough to let one person walk from one end to the other. James and John went to food packing (located below the dining hall) with Tero while the others rested. To say the food packing procedure was unique would be like saying female mosquitoes are mildly attracted to blood. Some of the food was dehydrated while some of the items consisted of whole peppers, onions, potatoes, apples, carrots, and steaks. Some of the food was prepackaged while other items were scooped from buckets with measuring cups. Some items were not even available and would have to be picked up the next morning. However, we eventually packed our food into thin plastic bags and loaded them into two food packs. Tero started our equipment shakedown. We took all our gear outside our cabin and spread it on the ground. He then gave us a Duluth pack which theoretically could hold gear for three people. Yaw, right And I'm Donald Trump! To make matters even worse, crowds of mosquitoes gathered to observe and assist. We shoved and pushed and kicked and squashed our gear into the packs all the while wondering why the canoe base had given us a list of gear to bring that would never fit into these minuscule packs. The mosquitoes irritated the situation and many a Scout ran for his headnet. Tero then took us on a short tour of the camp which is adjacent to Moose Lake, the start of our voyage. We finally ended up at bay post, the building where voyage equipment is issued. It was nice to be in a building that barricaded us from blood thirsty bugs. The puke in charge of equipment issue was fairly adamant about what optional items we should take. However, he was against us taking three 3-4 man tents. The guide said he had his own accommodations and that the eight of us would be able to squeeze ourselves into two tents. If we could have only foretold the future! He also issued us a shovel (AKA Canadian crapper) since there would be no pit toilets in Canada. As with our personal gear, the crew equipment would not fit into its pack. The equipment issue puke then came over to teach us the correct way to pack the equipment so it would fit. He did a fairly good job, but could not get the water buckets in. Since he would be checking our equipment back in at the end of the trip, we figured it was best not to razz him about his failure. Stepping into the next room, we began planning our canoe route. The Scouts planned a rigorous adventure that would have us paddling 10-15 miles and 3-7 portages a day in the Canadian wilderness. They also felt masochistic enough to attempt Yum Yum, the grand daddy of all portages. It consists of one mile of steep up and down hill traveling complete with swamps, rock walls, water falls, and dense brush. You figure these Scouts out! James and Jeremy left during the planning since they were serving as our dinner waiters. We jotted down our itinerary plans and made a late dash for the dining hall. The dining hall is a smaller room which holds exactly 54 people (maximum of six crews of eight and their interpreter/guide in camp per day) and a small food distribution area. After repeating the canoe base grace, we ate a dinner of fish, French fries, tossed salad, Cole slaw, fruit cocktail, and cookies. Next, we went to the trading post. Seems that only two interpreter escorted crews are permitted in the trading post at a time. Therefore, we had to wait a while before getting in. We then returned to the dining hall and watched two videos, one on proper camping procedures and the other on voyager history. We returned to our cabin and resumed the impossible task of getting our personal equipment into the ever shrinking packs. We took our surplus equipment to the van and were fortunate enough to see a moose walking through a small pond. We returned to the cabin and indulged in various forms of horseplay until 10:30 p.m.
Tuesday, June 14 - Day Three
We awoke at 6:40 a.m. to the sound of pouring rain and heavy duty thunder. Scott, the camp director, told us severe thunderstorm warnings were issued and we were restricted to either the dining hall or our cabin. Soon, Tero came and escorted us to the dining hall through heavy rain, massive puddles, and vicious lightning. The dining hall mood was very somber. Most crews arrived late and breakfast was held until 7:15 a.m. We eagerly devoured "all you can eat north woods" pancakes, scrambled eggs, applesauce and orange juice. We were then told to head back to our cabins to wait out the storm. We packed up our bedding and left the cabin even though several of us felt this was tantamount to suicide. We stopped by the commissary to pick up our food and get the items they had run out of the day before. By now the rain had stopped. Next, we stopped at bay post to retrieve our equipment. Tero and John were issued a portable radio and then received training on how to use it. Bugs by the gazillions set upon the rest of the crew as they waited outside. Head nets instantly became highly valuable commodities, worth their weight in gold. Next, we picked out our paddles and life rackets and headed for the canoe racks. Tero gave us instruction on how to lift and carry a canoe and then let each of us have an opportunity to try it. We gathered up all our gear and canoes and headed for Moose Lake. Tero showed us the proper way to load and ride in a canoe. First, the canoe is placed in the water, rear end first. All the gear is loaded into the middle of the canoe. Next, the person who sits in the back gets in and sits down. Now the garbage man (person sitting in the middle) gets in, sits down behind the gear and puts his legs up on top of the gear. Now the person sitting in the front pushes the canoe into deeper water (yes, getting your boots and socks soaking wet) and hops in the canoe. The garbage man does not paddle and thus he gets to carry the canoe through the portage. We invaded Moose Lake at 10:13 a.m. and got instant relief from the bugs. The sky was gray and it looked like it might dump buckets of rain on us at any minute. Soon a moderate wind kicked up which made for more difficult paddling. Several motor boats were tooling around the lake and their wake made our heavily loaded canoes rock precariously. There were several dozen other canoes on the lake, all of which held weather stained fisherman with somber faces. Moose Lake itself was very beautiful, lined with pines and aspens and containing several small rustic islands. Tero picked out a campsite and we pulled into shore at 12:24 p.m. Tero taught us the rules to making camp. First, we unloaded the canoes, pulled them completely on shore and turned them over to drain. Next, we set up the dining fly and our tents. Now two Scouts would take our water buckets, go out to the middle of the lake, fill the buckets, and bring them back. Tero says the water is pure enough to drink when retrieved from the middle of the lake. As a precaution, an iodine purification system is used which virtually guarantees pure drinking water. Finally, we sat down and ate our lunch. We feasted on turkey and cheese sandwiches and oranges. Still feeling somewhat empty, we were given the proper instruction on how to hang our food bags from tree branches so animals could not get to our food. With this task completed, the Scouts had some free time to go exploring in the woods or just plain sitting back and relaxing. Tero tried his hand at fishing and soon caught a 12 inch small mouth bass. Sean filleted one side and Rob did the other. James and Sean tried their luck at fishing, but came up empty handed. Most of the Scouts took a nap while John peeled and sliced vegetables for dinner. Once all the Scouts had returned to the land of the living, Tero gave instructions on how to use the "Happy Bob" stove. This four sided stove holds the fire in the bottom and has a rack on the top for pots or cakes. They guys used it to cook stew (sirloin tip, potatoes, onions, green peppers, and carrots) and a cherry cake. Just as we finished supper, the sun came out, the wind calmed down, and the temperatures warmed slightly. This created an urge to expend energy in such areas as fishing, canoeing, or exploring. Everyone turned in by 9:15 p.m. with Tero sleeping in a covered, screened in hammock.
Wednesday, June 15 - Day Four
Lively thunderstorms struck just after midnight. Tero abandoned his hammock and demanded to be squeezed into the tent occupied by John, Rick, Keith, and Jeremy. A second thunderstorm struck at 2:00 a.m. which made us all feel uneasy in our nylon palaces. The alarm woke us up at 7:00 a.m. We packed our gear, folded our wet tents, and loaded the crew gear. Jeremy and Keith tortured us with a breakfast of slightly burnt dehydrated eggs and rubbery hash browns. We loaded our gear into our canoes and shoved off at 9:48 a.m. The lake was full of birds. Echoes of gulls bounced across the lake while loons disappeared below the waters in search of breakfast. We arrived at Canadian customs at 10:17 a.m. and quickly pulled our canoes from the water and out of the way. We waited about 10 minutes for another crew to check in and then portaged our canoes and gear through Prairie Portage to the check in station. An attractive blonde ranger with a beautiful black dog awaited us at the Canadian customs building. She checked our paperwork and various forms of identification and signed the form giving us permission to enter Canada. Next, we walked over to the ranger's station to pay our Canadian entry and camping fees and purchase our fishing licenses. This female ranger, an obvious descendant of Jabba the Hut, informed us that we were supposed to have reported in yesterday. Since we didn't do this, she listed us as a no show and canceled our reservations. Therefore, we would not be permitted to enter into Canada. Needless to say, our guys were pretty disappointed. We portaged back to Moose Lake where Tero tried to radio the base for assistance. Since the base did not respond, we decided to plan a Boundary Waters trip (U.S. side) and the Scouts would fish without a license at their own risk. Tero borrowed a Boundary Waters map from another crew and we planned our trek. We portaged through Prairie Portage for the third time and began our freshly planned journey. We journeyed across Bass Lake, one of the biggest lakes in the area, under blue skies and warming temperatures. However, dark clouds were coming in and Tero urged us quickly onward. The cry of loons echoed across the lake as if they too were telling us to hurry along. We eventually came upon a deer carcass floating read end up in the water. Bizarre! Tero picked out a camp just as it began to sprinkle rain. As it turned out, the camp was totally covered with garbage. The Scouts reluctantly picked up all the trash, knowing that they would have to carry it for the rest of our trip. Tero tried the radio again and was able to reach the base. He informed them of our itinerary change and they agreed to let us go ahead with it. Another crew stopped by and informed us that one of their food bags had gotten switched with ours back at Prairie Portage. We swapped food bags (after a close inspection of the contents of the food packs) and they continued on their journey. We set up camp and Jeremy and Keith cleaned the pots used during breakfast. Scouts occupied themselves in a variety of ways such as collecting firewood, fishing, relaxing, or watching dragonflies circling overhead. Rob spent an inordinate amount of time quizzing Tero on rock bands and Beavis and Butthead. It showered off and on for most of the rest of the day. Rob and Heath cooked a dinner of macaroni and cheese and grape Kool-aid. Another filling meal! Keith found a five leaf clover and made sure everyone in camp saw it. Heath used the Happy Bob to make two chocolate cakes while Sean and James went canoe fishing. Rob and Tero continued their discussion of rock bands, centering on heavy metal bands and the deep meanings behind their songs. Several other Scouts went out in canoes, but soon returned when they received an unexpected and unwanted shower. Tero insisted on sleeping in the tent even though it was not raining. John countered by sleeping under the dining fly. By 8:30 p.m. everyone was in bed.
Thursday, June 16 - Day Five
The crew began rolling out of bed at 6:00 a.m. Rob and Heath fixed a breakfast of granola bars, granola cereal with hot instant milk, and Tang. Doesn't that make your mouth water uncontrollably? We broke camp and were back in our canoes by 9:05 a.m. We had not traveled far when it began to rain pretty hard. Tero had us stay close to the shore in case of lightning. Of course sitting in a metal canoe in water was not a comforting thought. The rain increased its tempo and the wind started blowing strongly. This made for very cold canoeing, especially for the garbage men. Bass Lake seemed to go on forever, and traveling the extra distance by staying close to the shore made it seem even longer. We made one quick stop so James could go to the bathroom. We finally arrived at the end of Bass Lake and began looking for a portage. Tero had us stop at a campsite to ask for directions. Seeing no one, Tero peeked inside a tent and asked for assistance. A young woman came out, fortunately undisturbed by the invasion of privacy, and told Tero he was a mile off course. Our guide had gotten us lost! Tero had the garbage men take over as paddlers since they were getting extremely cold. We finally found our portage, a narrow cut out in a thicket of cattails. We dragged our canoes on shore with John and Rick both shivering uncontrollably. We portaged through thorns, mosquitoes, rain, and mud. We quickly reloaded the gear and were on our way again. Fortunately, the portage had warmed us up considerably. After a mere five minutes of paddling, we stopped at a campsite. Heath didn't like it because it was not very flat. We continued on and found a very beautiful site nestled in a quiet little bay. We disembarked, set up the dining fly, and stowed our gear under it. We ate a lunch of Hudson Bay Bread ("Drink water with it, please."), peanut butter and jelly. Tero took a little extra food for himself saying he needed it because he worked harder. We then hung out our water saturated clothes to dry and set up our tents. Even though it began to rain again, spirits remained quite good. Scouts entertained themselves by pushing puddles of water off the dining fly or putting together the camp saw. Sean and James' canoe came loose from the shore and floated away. Jeremy and Sean hopped in a canoe and quickly retrieved it. The Scouts sat around and talked while John and Rick took a nap. James and Sean made a chicken and rice dinner with peas and corn added. John got up from his nap shaking uncontrollably, ate a couple of bites of food, and went back to bed. After dinner, the Scouts hung the food bags and Jeremy and Keith cleaned up. The guys voted to have a layover day at this site unless it was raining in the morning. Everyone was in their tent by 6:45 p.m. with Tero again forcing his way into the adult tent.
Friday, June 17 - Day Six
Another very intense thunderstorm hit at 2:15 a.m. The rain was very, very, very heavy and the lightning was striking very close to us. This made for some very uncomfortable sleeping. Since it was a layover day, guys emerged from their tents a little on the late side. Eventually, Sean and James made a breakfast of oatmeal, hot chocolate, and Tang. John spent an hour trying to get a fire going and eventually succeeded. James, Sean, and Tero went fishing and Tero quickly caught a two foot northern pike. Tero seems to have an incredible knack for catching fish within the first five to ten minutes. Unfortunately, Tero is allergic to fish (and chicken) and thus does not have the luxury of enjoying his catch. Rick cleaned the fish for Tero and put the fillets in a pot of water for dinner. Everyone put their gear by the fire or on clotheslines to dry. They also spent time collecting wood to keep the fire going and thus continue the drying process. Heath's boot dried out a little bit too much and caught fire! Lunch was crackers, summer sausage, squeeze cheese, granola bars, and Kool-aid. At 12:30 p.m. it again began to rain. Most of the Scouts stayed by the fire during the rain showers so their clothes would dry out. Makes sense doesn't it? After about a half an hour, the liquid sunshine ceased and John got the fisherman scrambling by promising to buy a Dairy Queen Blizzard to the Scout who caught the biggest fish. Within 15 minutes, Sean caught a 22 inch northern pike. There will never be a sun rise like the smile on his face. The fishing continued throughout the afternoon, but nothing else was caught. Sean cleaned his fish, Pete the pike, while James gave instruction on how to not cast a fishing line. Rob cooked an incredible dinner of chicken, rice, and noodles and Heath prepared the Happy Bob for cooking a cake. Our evening's entertainment was watching Sean completely emerging himself into the lake to retrieve his fishing lure which Rick had lost. Tero topped this show by having all the Scouts practice tipping their canoes in the middle of the lake and then setting them upright again. Scouts would tip their canoe, have another canoe help empty it and turn it right side up, and get back in without getting water in the canoe. All the Scouts did well except Rob who spazed out when he hit the water. Next, the guys were given the opportunity to paddle a swamped canoe back to shore. James, Heath, and Jeremy enjoyed the lesson so much that they jumped back in the lake for an evening's swim. By now the cake was done so we all gathered around and eagerly consumed it. Rick and John canoed out onto the lake for drinking water and also to see an eagle's nest and beaver dam. Sean cooked his "Pete the pike" and also the fish that Tero caught. Both pikes were quickly devoured. The dishes scrubbed, the personal equipment stowed and the food bag hung for the night, the crew crept to the lake to watch the beaver swim by our campsite. These shy creatures would smack their tails against the water and submerge whenever someone would get close to them. The guys started going to bed around 8:30 p.m. with Tero finally spending a night in his hammock.
Saturday, June 18 - Day Seven
We awoke at 7:40 a.m. and were very pleased and definitely surprised to see a sky full of blue. Rob conjured up a breakfast of cream of wheat, hot chocolate and Tang. Several Scouts speculated aloud on how the canoe base could expect us to have energy to paddle after such a paltry breakfast. We tore down camp while Rob and Heath did cleanup. Rick and John saw a pileated woodpecker which unfortunately flew away before Rick could get his camera. We packed up the canoes, put on our shoes (which were still wet from last night's entertainment), and hit the water. We quietly and solemnly paddled past the eagle's nest and out of the bay. We were soon startled by the sound of motorboats hauling fisherman from one fishing spot to another. It was then that we realized how fortunate we were to have stayed in our quiet little bay. During the day's paddling, we saw three beaver lodges, a small rustic cabin, and a well kept Indian tee pee. Several members of the crew wanted to explore the cabin and tee pee, but Tero advised against it. The weather continued to be sunny and we made good time paddling across the lake. Eventually Tero admitted that he had again gotten lost and stopped to ask directions from some fisherman. They got quite a hoot from hearing that a group of Boy Scouts had gotten themselves lost. We were again about a mile off course, but decided to find a close campsite and hang it up for the day. We found an empty site on Washington Island and made a landing there. Tero decided we should eat lunch before setting up camp. We ate crackers, summer sausage, cheese, granola bars, and Kool-aid. We then set up camp and hung all of our stuff out to dry. We all gathered around the fire grate and talked for a bit while Tero napped in his hammock. Some of the Scouts took out canoes for fishing, exploring, or making a quick trip to the Canadian side. Eventually everyone returned to camp and we all sat around the fire grate to watch Keith and Jeremy fix dinner. This evening's entertainment was watching James taking on various troop members in a pine cone fight. He quit when all of the crew members joined together to conquer him. We ate our dinner of beef and potatoes, macaroni and cheese, cheese cakes and Kool-aid. Tero started a run on the toilet paper when he announced that we were almost out of toilet paper and should use it sparingly. For the first time on the trip, all of our clothes were dry. Originally our campsite looked more like a rummage sale, but now the Scouts began taking down clothes and putting them away. Sean, James, Rob, Heath, and Rick went on an hour and a half canoe trip in an effort to get enough miles in for the 50 miler award. The rest of the guys stayed at camp and talked and hung the food bags. The 50 miler wanna be's returned at 8:30 p.m. and we all turned in by 8:45. The talking began to die down around 9:30 p.m. and all were asleep soon thereafter.
Sunday, June 19 - Day Eight
We awoke at 7:00 a.m. and Keith and Jeremy fixed a breakfast of oatmeal and raisins, Tang, and hot chocolate at the speed of a photon. The guys were very fast at breaking camp, maybe due to the enormous mosquito population. We departed at 9:09 a.m. and began canoeing into a fairly strong wind. Our partly sunny skies soon turned to gray and more than one Scout in the crew began praying for no more rain. We hit our portage at 10:12 a.m., but had to wait while another group got their equipment off the shore. As it turned out, this would be a portage to remember. The first quarter of a mile was very rocky, muddy, wet, and flat. Next, we encountered a 20 foot wide stream with no easy crossing points. We waded through ice cold water which surged around our knees and tugged at our shoes.. This would not be a good time to fall down. The next quarter mile stretch went steeply uphill before finally leveling off. Soon we arrived at a small bay. Tero put the leader's canoe in the water and went back to help carry the other canoes (something he always does). We reloaded our canoes and continued our paddling through a small marshy bay. We soon encountered a small blockage stretched across the inlet. The first canoe got stuck on it and Sean jumped out to push it through. The second canoe also got stuck and Sean assisted it also. The leader's canoe (with its reputation at stake) picked up steam and broke through the jam unassisted. That's why these adult leaders get paid the big bucks! The skies continued to grow darker and we began paddling faster. Tero stopped on a big island to check a campsite and found it to be satisfactory. We unloaded the canoes while James set up the dining fly. A unique lunch of energy bars covered with peanut butter and jelly, granola bars, and Kool-aid were consumed in short order. Tero, Sean, and James went fishing with Tero again quickly catching a large northern pike. His total now stands at six small mouth bass, two northern pike, and one perch. The afternoon was spent with each person doing their own thing. Jeremy and Keith retreated to their tent for some role playing games and a nap. Rick cleaned the fish that Tero caught and Rob took a nap. James, Sean, and Tero continued to fish with Heath observing. Amazingly, we received only a few sprinkles of rain and then the skies began to lighten. Another crew paddled by our camp and Tero spoke with them briefly. He asked their guide to have the canoe base check into the cause of our Canadian entry snafu. Now the clouds were breaking up and the sun was making a welcome appearance. Rick and Sean took out a canoe for some fishing and photography. Tero and Heath took a canoe out for fishing and exploring. James gave up on fishing and instead started carving a boat out of wood. Jeremy, Keith, and John laid out on a rock and talked for a while. Eventually the canoe folk returned with Tero having caught two fish and Heath one. James and Sean began cooking a dinner of chicken and rice, meatballs, and Kool-aid. The cooks used up all the purified water so Jeremy and Keith went out in the canoe to get more. Jeremy in his infinite wisdom, dropped one of the water buckets and it sank to the bottom of the lake. Tero was not pleased! After dinner, someone fixed several pots of buttered popcorn which we quickly consumed. Unfortunately, the cake and pudding, which James and Sean made, did not fair as well. The cake was burned and the pudding refused to congeal. Heath and Rob did cleanup and John cooked the fish Tero caught. Everyone sat around and talked for a while. Rick saw a large snapping turtle in the water and was able to get several good pictures of it. Sean and James went fishing and James finally caught a fish, a four inch perch. At 8:30 p.m., a moose swam across the lake, but it was too dark out to attempt any pictures. Everyone turned in early with thunder rumbling in the distance and Tero wedging himself into the adult tent again.
Monday, June 20 - Day Nine
Everyone slept in since our voyage back to the canoe base would be pretty short and we were not permitted to return to the base before 2:00 p.m. Sean and James tried the best they could to make the hash browns and dehydrated beef patties edible. The cleanup crew started in on the dishes with everyone lending a hand. This was our last cooked meal and all equipment had to be cleaned perfectly before returning it to the base. We scrubbed for several hours to remove the grime that had accumulated over the past week. To make matters worse, we were only issued one scouring pad for the entire trip. Rob passed his scrubbing time by having Tero teach him some Finnish profanity. We finally finished our scrubbing and began tearing down camp. We eagerly consumed our lunch of Hudson Bay Bread, peanut butter and jelly and water. We loaded up the canoes and left at 12:07 p.m. After 25 minutes of paddling, we arrived at the last portage of our trip. This portage was over a half mile long with a pretty steep hill towards the end of it. Everyone made it fine, but the hot temperatures sure made for some sweating and grunting. Finishing this portage put us on Moose Lake where we immediately saw the canoe base's radio antenna in the distance. Fourteen minutes later, at 1:07 p.m., we stepped from our canoes for the final time. Jeremy and Keith celebrated the finish by flying through the air and smashing their chests into each other. Freakin' weirdos! Anticipating a hot shower, we quickly resumed our equipment, dumped our trash and headed for our cabin. Although everyone passed on the Finnish sauna, the shower was absolutely fantastic! Afterwards, we killed time in the cabin listening to music, reading books, sleeping, or dreaming of home. Back in a real bed at last! Dinner time couldn't have come soon enough. We practically ran to the dining hall where we bolted down chicken fingers, French fries, tossed salad, and chocolate ice cream. After stuffing ourselves thoroughly, we made a stop at the trading post for some souvenirs. James bought the Scoutmaster a much desired Snicker's candy bar. We then resumed to our cabin and took all our personal gear, except bedding, to the van. At 8:00 p.m. we went to the Rendezvous, a very disorganized and poorly planned program of skits, songs, cheers, and stories. A man dressed as a Voyager, told us a bizarre story about moose pie. Each person had an opportunity to get up and tell their favorite thing about the trip. We closed the Rendezvous with the singing of the canoe base hymn. We finally returned to our cabin at 9:10 p.m. and prepared for a long awaited good night's sleep. Tero stopped by to get some of our addresses. We exchanged gratitudes and he left for good. John and Rick filled out the crew evaluation sheet. Lights out came at 11:00 p.m. and we soon became well acquainted with our sleeping bags.
Tuesday, June 21 - Day Ten
We awoke at 5:40 a.m. after a nasty, somewhat sleepless night of fighting the no-see-ums that waltzed through our window screen. We packed up our gear for the final time and headed for the dining hall for our continental breakfast. We arrived at 6:00 a.m., but no breakfast was ready. The camp director told us they would have pancakes ready in five minutes. Sure enough five minutes later we were stuffing ourselves with piping hot pancakes! What a great continental breakfast! We cleaned our table, pickup the rest of the gear, and headed for the van. Just before we drove away, the camp director came down to apologize for our Canadian entry problems. This caused us to leave 35 minutes later than planned. We bid our final goodbyes to the canoe base and its legendary mosquitoes and began our long journey home. We made a quick stop in Ely for gas and groceries. The rest of the morning's ride was spent listening to the radio and itching the bug bites from the past eight days. The radio provided us with a means of catching up on current events including O.J. Simpson being arrested for a double homicide. We stopped for lunch at a roadside park and quickly resumed our travels. We again made a bazillion toll stops in Illinois and also hit a big traffic snag in Chicago. During a gas stop, John bought Sean a Dairy Queen Blizzard for catching the biggest fish on the trip. As the distance between the van and home quickly decreased, John asked the Scouts to vote if we should make a quick McDonald's stop and drive all the way through to Englewood. The suggestion was unanimously approved! John made a quick call home to have Terry call all the parents and tell them we would be home by 12:30 a.m. We picked up food at McDonald's and everyone ate as we went down the road. The Scouts killed time listening to music, sleeping, and dreaming of home. We finally pulled in the Combs' driveway at 12:28 a.m. John took Rick and Rob home while the other guys called for a ride home.
- As the curtain closes on this little tale, we see the Scoutmaster
collapsing in his favorite chair and exclaiming, "There's no place like
Written by Scoutmaster John Combs.
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