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Portage Into The Past

Portage Into The Past

J. ARNOLD BOLZ
ILLUSTRATIONS BY Francis Lee Jaques
Copyright Date: 1988
Pages: 192
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttsjjq
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  • Book Info
    Portage Into The Past
    Book Description:

    The wilderness of the Boundary Waters is as rich in history as it is in natural beauty. Almost three hundred years ago, French Canadian voyageurs traveled through this area, which straddles the border of the United States and Canada, paddling birch-bark canoes along the St. Lawrence-Superior route to northwestern Canada. In this work of travel and adventure, Bolz recounts a journey he took in 1958, retracing the voyageurs' route from Grand Portage on Lake Superior through the Quetico-Superior country to Rainy Lake. His canoe and paddle served as a time machine as he re-created a trip first taken centuries ago.

    Beautifully illustrated by Francis Lee Jaques,Portage into the Pastdraws from the journals and maps of the early explorers of the region. Today's adventurers of the north country will treasure this classic, an ideal guidebook to the region's remarkable past.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8148-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-2)
  3. Prologue
    (pp. 3-14)

    Lying astride the boundary between Minnesota and Ontario is the Quetico-Superior canoe country. Here, in the boundless freedom of the wilderness, is a wondrous maze of sparkling lakes and streams. Pine, aspen, and birch cover the rock of the Canadian shield with a mantle of green. Bears, moose, and deer roam the forest. Beavers build their dams, fish swirl in the blue waters, and loons fill the air with laughter.

    Still primitive and wild, the Quetico-Superior may appear to be without a history. Yet it has a long one, rich in adventure and romance. As an integral part of a...

  4. December 27, 1957. CRANE LAKE, MINNESOTA, NORTH-WEST OF DULUTH, IN THE MINNESOTA-ONTARIO BORDER COUNTRY
    (pp. 15-26)

    Through the blurring whiteness of the December storm, the pines stood rigid against the onslaught of the chill north wind that swirled the snow in gusts around the corners of the cabin and piled drifts along the banks of the Echo River. Inside the cabin, the fire thrust orange spears from the logs in the fireplace; it spat sparks of defiance up the chimney while throwing cheerful warmth into the room. I sat before it, reading a diary written long ago by an early traveler on his way through this same Quetico-Superior canoe country.

    The groaning of cabin logs shrinking...

  5. October 1, 1958 GRAND PORTAGE, MINNESOTA AT THE NORTHEASTERN TIP OF MINNESOTA, ON LAKE SUPERIOR
    (pp. 27-47)

    You’re sure you didn’t forget anything — matches, soap, maps?” Millie was supervising right down to the last minute, watching us get into the car and looking a little envious.

    “Nope, nothing. And we’ll be careful,” Belva laughed as she anticipated Millie’s usual admonition.

    John drove Belva, Harvi, and me from Crane Lake to Grand Portage. The packs containing our shelter and sustenance were loaded into the trunk; the canoe rode securely on the car-top carriers. It was a glorious autumn day.

    After leaving Duluth we followed the highway along the north shore of Lake Superior. Through the blue haze...

  6. October 2. ON THE GRAND PORTAGE TRAIL FROM LAKE SUPERIOR TO FORT CHARLOTTE ON THE PIGEON RIVER
    (pp. 48-53)

    Up from the lake rose the sun, pushing crimson streaks into the sky, to promise a flawless autumn day for the start of our trip. We hurried about excitedly, gulping breakfast, breaking camp, and making ready our packs.

    “We’re off!” I shouted.

    “Definitely,” Belva answered, as she shrugged herself into her pack.

    Harvi only smiled and shifted the canoe.

    At 7 a.m., Hand with the canoe perched on his shoulders and Belva and I loaded with packs started over the nine-mile portage to Pigeon River, the first of many such trails in Minnesota used by white men. We had begun...

  7. October 3. FORT CHARLOTTE TO THE MEADOW ON THE PIGEON RIVER
    (pp. 54-61)

    We arose as a hint of light appeared in the east. Rose streamers filled the sky and faded as the sun emerged and warmed the air. We ate breakfast listening to the muted roar of the cascades downstream.

    Then we began searching for the ruins of Fort Charlotte, an important North West Company fort used as a depot for trade goods carried across the portage. Here the trade goods remained until the traders were ready to load their canoes and leave for their wintering posts. Named for King George III’s queen, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, it had long been in use....

  8. October 4. FROM THE MEADOW TO MOUNTAIN LAKE
    (pp. 62-71)

    Our aches and pains were almost gone this morning, and we had a full day of canoeing ahead. How we looked forward to it! We proceeded to Big Rock, or Great Stone portage (Portage Grosse Roche), which is a mile and a half from the Meadow. It is on the right side of the river, about ninety rods long, and passes over a very low ridge.

    A short distance from here, Caribou or Deer portage (Portage Carreboeuf) follows, on the left, a hundred rods long.

    From the Meadow to Caribou portage, the river became so shallow that we were forced...

  9. October 5 MOUNTAIN LAKE TO ROSE LAKE
    (pp. 72-77)

    Next morning, while eating breakfast, I looked across Mountain Lake, shining like a giant emerald in the bright morning sun. CalledKeesh-ku-te-naby the Chippewa, it lies nearly east and west, six miles long and two miles wide. On its south shore are chains of high hills or mountains alternating with valleys; its north shore is rather low, except for a high ridge running along the northwest extent of a deep bay.

    Just as we were ready to leave, Belva went down to the lake for a drink. Rising from her knees on the shore, she suddenly ducked. A kingfisher,...

  10. October 6. ROSE LAKE TO LAKE SAGANAGA
    (pp. 78-85)

    After washing the supper dishes, eating breakfast, and washing the dishes again, we started on our way.

    The sky was dull. A chill was on the lake. We paddled hard waiting for the sun to come up and warm us, but there was another reason too: we were eager to reach our favorite canoe country, the Quetico-Superior, and glad to leave this monotonous sequence of lakes and portages. The long expanses of water in the eastern lakes, interrupted neither by islands nor deceptive bays, and the absence of challenging rivers, made this route the one favored by the voyageurs, whose...

  11. October 7 LAKE SAGANAGA TO CYPRESS LAKE
    (pp. 86-96)

    We awoke early. The wind had calmed overnight, and in the cold air our breath formed frosty vapor as we talked.

    “How about a cup of hot coffee, please?” Belva shouted to Harvi, who had already built the fire. We could hear its crackling and smell its piney fragrance.

    “All I can offer you is a kettle of iced tea,” Harvi said, tying back the tent flap. “You’ll have to wait a while for coffee.”

    Looking out, we saw what he meant. It had frozen overnight, and our leftover tea was solid in the kettle. A glaze of ice capped...

  12. Contemporary Scenes
    (pp. None)
  13. October 8 CYPRESS LAKE TO BASSWOOD LAKE
    (pp. 97-106)

    The sun broke through the pines over the ridge as we sat in the still cool air drinking our after-breakfast coffee. We listened to the sounds of morning and watched hypnotized the rising and falling of the lake’s glassy surface, until the sun warmed our backs. Then we got into the canoe and floated off into the bright morning. As we emerged from a small opening, the breathtaking beauty of Cypress stopped us.

    “Isn’t it lovely,” Belva sighed.

    We looked down the narrow body of water, about four miles long. Much like a river, its shores, fringed with cedars, rise...

  14. October 9. BASSWOOD LAKE TO CROOKED LAKE
    (pp. 107-120)

    Huge and red the sun rose. The morning mists and somber pines burst into flames as the fiery rays touched them. It seemed strangely eerie, resembling a circle in Dante’s Inferno, especially when two horned grebes swam out of the mists like two little imps, to splash and preen near shore. Soon rising higher, the sun lost its redness and with an ethereal light made the wilderness again a paradise.

    We broke camp and set out past Point au Pins, Point of Pines or Canadian Point.

    “I’ll bet it was over there.” Belva pointed to Ottawa Island.

    “No,” I countered....

  15. October 10. CROOKED LAKE TO LAC LA CROIX
    (pp. 121-129)

    Behind the night-black pines on the far shore, the dawn spread out and, caught in the frayed thread ends of the clouds, flushed cerise. So quickly the colors changed to lavender that it was almost imperceptible. After an instant of blushing gray, the sun pushed through into the full glory of a frosty autumn morning.

    We left our sleeping bags as life began to stir outside the tent. A squirrel trilled behind us, a pileated woodpecker flew over with a loud, harsh, rattling cry: “Wake up, wake up.”

    We sat on the granite ledge, bathed in sunlight, drinking coffee and...

  16. October 11. LAC LA CROIX TO BARE PORTAGE ON NAMAKAN LAKE
    (pp. 130-170)

    Our day began cold and gray. The pines and cedars drooped under a burden of heavy wet snow, and a sullen sky threatened even worse. Over the dull black water a flotilla of stranded clouds maneuvered in foggy formations that obscured the near shore.

    The only cheerful note in the dismal day was the orange flame of our fire. We huddled around it — three weatherbound voyageurs in waterproof parkas — absorbing its toasty warmth and toasting each other, in true voyageur fashion, with the equal warmth of our toddies. We were in no hurry to leave the comparative comfort...

  17. For those who want to learn more
    (pp. 173-174)
  18. Index
    (pp. 175-182)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 183-183)