Saturday, July 4, 2009

Portaging Tips for the BWCA

One of my favorite feelings when I enter the BWCA is the sense of camaraderie and courtesy. People spending time in our beautiful wilderness area are generally happy and willing to help a stranger that crosses their path. People have offered to lend me a hand, or greeted me with a smile and a wave out there more times then I can count. It's a special thing that brightens my trip. I think it's important to show people courtesy and respect in return especially when I am portaging. Here are some portaging tips that will make your trip and other paddlers' trips a little more friendly.

-Allow people portaging canoes to have the right away on the trail. They can't see as well and they may have a heavier load than people carrying packs. The quicker they can get to the end the better. If two people carrying canoes meet on a hill, the person going down hill should step off to the side and let the person going up the hill pass.

-Give people time and room to get down the portage trail. If you are paddling up to a portage and see a group, stay back until you see them walk down the trail, and give them a few minutes. Clogged portage trails are no fun, and waiting at the end of the portage trail with a canoe or heavy pack on your shoulders while someone is trying to get on the lake is tiring. Also, remember the the 9 person/4 watercraft rule. Only 9 people and 4 watercraft can be in one spot at one time in the BWCA.

-Try not to widen portage trails by walking around puddles and mud. This causes more of an impact and bigger trails.

-To minimize forgetting your favorite fishing pole or paddle on the portage trail, avoid putting your things on the ground. Your gear should go from canoe to person, and person to canoe. Another way to remember everything is to always make only one pile of gear on each side of the portage. Try not to spread out your packs, lifejackets and paddles where they can easily be forgotten.

-Watch where you place your foot when portaging. Twisting an ankle can be easy if you are walking down some of those rocky portage trails.

-Lend a hand! If you see someone struggling, offer to carry something for them if you have an extra hand. They will be so grateful. You never know when someone may return the favor to you.

-Try to wet-foot portage. This will lessen the chance of scratching, or putting a hole in your canoe by putting on the canoe while you are still in the water. Your feet will be wet while you are paddling, so make sure you sun your feet out to dry them at camp to prevent foot fungus. It's easy to prevent!

- Always load your canoe when it is completely floating in the water.

- Take one last look around before you paddle off from the portage. A quick and easy way to double check that you have all your gear. Also look around you and admire your surroundings. After all this is one of the reasons you are here.

I hope these tips will help you on your next canoe trip. Happy portage trails!!

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