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2/02/2023 9:40 am  #1

The end of a very long portage

I'm sorry....but share with you that I lost my father on January 27th, at age 91.  

We only took one camping trip together, but it was memorable.  In the Fall of 1992, a friend of mine bailed on a trip, and dad, on just a few days notice, agreed to go. We took a Magnetawan, Daisy, Misty-I-think down and back.  It started raining our first evening and never stopped.  My bad tent placement got dad’s sleeping bag soaked. No complaints - he'd definitely slept in worse conditions during basic training.  Second night I couldn't get a fire started.  In my youthful foolishness I 'd brought only two bic lighters, and my soaked fingers got the strikers too wet to function (I got the stove started, but after that....nothing).  I was irritated, but no complaints from him.  The next morning we'd had enough rain and decided to call it, so we went from (I think Misty) back to Magnetawan on a drizzly day.  

I was going to post a few images from that trip, but the thing isn't working for me.  Incredibly annoying.  I'll try to post some from a different computer, we'll see if that works.

My hope had been to show dad a moose.  Well, on the portage from Daisy to Acme, a cow walked right in front of me (carrying the canoe) on the portage.  Turned out her calf was just off the trail to the right.  They stayed long enough for dad to see and for a photo op.  I have the photo framed and in my family room.

When we got to the access point, our next adventure was waiting for us.  Two couples from Poland had entered at the Tim access point, but exited at Magnetawan, thinking it was a short walk.  They asked for a ride.  The two men got in the back seat of my little 1990 Nissan Sentra; their wives waited with the gear.  Soon after we drove off, a young-ish bear dashed onto the dirt road ahead of us, and headed in the same direction we were.  We just marveled at this magnificent animal, racing down the road.  It was the first bear any of us had ever seen.  I kept a distance, but did note that the bear was running 28mph.  Then, it turned to the right so sharply, and with such agility, words do it no justice.  In a flash, it was gone.  The encounter couldn’t have been more than 10 seconds.

In some ways it was a horrid trip, with the rain, causing dad's sleeping bag to get soaked, and my lack of capable planning preventing us from a warm fire that we really needed.  On the other hand, it was the ONLY camping trip we ever took together, and I treasure it.    

With dementia, you grieve a little bit as a time over a period of years, as the person slowly slips away.  I've been missing him for a while in a lot of respects, now there's finality to it.  I’m so glad he was my dad.  I'll miss him, but I can't help but feel happy for him.  He loved singing, and was a tenor soloist in every church he ever belonged to.  Even near the end, when he couldn't remember words well, he still sang - the tone, pitch, control, clarity - all still basically there until very recently, when his voice grew silent....and now silenced.  Here's the lesson for us all.  He made full use of the gifts he was given, and so few of us who can say that.  How can I not be happy for him?

When I was cleaning out dad's office a few years ago, I found canoe brochures and notes that made me realize my father and a family friend (Mr. K.) schemed to get me involved in scouts and canoeing.  I did become an Eagle Scout, was introduced to Algonquin through my troop's annual canoe trips, and developed a love for canoe camping in APP.  (Mr. K. delivered mail to park rangers as a kid by canoe - he loved AP.)  I'd been had!  I just didn't know it for 40 years.  I wish I could have busted dad's chops about that, but he was too far gone with dementia when I put two-and-two together, and Mr. K. died years ago.  There's a trail symbol in scouting that means "Gone home".  It is just a circle:   O    And now dad's gone home.  It was time. 

By the way, dad died on his birthday.  That is a bit unique, it happens sometimes....but it is a lot more unique since my mother also died on her birthday six years ago.  Dad had some level of clarity in his final days, somehow the veil of dementia lifted a little bit, and though he was largely non-responsive in his final days, he reacted in small ways to things we told him.  Like when we told him it was mom's birthday on 1/25, and when we sang happy birthday to him on 1/27.  With mom I felt it was coincidence she died on her birthday.  With dad...I felt it was intentional.  Kind of a way to tell us he was aware of our presence though he couldn't speak. Plus, if dad was about anything, he was about symmetry.  So, whether he pulled it off intentionally or by happenstance, he would definitely have thought it was pretty cool.

So, Pops.  I'll miss you until I see you again, and won’t that be a day…. 


2/02/2023 9:47 am  #2

Re: The end of a very long portage

Damn man. I'm so sorry to hear this. And your last paragraph gave me some serious goosebumps. The battle is over, he can finally be at peace. And while that trip may have not gone exactly as planned - I think what you gained from it far outweighs what we deem 'a successful trip'.


2/02/2023 9:53 am  #3

Re: The end of a very long portage

All four images keep displaying upside down or sideways...hopefully they appear in the correct orientation.

Campsite on Daisy.  It started raining not long after...

I believe this was starting the portage from Daisy to Acme.

This is the Hambone side of Hambone to Magnetawan.  Also where I had my life changing moment a decade prior, when I put down a pack after completing my first portage, and saw the view of Hambone from this location on a beautiful day.  Also where I peed on a moose on the last night of that first campout...

Our "we survived" photo at the Magnetawan Access point.

Here's hoping the photos show up in their correct orientation.....


     Thread Starter

2/02/2023 8:51 pm  #4

Re: The end of a very long portage

My condolences Dave. But what a wonderful tribute. A life lived fully is the most any of us can hope for and it sounds like your dad did that. So glad you have that memory of the trip with him, hiccups and all.


2/03/2023 7:00 am  #5

Re: The end of a very long portage

My most sincere condolences, Dave.
I know what you're going through, I lost mine last year, It may be a little easier for me though because my dad had dementia too, but in his case he stopped recognizing me about 4-5 years ago, and I sort of got accustomed to feeling like every visit was the last...
It was my dad that instilled my love of the outdoors in me- he worked a job that shut down every summer, and from the time I could paddle we spent summers as a "summer ranger" and his unpaid "helper" for the old Ontario Lands and Forests, then we worked logging rehab and construction together after it became MNR and killed the summer ranger program when I was around 12  right up until I got married.
interestingly my dad was my scoutleader too, and I went on to become a leader and eventually aGilwell instructor myself. I'll bet the two of them are swapping stories about us right now...
I still miss him every day...

Last edited by scoutergriz (2/03/2023 7:04 am)


2/03/2023 9:15 am  #6

Re: The end of a very long portage

 hi dave,, 
    i am truly sorry about the passing of your father,,  wonderful trip log,,  
    i  enjoyed the photos of your trip,,  a  time capsule  for the family,,
       i can relate , i lost my dad to covid 19 ,,  april 25th 2022,, he was 100 years old,  my parents where married  for 74 years,,,
      as a army vet. dad was entitled to a algonquin cabin lot after  ww 2,
       dad told me  that he would not sign his name on another army document,,  he had enough. no algonquin lot for him,,
   dad has his pocket knife with him,, he always carried a pocket knife,, 
      dave, i wish you and your family all the best in the new year,  things will get better over time,, keep your head up, shoulders back chest out ,,
        best regards  doug

Last edited by swedish pimple (2/03/2023 9:17 am)


2/04/2023 1:06 pm  #7

Re: The end of a very long portage

My condolences, Dave. 
I lost both my parents during the last seven years. I doubt there's ever a day goes by that I don't think of them. That's such a beautiful memory of your trip with your dad. Thanks for sharing.


2/04/2023 3:09 pm  #8

Re: The end of a very long portage

So glad you were able to hook up with your father before he passed.  Hope you are able to work through this difficult time and know how many of us will have you in our hearts and memories as you work through this difficult time. 


2/05/2023 2:18 am  #9

Re: The end of a very long portage

 I feel for your loss. You only get to leave memories and a few footprints and it sounds like your dad left you some good memories. Thanks for sharing.


2/05/2023 10:07 am  #10

Re: The end of a very long portage

Really sorry for your loss's never easy to lose someone we love eh?  Thoughts are with you and your family.


2/05/2023 8:02 pm  #11

Re: The end of a very long portage

My sympathies Dave. Thanks for opening up your heart and sharing this with us. I lost my Dad to dementia over 17 years ago now and then my Mom to alzheimer's a few years back and totally understand the long grieving process with such a disease. I am happy to hear that you have such wonderful memories to reflect on and wish you and your family peace and comfort.



2/05/2023 8:11 pm  #12

Re: The end of a very long portage

Hi everyone - usually I'm much more responsive to comments folks make to my posts, but I'm sure you can appreciate how busy and exhausting the weekend was.  Thank you all so much for your kind thoughts.  I'm deeply appreciative.

I mentioned mr. K in my original post.  His son, a friend of mine whom i went through scouts with, came to calling hours.  I asked, and he shared w me how his dad came to be so well acquainted w algonquin, and I know 100% many of you will be interested.

Mr k. Was born born a few years before My dad, late 1920s as I recall, in a farming community about an hour south of buffalo.  He was the youngest of three brothers.  When a neighbor asked his father if he could spare a son for the summer months, the youngest was chosen.  The reason the neighbor needed some help was because he had a cabin in algonquin, on cache lake, and needed help w the chores.  So, every summer, the young man whom I later knew as Mr. K spent June through August in algonquin, chopping firewood, getting groceries by canoe, and attending to whatever else needed doing.  He became acquainted with some of the familiar figures of algonquins past....and of course I remember zero of those names.  Apparently he was taught how to paddle a canoe by first nation people he befriended, and they taught him how to paddle standing up.  They had races across cache lake standing up. ( I can honestly tell you I have never seen anyone so in tune with his canoe.  It was like they were extensions of each other. )

At a point in time, the gent who owned the cabin realized he didn't have enough for Mr  k to do, so he arranged for him....prepare visit the girls camp on cache throughout the summer and teach the girls how to canoe, tie knots, start fires, etc.  So imagine this teenage boy, who must have cut an incredible figure, teaching all these 1940's era girls outdoor skills while they were at camp, and pretty much being the only game in town. You can imagine how the girls would have been very interested in this strapping young man who paddled his way to and from the camp. My friend asked his dad (Mr. K) about that unique situation one time and he said his father just smiled.

The cabin where he was employed for the summer had a copper bath tub, and the wife wanted Mr k to use it, but it was in the kitchen and therefore a bit exposed for his taste, so he always bathed in the lake instead regardless of the weather.

In the past I've described how Mr. K delivered mail to the park rangers by canoe, but i never knew how that came to pass.  Well, now I know more or less - through a fascinating story of a man letting his son go to algonquin park all summer long to help a neighbor with his chores.

Mr. K was a very special man to me, and was so instrumental with our scout canoe trips.  It is funny how the circumstances under which he first came to the park impacted myself and so many others during our formative teenage years.  When he died I got donations from former scouts of my troop to get a little plaque put in place for him at the visitor center.  On our trips he was always way ahead of the rest of us, so the plaque reads something like "we'll catch up to you at the next portage Mr.k."  and it has the "gone home" trail symbol I believe i described earlier. It is a simple "O".  Sorry so long, but just such an interesting story to share.

     Thread Starter

2/06/2023 7:14 am  #13

Re: The end of a very long portage

Terribly touching stories, Dave. 

It's wonderful that you were blessed to have had them play such instrumental roles in your life and the stories and memories will carry you like a canoe through a lake of grief.  So sorry for you loss, but so happy for your recognition of the impact it has.


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