|"Your pole's too skinny and your boat's too short!" -John Robertson, Maine Guide, retired Game Warden|
Took us two days to reach Portage from Saint Froid Lake. After five miles of tough going our fly-infested campsite, there were only a couple of rips before the river calmed down. Portage Lake is pretty enough, starting with an extensive reed marsh with a mess of brushy islands. Terns nest there. We also saw a moose and a couple of young otters. I tried to catch up with them so I could get a photo. They'd go under and I'd paddle like mad. Then they'd pop up, just as far away!
We arrived at town, pulled into the Ranger Station because it had a nice landing. I stopped in and checked with Ranger Justin to se if it was OK to leave them while we checked into a motel. He gave us directions to the motel, store, post-office, all within spitting distance of each other. For the first time on the trip, we unfolded our portage carts and wheeled our boats into town. How appropriate, our first portage in Portage!
Coming out of the restaurant/office, some lady made a crack about our "little wheels", so I made her come over and see how easy it was to push. Thought nothing of it at the time. At dinner, the waitress came over and told us to stay, because Jim and Betty Dumond were coming to see us. The names meant nothing to us, so we shrugged.
Turns out Betty was the lady in the parking lot and Jim, her husband was the retired Game Warden. When she told Jim about us, well he was so tickled that he had to come meet us. Jim presented us with a little wooden paddle with a sketch of Portage Lake burned in. That was all it took and after that we were minor celebrities in the town.
John Robertson was another retired Game Warden, senior to Jim. He took us out to his house to show us the 20 foot Old Town he'd just finished. I was surprised to see he replaced the canvas with fiberglass, but that is the style in Portage: a twenty foot work horse with a motor mount. He had some beauties. Six or seven all told, plus an old "chestnut" mold. He showed us his collection of pick poles, his favorite being one of ash, with a conical shoe on one end.
John's advice: "Your aluminum pole is too skinny and sixteen foot boats are too short."
Jim Fahey was the current Game Warden. I'm afraid we put a bug in his britches about this kinda trip. I could see he was already musing on it. He grew up in Bangor. He pointed out that we passed by his new house on Portage Lake and were going to pass by the one he grew up in down in Bangor.