Cross Town with confidence

Cross Town with Carl Dow

A major self confidence is built on a mryiad of small victories

More than a quarter century ago I took a day canoe trip with a CBC radio woman who had a voice with a smile.

She had transferred to Sudbury from Inuvik and knew what canoeing was all about. We decided on a one-day picnic adventure.

She met me at my place about 15 miles southwest of the centre of Sudbury. I had a Ford station wagon that would easily carry the canoe but she said she preferred to go in her car. She didn't know me well and I concluded that she'd feel a greater sense of control by using her car.

My canoe was what many have called the Rolls Royce of canoes. It was a 17-foot cedar canvass Chestnut Prospector. Wide and deep, without a keel. It was perfect for riding alone, or with two companions and a thousand pounds of gear in high lake waves and in slipping around rocks in rapids. Dry, it weighed about 85 pounds; after a day's paddling it weighed a little better than 100 pounds.

Carrying a canoe is all in the balance. Properly set on my shoulders I always felt I could carry my baby easily during an all day portage.

Long Lake is 14.5 km running from southwest with rocky shore to northeast into the City of Sudbury. It's deep to 36.5 metres, and narrow, rarely more than .08 km wide. Even today, including summer residents, the population is only about 1,000 around its shoreline perimeter of 52.9 kilometres. A quarter of a century ago, needless to say, the population was even less.

We drove along a two-track gravel and then onto a rock platform overlooking the lake. No sign of human habitation in any direction. We set the canoe in the water and headed southwest. Almost immediately we were confronted with a heavy headwind that, I learned later from the weather office, blew steadily at about 40 kmh.

The lake was not wide enough to allow us serious tacking so it was either turn back or plunge on. We plunged on with the most powerful paddle strokes we could muster. My companion proved her mettle as they say.

We finally beached at a sandy stretch that led up to a pleasant grassy height that gave us a good view of the lake and of an inviting small stream that fed into it. When our day was done we paddled back, thinking we would have a good wind at our backs. But the wind had died so we had no payback but instead a pleasant paddle to where we had parked the car.

With the canoe secure on top, my companion backed the car to make a turn. Then clunk. The right rear of the car slumped. My friend started to spin the wheels but I abruptly advised her against it.

Spinning wheels is never a good idea in winter or summer. It will simply dig a hole. In summer, in sand, it can result in serious mechanical failure as the wheel is seized by the impacted sand. I got out and saw that the wheel had fallen into a rock hole right up to the axle.

"Now we've had it," said my driver. "There's no one around here, never mind a telephone to call for a tow truck."

I took out the jack and discovered that I could only get a lift of about an inch.

"It's okay," I said, "Find me some flat rocks." And she brought one about an inch thick. I slipped it under the wheel and then used the jack. This time I managed another inch. She brought more flat rocks until we had a platform level with the rock shelf and she drove her car off as if on flat pavement.

She gave me a warm smile of approval. "Clever," she said.

I shrugged modestly and flash-forming in my brain and off my tongue came the words, "A major self confidence is built on a myriad of small victories."

She smiled again with a pat on my thigh, "That may have been a small victory for you, but for me it would have been a disaster, if you hadn't been so brilliant."

She was feeding my major self confidence that was already running over, and I loved it.

Later I checked with the weather bureau. I wanted to know how widespread that wind was. They said they had recorded it. For some reason it grew out of the west section of the lake and blew east for four hours but just along the lake before dying. Nowhere else.

Last I heard, my voice with a smile had transferred to Hamilton, married a CBC type there and is working while living happily with husband and three children.

Happy Trails