When Nate was 15 his scout troop was planning their summer adventure and had decided to do a canoe trip on Ross Lake. I was one of the leaders and planned to go with them. As we planned the event I suggested that we cook together as a group but they rejected the idea. I can understand their point of view. They were concerned that the food would not be what they liked. I was taken with the idea that canoeing is essentially different than backpacking in that it is not necessary to pack light. The canoe can carry considerable weight without much extra strain on the body, so I decided to teach by example how to enjoy this fact.
Nate and I agreed to do our meals together and we decided to bring 2 coolers, one with dry ice. In this cooler we put all the essentials of good camp food: pop cycles, ice-cream, beef roast and frozen bread dough.
After driving through Canada, we arrived at the north end of lake Ross which is the only road access to the lake. It was hot and the park rangers told us that we had to divide into 2 groups because we had 13 in our group and the maximum group size was 12. We decided to separate the older boys from the younger and I took the younger. The boys were a little demoralized because they didn’t like being broken into groups. After we paddled for about 4 hours in the heat the boys looked over their campsite without enthusiasm. I said “Boy wouldn’t a pop cycle taste good right now?” The boys glared at me and said “Thanks a lot Brother Cardon. Way to make us feel worse.” When no one would notice I retrieved a pop cycle from my cooler and began eating it. After a while someone noticed and asked where it came from and I said, “Oh would you like one? It didn’t sound like you were interested.” I then passed out pop cycles and the mood changed abruptly.
On the evening of the 4th day, I told the boys, as I pulled out my dutch oven, I had a problem. My ice-cream was melting and I didn’t have anyone to help me peel the apples for apple crisp. Amazingly I had lots of volunteers.
The bread dough became currency. I was constantly being presented with suggested trades for bread dough which they loved to use to make fried bread. luckily I anticipated this and brought extra.
One day I used a round cake pan, set inside the dutch oven on 3 small stones, to keep it away from the bottom, to cook a loaf of bread. It was pure beginners luck, but the round loaf came out perfect.
We had a beef roast which Nate and I cooked with onions, carrots and potatoes in the dutch oven. I didn’t have enough to make a complete meal for all the boys but one by one they would get up from their Top Romin supper to come over for a better whiff of the odors from the dutch oven, so we found ourselves cutting off “sample” peices for them to taste.
We started out on the North end of the lake and our goal was to paddle South to the end where the dam was, (approximately 25 miles) and then return to the cars and trailer where we started. Each morning we started early because later in the day a wind picked up from the south and we would have to fight the wind if we didn’t make our goal before it began. Each day when the wind picked up we would dream about rigging up sails to carry us back up the lake. At our southerly campsite we built our sail rig. We found a large old cedar log on the beach which we discovered could easily be split into planks. Using our camp saw and hatchets we made 3 large planks long enough to span 3 canoes with a few inches between each. We then lashed each canoe to the planks one on each end and one in the middle. We found a long pole for a mast and one for a boom. With a large plastic tarp for our square sail, spread by the boom at the top and ropes from the lower corners of the sail tied to the canoe, we could catch the tail wind. We lashed one of the paddles to the stern cross plank for a rudder. With it we could control our direction and sail slightly cross wind when necessary. At one point we were going so fast that the bow wave was threatening to come up over the gunnel so we had to reduce our sail area.
One boy had a kayak which the rest of us were jealous of because it was more efficient so he could go farther with less effort. He also put his gear in the motor boat tender, since there isn’t much storage space in a kayak which we imagined made it even easier. For the return trip he had rigged up a sail for his lone kayak too. Nate and I decided to pull a trick on him. Early in the morning before anyone else was up we quietly went down to the beach and duct taped several pieces of driftwood to the bottom of his kayak. The largest was about 5 feet long and was attached so that it was slightly crossways to the keel, causing the boat to want to turn. Amazingly enough he didn’t notice our trick until he was putting his kayak on the trailer at the end of the trip. For years he blamed the scout master. Since he was sailing, not paddling we didn’t feel too bad. In fact we wondered if the driftwood had fallen off because he seemed to be doing fine, but he did say he wondered why he was having so much trouble steering.