Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Can-Do-It (Cheat, That Is)

I'm in a town named Cando right now- a town named that in 1884 because the pioneers wanted to make a statement that they "Can Do It." Settle the town and battle the elements long enough to bring up grain and cattle, that is. If the surrounding countryside is any indication, they could, in fact, do it.

I made it to Minot, North Dakota a few days ago and put in on the Souris River. Here I had crossed another of the Continent's Great Divides- I was in the Hudson Bay draingage now, and the Souris would take me north to the Assiniboine and through Winnipeg and the old voyageur route to Superior. I paddled the Souris with hesitation, moving 10 miles northeast for every 30 miles of oxbows and switchbacks, the current slack behind beaverdams and logjams and banks crowded with brush. It was a quiet, pretty river but spending a month of fighting my way into Canada was not in the cards. Winter hovers at my back, and the fickle weather of the northern plains in autumn could snap at any moment and send the prevailing forty-degrees-and-raining more toward the ten-degrees-and-ground-blizzard side of things.

So I decided to cheat. I'd been lugging my bike Taj around for the last 700 miles, might as well give 'em some use. Poor-Taj.

So I rigged everything up, and here I am. The road literally goes straight from Towner, North Dakota to Minnesota, and I'm halfway there already. Lake of the Woods is not too far past there, and by portaging 300 miles across eastern North Dakota I cut almost 400 miles of slow, slow travel through southern Manitoba. It is cheating, but of a good sort. Portaging, even by bike, is a painful operation at best, and the bit of Manitoba that I miss now would surely have been beautiful with good water. But winter nips, and I'll take this chance as I get it.

In other news, I am smack dab in the middle of the main North American bird migration route, and there are ducks and geese everywhere. Tens of thousands every hour or two- it is quite a sight. The ducks seem to be of the weaker endurance, having to pause in farm fields and pothole lakes to rest, and inevitably fall prey to the hunters from around the country that arrive in droves to take in the season. The geese I do not see up close in North Dakota as I did along the Yellowstone- now they appear in honking chevrons a thousand feet up and eight hundred abreast, a sky-borne compass for me and the route I should invariably by nature be taking. Instead, I plod east, towards home.

No comments: