We mapped out a trip that would cover close to 100 miles in 10 days, going deep into the more isolated areas of the wilderness. At the time, 10 miles a day didn't seem like an unrealistic goal, but we based that on what we could easily accomplish on the lakes and rivers we had grown up canoeing. Those usually did not require much, if any, portaging. However, this trek would require many portages, and some quite a distance. Our canoe which we would be portaging weighed 75 lbs., (heavy but durable against the rocks). Tom's backpack was 75 lbs, and mine was 65 lbs. (Who knew that dehydrated foods and noodles could weigh so much!) We practiced lifting and carrying it all a few times, finding it heavy, but doable. Our confidence was high! This was going to be great!
We quickly discovered how much this trip was going to challenge us. It would challenge us emotionally, physically, spiritually, and as a newly married couple. We would gain a whole new perspective on the word endurance.
The first day was great and our goals met. Easy portages, great weather, and smooth waters. We tried fishing for our supper, but with no luck there, we were happy to boil up noodles for a nice dinner. All in all, our expectations were met. As Tom would say; "nice!"
It went steadily and consistently downhill from there. Now the real trek was "game on".
Storms on lakes that came up quickly and powerfully. Three foot waves causing us using all our strength and skill just to stay afloat, but inhibiting us from making progress to the shoreline and safety. Portages that were really bogs and sank us up to our hips. More storms that kept us in our tent for two full days, anxious that the trees blowing down nearby would not land on us! Mosquitos that were really more like sucking, flying bats, and black flies that were so thick you breathe them. More portages that were rock cliffs instead of nice level paths and far longer than the rods listed on the map. Rapids that dumped us and all our gear, causing us to lose time and miles just to dry everything out. Portages that were supposed to be there (the map said so) but were not, and required us to forge new ones through dense woods. Exhausted and completely spent, some nights we didn't even bother with a fire and cooking (yes, our noodles), but crawled into our tent and sleeping bags wanting sleep more than food.
I remember one night, waking up to the sound of heavy breathing outside our tent, and that unmistakable smell of bear. Trying to remember if we hung our food packs far enough up and out of reach, I was so exhausted that I couldn't even stay awake to pay attention to the situation. All I wanted was more sleep, the bear could do what he wanted.
Everyday we talked about quitting. However, we had reached a point in the trip where going back would of been longer than pushing forward. Talking often turned into arguments of blame, frustration, and impatience. We were dependent upon each other in whole new ways. We could only make it through the trip if both of us endured. If each of us kept the course and carried their load.
I remember often thinking of the verse where Jesus said to pick up our cross and follow him, as I picked up my pack, hoisted the canoe overhead and slowly trekked forward. It gave me a whole new perspective on its meaning. His burden may be light, but often our cross's are heavy. Sometimes moving forward is difficult.
In the end we accomplished our journey. We did our 10 days and 87 miles of wilderness adventure. We lost weight, gained muscles, learned about our weakness's and strengths. We learned to guard our tongues and keep each other focused on the mission for the day with encouraging words and attitudes.We had a new appreciation for each other and that kind of bonding that occurs when you endure some hard and difficult times together. And, we didn't eat noodles for many years after that trip!
It's been 25 years since this infamous canoe trek. Yet, I think about it and all the things it taught me often.
I see a similar journey in our lives as followers of Christ. We start out so confident in our own strength and capabilities and how much "we're going to accomplish" for the King and Kingdom. We, in our naivety we think we will not have difficulties that test our endurance, challenge our faith, cause us to question, and wear us down. Yet, the walk of a Christian is one of endurance. We are destined to persevere through storms, rough portages, unforseen difficulties, and situations that require us to depend up each other and the Lord.
Paul talks about endurance in 2 Timothy 2, verse 10; "I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory".
Paul endured for the goal that by his steadfastness, others would come to know Jesus. That his endurance had a purpose and affect.
Again Paul speaks in 2 Corinthians 11 with a list of things he endured; labors, imprisonments, beatings, stoning, lashing, shipwrecks, dangers from rivers, robbers, countrymen, hunger, thirst, cold and exposure. Then he adds the internal pressures of his concern for all the churches.
In the end, he concludes that for the sake of Christ, it is all worth it.
" Consider it all joy, my brethren,when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance, And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing". James 1:2-4