Louse River Loop


by Janice Kvale



Six adventurous women, six big packs, three canoes, one large wilderness. We sing as we paddle until waves, wind blow us off the water into camp.   Back on the water, three men pass finishing the Louse River Loop. Derisive, they laugh. Hey, maybe you’ll find the axe we lost. If you make it.    Before we started, we voted bras or braless—all of us or none. Portage canoes? Haul water? Build fires? Bras, for sure.   Six smart women make a canoe bridge to cross a swift stream high in the hills, deep in the forest. Make camp, build fire, dry sox, warm toes. Cold nights, sunny days, sparkling lakes, reedy streams, stony portages. Canoes overhead, trudging over shale, under golden popple and dark pine.   Six happy women drink hooch around a campfire at night. Listen to wolves howl, moose rut. Drink in sweet night scent. Sun rises to melt frost on the tent, under a canoe, dry wood for a fire, knock ice out of kettle, dip water to boil. Coffee aroma rouses sleepers to wake.   Six strong women paddle on. Another stream, another lake, another portage. What’s this? An axe and a buck knife! More lakes, more portages. Lujenida looms ahead. To the Lujenida! we shout. We  portage one and one-half miles. Yes, we can.   We reach the last portage, Lujenida beckons. Packs on, canoes up. Once across the Lujenida. Twice across the Lujenida. One last lake, then off to shower wash away grime, stink of one week. Return the axe, keep the knife. Six proud women celebrate at Betty’s Pie.


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