I’ve had some hellish portages across Alaska, Ontario, Quebec, and Labrador, but what those brutal days on distant trails taught me has opened up big chunks of easier-to-access backcountry in the little creeks close to home. The fact is, a few downed trees and beaver dams will turn back nine out of 10 paddlers, but if you don’t mind hauling gear over or around these logjams, you can find long, quiet floats where no one has paddled or fished in years. It’s all about efficiency, and the approach applies to big north-woods portages and smaller carries alike. Pack as little as you can, in neat bundles, and minimize all the loose crap that rolls around in the boat and requires a half hour to secure at the portage trail. Have a plan in place: Somebody grabs a load of gear; somebody else hoists the canoe. And don’t wring your hands over how hard portaging will be, because there’s nothing to do but get it done.