Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | January 31, 2012

Portage Points

Jonathan portaging at 2011 Texas Water Safari.

Sooner or later we all experience them — portage points — those unnavigable places along the journey where we have no choice but to find a new way through. Portage points are those places where the danger or the obstacles on your course force you to stop to consider the options and whether you are as committed to finishing the course as when you started. Portage points are make you or break you kind of places. The word portage is derived from the French word “porter” which means “to carry.” The word portage was first used in the late 17th century in reference to carrying a boat or cargo between navigable waters. However you look at it, portaging is hard work and, in some cases, really hurts.

As a novice canoeist, I had my first experience with portage points on the Colorado River this past Saturday. As participants in the Texas Winter 100K canoe race, my son  Jonathan and I were told that we would encounter two portage points along the race route (and a possible third if we took a wrong turn along the way). The first portage point came early in the race and was quite a distance. The race officials guided us to a fixed rope where we were able to make our way down a steep embankment covered with cascading mounds of concrete back into the river. The strain of carrying our canoe and gear was made easier because Jonathan and I shared the load, but it was still hard. We encountered our second portage point a few more miles down the river. This portage point was laced with slick mud and a fallen tree that was blocking the route. Although not as long as the first portage, it was still hard work. Portaging is part of the price you have to pay to make progress.

In many ways, portage points are like brick walls. In his book, The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch wrote: “The brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.” I completely agree with Pausch’s observation. Whether you are up against a brick wall or a portage point, you have a choice concerning what you will do. You can either turn around, give in, or plow through. One thing is certain — in Pausch’s own words, “Brick walls are there for a reason. They give us a chance to show how badly we want something.” Once again, I agree! In the long run, portage points can make you stronger and smarter. Stronger because you have to carry the weight of your gear and smarter because you have to think in new and creative ways to continue your journey.

It’s not a matter of if but when you will encounter the next portage point along your journey. When you do, take the time to think deeply and act wisely. And always remember that others are watching to see how you will handle the situation. Let your response to the portage points and brick walls define you in a good light and not become a sad epithet on your map. Although portaging may be hard for a season, there is navigable water ahead if you will press on. Blessings to you on your journey. Go beyond!


  1. unbelievable timing…treading through the mud~

  2. Wise observations and a great word of truth. Thank you for challenging us with this post. And may God grant you and your son protection, blessings, and joy on your special journey together.

  3. Thanks Pastor O. I needed that today.

    – Jim

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