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An Adventure Different Than Expected (Part III)

Ducks and more 050Larry paused, sat back on his heals within several feet of the brushy tree line. There was a narrow window, at the base of the trees, in which we had a glimpse of the pond. A duck (probably blue –winged teal) floated right before us in that window. I moved to where Larry sat, trying to get a better view of the duck, sadly though, the little bit of movement startled the duck. It flew off in alarm, alerting the others to our presence, which then in turn also flew off. We lay flat on our bellies and waited for them to circle back and land on the pond again. A few came back; we watched them for a few minutes but didn’t have a very good view.

Soon we were on the move again. This time we didn’t stand up at all; rather we crawled on our hands and knees, following the deer trail as it curved to the right, heading south. Again, my hands were being poked by the dead vegetation; I was still enjoying the adventure though. The row of trees curved again, following the water’s edge. There we halted at the base of the trees. Larry sat and I kneeled. The window, under the tree branches, looking upon the water was a little larger. Now with the wind at our backs, Larry whispered, “We have to be really quiet, they can hear us better.”

Larry pointed to his left, I looked in that direction but it took me a moment to figure out what he was pointing to. Then I saw it. The black with green stripes is a surprisingly good camouflage. A garter snake lay stretched out and unmoving. “Cool.”

Ducks and more 051“It’s dead though.” And so it was though it didn’t look dead. “I wonder why nothing has started eating it.”Larry pondered. I like snakes and garter snakes are completely harmless, however it was almost unnerving having a snake just laying there instead of on the move. My eyes kept going back to it.

Our main focus was the ducks on the pond ahead of us. They bobbed in the water, perfect watercraft. Were boats intentionally designed based on the body shape of waterfowl? There were two directly in front of us, swimming back and forth in that one little area. Larry whispered, “Those two are acting like sentries. If they weren’t there, I’d clear some of this brush so we could get closer.” We sat and watched the ducks swim by for several minutes. We took it all in quietly, enjoying being totally emerged; the crouching, crawling, sneaking and having to whisper enhanced our experience, becoming one with the place, and the overall thrill and fun of it.

Minutes passed and we were on the move again, once more crawling on hands and knees along the tree line, heading westward. We didn’t go too far before we paused yet again. Sitting up, in a crouch, squat, we looked out on the water. The opening was higher up this time. Several ducks swam in front of us, unbothered by the cold, windy weather, though perhaps the wind was the reason they stayed so close to the bank and row of trees which more than likely offered protection from the gusting wind. We didn’t linger as long in that spot since we were heading out.

Ducks and more 053“Ready to scare the birds?” asked Larry. I nodded. “We’ll stand up slowly.” Instead of standing up right away, we crawled a little further. Then we stood up slowly, scaring the ducks in the process. After watching the birds fly for a moment, we continued walking along the trees.

Our current trail met up with our previous one before we turned eastward. We rounded some trees. Larry halted looking in the grass. “A dead painted turtle.” Larry bent over and picked it up. Examining it, “it’s a beautiful shell. Not a lot of predation yet.” Only one foot had been gnawed on a little bit. “Do you want it? It’s such a beautiful shell.”

“Maybe.” He handed it to me so I could have a closer look. I was amazed at how heavy it felt. “How do you get it cleaned out?”

“Just set it somewhere – not in the house – let maggots clean it up.”

“I’ll keep it then. I’ll put it somewhere safe in the garage.” The turtle’s presence could still be felt. “It’s much heavier than you’d think given its size,” I remarked.

Ducks and more 054“Well, of course it’s heavy, they’re carrying around their house.” We continued walking southward following the trail between the trees and prairie/field. Far up ahead was a larger group of male red wing blackbirds congregating on the ground. We couldn’t tell what they were doing or what was attracting them. Some flew away as we drew nearer.

Soon, we turned eastward again into the tree tunnel. Oh how I loved that spot! As we walked by the spot that had water on either side, Larry said, “Otter scat. Sit here and you’ll see otters.”

Ducks and more 061“That’d be cool.” We hadn’t stopped walking. Out of the tunnel, it opened up. Grassy with a few trees here and there near the driveway, lots of trees growing thickly further away. Again, I marveled at the stately dead tree. Through the gate and back into the truck. My feet were numb, my nose so cold it was probably red and my hands were on the way to being numb.

We turned right on to 84, heading southward. The road turned right, taking us west. Across the bridge. A lone swan was swimming in the water to our right. Larry slowed the truck, then stopped, with the window down so I could take a picture and to look for its mate. “Where’s its mate?” asked Larry, but no mate could be seen. A pair of mallards floated nearby. “Its rusty colored from diving and picking things up off the bottom. Places with oak – lots of tannin – look very red.” There was also a pair of Canada geese nearby.

Back at Larry’s, we unloaded the canoe. It was about 8:50 am. “Do you have time for pie?”

Ducks and more 063“Yeah, I have time.” With that we headed into Kellogg; the crow still riding shotgun in the seat next to me. Amazing how the spirit seemed to linger on in the skull. Along Highway 61, we could look out over McCarthy Lake and the dunes, I marveled at the vastness and beauty of the intricate and delicate ecosystem. At the café, we each enjoyed a slice of pie, and then were on the move again. We took 84 directly from Kellogg instead of going on 61 again. Heading east, there were suddenly large snow flurries, which had not been in the forecast at all. Looking to the Wisconsin bluffs, Larry said, “There’s a snow squall blowing in from Wisconsin.” We could almost see the snow clouds rolling of the Wisconsin bluffs and across the Mississippi River. The road curved dramatically to the right, we were heading southward.The quantity of snowflakes flying through the air increased so it could no longer be classified as mere “flurries”. It had felt warmer when we walked the channel in January. As we drove past the dunes again and sprawling fields, we saw a sandhill crane in Edelbach’s field.  Just a glimpse, even that is exciting. However, I really desire to see one closer up and even have the opportunity to take a good photo of it. Before long we were crossing the bridge again, the lonely swan was still swimming in the same spot as before. Another adventure ended with the hope we would get a nice (nearly windless) day to go canoeing soon.

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