Early Morning Canoeing (Part III)
Larry began backing up the canoe. It was a little effort to get it turned around. I pushed on the right side with all my might. Larry backed it up as I was pushing off a clump of wood and vegetation. With our teamwork, we had the canoe turned around, going with the current, in no time. However, it was necessary to continue in team effort to steer the canoe around the logs we had gone over before. Larry said, “Steer us around those logs.” I pulled and pushed the canoe to avoid the worse of the logs, though we still went over the top of one. Once around the obstacle course of snags, I put my paddle down and took up my camera, observing the world beneath the water. Some sort of green algae. Wild rice bent in the direction of the current. Tiny fishes darting here and there.
Larry saw them too as the canoe glided along, “Yep, that’s the way you’ll see them now.”
A little further on, I exclaimed, “There’s another painted turtle!”
“Did you see it?”
“Yeah, I saw it just before it swam under some vegetation.”
I went to take up my paddle again, Larry stopped me, “Oh, this is easy paddling now, we’re going with the current, and the wind is at our back to push us along.”
“OK.” I let go of the paddle and picked up my camera again. I enjoyed taking pictures of the lake (marsh), the aquatic vegetation, a muskrat lodge, the trees towering above the east bank, and their reflections in the water. I soaked it in.
Black specks floated around my head again, I thought perhaps they were black flies, I finally asked, “What are these swarms of little insects?”
“Midges. They’re abundant. Almost inhale them when breathing. Open your mouth and thunk, a whole bunch go in,” replied Larry. “It’s what we were talking about this winter; everything looks so desolate and barren. Then it begins to warm up, and good lord, it’s bursting with life!” I marveled at the abundance of life, the beauty, extravagance for us to appreciate, a glimpse of Glory. I observed damselflies flutter between stems of vegetation, much daintier than their larger kin, the dragonfly.
We had followed the current as it gradually turned southward, the channel widened considerably. Though covered in thick vegetation, the water stretched far to the right, nearly to the distant highway. Alive and dead cattails were tangled and entwined, a mosaic of brown and green. Larry spotted a metal pole sticking up out of the water and tangle of vegetation. “I wonder what that pole is?” It took a moment before I saw it, cylindrical and rusty. Larry steered the canoe towards it, pushing the bow up close beside, then just a little further so I could reach out and shake it. We discussed the feel of it, if there was something holding it, then Larry stood up and walked toward the front of the canoe. Leaning on my shoulders for support, he reached over and wiggled the pole. He thought maybe it had been part of a support for a duck blind. The canoe gently rocked back and forth as Larry walked back to his seat in the stern. Larry pushed and pulled the canoe back to the main channel.
I continued to marvel at the beauty around us. Random barren snags rising up above the marsh, here and there. The fresh green of the new cattails. Trees bordering the marsh edges, most of them fully leafed. The matted, brown, and dead vegetation beneath the water’s surface, drifting lazily in the current. Yellow lily pads sticking up above the water; some close to blooming. How thin and small the wild rice starts out. The reflections on the water’s surface. Geese swimming among the lily pads; watching them take flight. A gap in the wall of trees allowing a glimpse of prairie above the east bank.
I scrutinized the area where we had seen the muskrat earlier, hoping for another sighting. However, if the rodent was nearby, it chose to remain hidden. Further along we saw a cluster of ducklings in the water to our right, some distance away. We paused to observe them. Larry thought it odd that there wasn’t a parent in sight protecting them. He steered the canoe closer to them. They swam away from us. We heard a call, perhaps their mother, and then they all disappeared in the green vegetation. A couple of turtles were sunbathing on a pile of dead, matted vegetation. Red wing black birds flew about, never ceasing their song.
We veered off our previous course, not going on the wider channel, but taking the smaller one, lined with trees, we were between small islands it seemed. The channel lazily turned to our left, ever more easterly. The trees and snags were beautiful. A pair of noisy geese flew overhead. Within sight of the bridge, Larry pointed out, “Muskrat ahead to your left.”
It took me a moment to spot it but then there it was. “I see it.” Then observing it through my long lens, “Are you sure it’s a muskrat? It looks like a beaver.”
He replied, “It’s a muskrat.” It had been swimming across the channel ahead of us. When it realized we were watching it, it headed for the vegetation and the trees on the left. Soon it disappeared out of sight near a snag leaning over the water. I again went back to marveling at the trees and snags and the aquatic plants beneath the water’s surface. All too soon, we were approaching the bridge ahead and a little to the right of us. Larry landed the canoe. I stepped out on to the bank and pulled the canoe further up so Larry wasn’t getting out in the water. Then we loaded the canoe. Larry secured it in the back of the truck; I walked up on to the bridge to take pictures. As we left, Larry said, “We’ll have to get out again soon and canoe down Schmoker’s.”