Canoeing Alongside Geese (Part II)
“Goose, up close to the vegetation on the right,” observed Larry. I looked to our right. “There’s more up ahead to the right.”
I looked and looked but couldn’t see it. “I don’t see it.” When I finally was able to pick it out of the vegetation, I was amazed by how well it was camouflaged, lying with its head down. I wasn’t able to see the second one right away either.
Larry replied, “There are goslings too.” Finally, I got a glimpse of the family, hiding behind the vegetation. I spotted the goslings before the parent. I was awestruck. It’s incredible how well they can hide. We got a little too close, though, and the parent flew away. Larry was disappointed that she flew off instead of flying a short distance away and circling back.
We could see the old dam up ahead of us. It was still open; the beavers hadn’t fixed the hole in the middle. The opening was more than wide enough for Larry to glide the canoe through. There were lots of very small side channels; I thought to myself it would be fun to poke around in them but we wouldn’t get very far before the water would be too shallow for the canoe. The aquatic vegetation and trees looked really pretty, their beauty a salve to a weary soul. Larry steered us into an opening in the trees and wild rice, which was not nearly its full height to our right, taking us into a smaller side channel. A log lay across the water between clumps of young cattails and wild rice. The canoe bumped into the log. As it did so, Larry instructed, “Find a spot where your feet won’t get too wet and step out of the canoe. We won’t be able to canoe over the log.” So I stepped out of the canoe on to the log, using my paddle as a balance, I walked across it a few feet so I was out of the way of the canoe. Larry walked to the front of the canoe, stepped out on to the log on the other side, and pulled the canoe over the log. The log was narrow so it was a challenge to keep my balance. However, I didn’t mind one bit but was rather enjoying the adventure and took it all in. Observing the log, I discovered it had been cut by a beaver, though Larry didn’t think a beaver put it there. He talked briefly about how beaver activity has changed the landscape here. My eyes wondered to some geese out in the open water, ahead and to the right of us. Larry pulled and pushed the canoe over the top of the log, when he got it back in the water, he held out his hand to help me step back into the canoe. I carefully and perhaps a little nervously, walked to my spot in the front of the canoe. Then Larry stepped in, he remained standing. We paddled further, I had to steer the bow of our canoe more to our right to avoid clumps of cattails. Soon, we got hung up on another spot, a pile of sticks, mud, and dead vegetation. So we had to repeat the procedure – step out on a mound of mud, first testing the pile to make sure I wouldn’t sink in too far. As I stood on the squishy, uneven mud, I again took in the landscape and thought about the explorers and how canoeing wasn’t always recreational, rather, hard work and an important mode of transportation, with close calls in storms and dealing with hostile tribes. Larry walked to the front of the canoe, stepped out and pulled it across the mound. In a moment the canoe was over the obstacle, I stepped back in holding onto Larry for balance. Once I was back in the bow, he stepped in too. (I rocked it a bit both times; but had better balance the second time.) We had to steer the canoe through the vegetation. I was pushing and pulling with the paddle to steer it to our right where there was more water. Larry pushed with the pole. With a bit of effort, we managed to get back where there was more open water. Larry exclaimed, “Ah, water again!”
Larry observed a heron in a tree; he paused to look up at it more closely, “It doesn’t look quite right.” I looked up at it but I couldn’t see it very well. It was just a dark grayish bird with a long beak standing on a tree limb toward the top of the tree, though it looked to be of good size. (Later, I looked it up after cropping the photos I took and identified it as a green heron.) We also observed more geese floating on the water far ahead and to the right of us, red wing black birds flying around singing, and heard fish jumping though we didn’t actually see them. I was amazed by how vast an area was this “lake”. I enjoyed the bluffs ahead and to our left. I asked, “Is this the Weaver Bottoms?” Because on the atlas there are different names than what people call it.”
Larry replied, “Yeah, well this little stretch we came out on, Goose Lake is all part of the Weaver Bottoms. And I might be using a lot of colloquial names but it’s safe to say it’s recognized as the Weaver Bottoms. That’s part of the story – how it’s had many names – locals have a different name for it then what’s on a map or an atlas.” I saw a giant fish leap up out of the water in front of us, but it happened so fast, a split second, all I saw was a silver shape glinting in the sun then it was gone. There was still mist rising off the water far in the distance – so beautiful with a mystical feel. Yellow water lilies already in bloom, their blossom a round ball, were pretty but not in the same way as other flowers. The water surface wasn’t smooth, for vegetation poked through it here and there and small blankets of algae littered the surface. Jumping fish created lots of circles of ripples across the water.
We started turning to our left. There was a peninsula of trees stretching out to our left. Wild rice and cattails grew thickly along its bank. We canoed along that then across the end of it. As we were canoeing around the point, I was thinking to myself, “Wow, you can really smell that watery, backwater smell. At that exact moment, Larry said, “Do you smell that – very fishy smell? A lot of fish activity. Carp, bigmouth buffalo – come in here to spawn, so you get that very fishy smell.” I took a deep whiff of it – taking a good smell of the place. We continued to turn a little bit, into the other side of the peninsula. I looked back at the peninsula, taking in the trees, scanning the edge for any wildlife and the logs for sunbathing turtles. Then looked ahead and right, taking in the vastness of the Weaver Bottoms.
Note: For an update on my honeybees read http://prairiehollow.com/blog3/2016/12/17/honey/!