Thursday, February 5, 2009

WINTER CANOE

cLICK ON PHOTO TO ENLARGE I have been trying for two weeks to get the canoe out and finally the weather gave me a 30 degree sunny morning. Perfect. I had heard of a canoe trail located on Melton Hill Lake and decided that I would give it a try. The trail is only four and a half miles long. I ran it in no time and decided to venture on down the lake shore line and try to find some photo opportunities. There were a few. But the thing I did not count on was ice. I rounded a tip of land that jutted out into the lake and entered a cove. As I paddled on deeper into the cove I started to hear ice being broken by the bow of the canoe. Whoops! The canoe listed left and right and I realized it was trying to ride up onto the ice. Of course it did. So there I was sitting in my canoe that had driven up and onto a sheet of ice just thick enough to support it. I began chipping away in even amounts on both sides of the canoe so the boat would settle back into the water evenly. It worked. Back paddle time. The bow would not break a way through the ice going forward. I backed it out into the thinner ice where I could turn and make way for the more open water. There was no danger involved with this whole maneuver; just interesting. Of course it's one of those occurrences that one tucks back into the memory for future usage when a situation like this happens on a greater magnitude. I can imagine camping and awaking next morning to find myself frozen in; ice too thick for the canoe to break and not thick enough for me to walk out on. Portage? I guess. This canoe certainly allows one to gain close proximity to wildlife. I took many pictures of herons today because that is about all I could find. But I did get some great shots of these big birds. The bird in the above picture and the following sequences just stood there as I cruised up to him. He appears almost three dimensional in the pictures if one clicks to enlarge. I am always on the lookout for beavers. Beavers and otters are my favorite lake mammals. I enjoy watching their antics, especially the otters. Beavers seem to always be on a mission. Sometimes they can be seen grooming themselves but mostly they are secretive and difficult to find. The dead give away, however, for the presence of beaver are the trees stripped of bark along the shoreline. And sometimes entire trees cut down; or should I say chewed down. I beached the canoe for a trail mix snack and noticed a little indication of beaver activity. OK; a big indication. This beaver must weigh 500 pounds. Campers would scream in terror and small children would run for their lives. Well; not really. It's obvious this guy likes this particular tree. He's come back over and over to dine on it's succulent pithy wood. But just look at what he has accomplished here. A view from the back side of the tree indicates the beaver will fell this huge tree shortly. Nature's little wood carvers. Look at that pile of shavings. Busy little beaver for sure. I enjoy silently paddling along the banks of the lake. I never know what may appear just around the corner. And there is always something that makes me want to pull close to the shoreline and beach the canoe. I sometimes like to just find a tree growing with just the right curve to it's trunk to fit my back. Of course some deep leaves at it's base is nice too. I'm keeping my eye open for just such a spot. It is a cold day here on the lake and there is ice in the shaded places. And, I found out, there is ice in not so shade places also. I pulled into a cove and listened intently as the bow of the canoe broke through the thin sheet ice. Eventually it became so thick that the boat ran up on top of the ice. There I was. I sat there like a dummy thinking "why didn't I see this coming?" It was not a big deal. I simply jabbed the paddle down into the ice and broke it through. I did have enough common sense to break the ice evenly on both sides of the boat so the canoe would settle back into the water evenly and not favor one side more than the other. I could see the snow laying on the water but I never thought much about running through ice. My other boat has a motor and weighs a lot more too. The ice is thin here and I was having a great time pretending I was an ice breaker. Then it got thicker. Then; oops! Time to chunk through the ice so the boat can settle back into the water again. Oh well; live and learn. Time for a snack. Good old trail mix. Now to find a perfect tree to lean against and just look at things. What a great canoe! I am really loving it. This thing takes me anywhere I desire in total silence. I'm sitting here looking at it resting in the water by the weeds and admiring it's lines. She's light weight and sleek. Great glide and fast too. I can't wait to do some camping out of this boat. I hope I can figure how to include Douglas in canoe adventures. He's a lot of moving weight to compensate for though. I think the best part of canoeing is the silence of everything. One can hear twigs breaking on the shoreline announcing the approach of some woodland creature. This early warning sound allows time to grab the camera and be ready for whatever may occur. However; when Winter ends and Summer starts; this lake, and many more recreational lakes will be inundated with pleasure boats, screaming kids and loud radios carried by monster boats that throw up huge wakes capable of upsetting a meager canoe. So I'll have to resort to the mountain lakes where motors are not permitted. And that is ok by me. But Winter shuts down all the lake activity as far as motor boating goes. The only folks who one finds on the lakes in Winter are die hard fishermen (which are few) and hermit types who are rapidly advancing to recluse status the older they get. I certainly don't fit that category; do I? I am the only soul on this lake today. Time to head back to the truck. I believe I'll paddle across the lake and return via the opposite shoreline. A movement on the bank! It's just another heron. But this guy is going to be a model for heron's. He doesn't even see me floating up to him. He is posing. He's preening his feathers. If I had to name this guy I'd name him Mr Happy. Look at that face. He looks like he is totally upset with the outcome of his life. No doubt about it. Grouchy! Animals are humerus and unpredictable. That's why I love them so much. Until next time; enjoy life!!!!!!!!!!!!!