It is my 200th logged trip (there are 201 blogs - one is not a canoe trip). I portage east down the big hill to the big lake and paddle north to Union Bay, west through the marsh, west through the crossing under place, west through Portage Bay, south to the bottom of Lake Union, and I portage west up the big hill to home.
It seemed to be a day to go somewhere. I write nothing while in the boat. I shoot six mediocre photographs. I use my linseed oiled cherry paddle a few thousand times. I don't think about much. I am glad to be here.
I paddle my canoe so often in the city that the city has ceased to be the city.
Asphalt becomes the portage trails of long dead voyageurs.
The "can people" pass by, indigenous, sometimes approving and helpful, sometimes doubting my intentions.
I paddle into my secret place, a twisting narrow route through the cattails, something the beaver has created that I can use in high water. When I can float no further and must decide whether I want to drag the canoe through the marsh or back out, I stand up so that my eyes are even with the tops of the cattails. For so long, the bleached, brittle cattails of last season have stood in defiance of time. Now, new growth has reached full height. You'd think that the old ones would now be supported and that they would continue to stand, but they don't. It seems as if they have melted away.
I know where they go, but I always wonder, where did they go?
I find the water in the east channel of the burial island so still that I do not want to disturb it. I stop and wait until someone else comes along and breaks the spell.
Paddling through the south lagoon, I spot two people watching me from the shore. The woman is smiling. The man comes over to the bridge that leads to the burial island and compliments me, "it's nice to see someone who knows how to paddle a canoe". We talk a while, we're both from canoe country and we both like small fourth of July rodeos. ...never know where a canoe will take you. But, today is a green day. It is clouded over and a light rain falls keeping the toy ships safe at harbor and out of my way even though it is a Sunday in June. Today's color palette is green. The cattails are full height now and the wall they create is green. The trees are leafed out adding a green cornice to the walls. The water reflects green, where it isn't decked by plate sized green lily pads and dapples of frog moss. Only the smallest of purple flowers and the brown of the beaver chewed trees dare to violate the design. Even the lilies themselves are tucked away in their green pods, the clouds so heavy that they haven't opened for the day.
This spring, the green is moving. The east marsh is definitely on the move. The cattail island that several weeks ago spread some seventy feet and became a peninsula, has now calved off a new smaller island of maybe a 1000 square feet. There are new channels on the west side of the beaver forest and the main entrance is threatening to close itself off. It is rare to see changes on a daily basis and I am just too curious to see where everything will be when the low water of winter finally sets the bog in place.
I circle the bay and while I do, the wind picks up, and the rain gets heavy. I get wet and I don't mind one bit.
I stop to write at the big lodge at the edge of the beaver forest, which lies within the east marsh. A belted kingfisher is nearby and an Allen's hummingbird streaks past. Forty-some geese are back near the point. Most of them are goslings, some with adult colors, but with wings that aren't ready to fly, yet.
Once before, I paddled well into the beaver forest. Other times I have been stopped by the tangle of chewed trees. I have twice tried to bring others here, but the way in has always been blocked. Today, I am allowed to enter, the route being surprisingly easy with no more than some ducking involved. There seems no science to this, the lake being just as high as it has been lately. Maybe the beaver forest is as it always is, and I am different.
Inside, I catch a few glimpses of wood ducks in the shadows...in the distance...they are phantoms deciding when and when not to be visible. A green backed heron comes my way for a landing and is startled to find me, veering away at the last moment. This spot is so good for the soul. I try to remember all of it for later and tears come to my eyes.
I can't shake sleep this morning and all that I can think of that might bring me to full consciousness is to be in my canoe. My marsh will not do for me this day as I seem to still be carrying a chestful of wanderlust that the 150 mile trip on the Yakima only added to. You'd think that a long trip would spend wanderlust, but it never does.
I put in at Bothell landing on the Samammish River, first fielding 20 questions from a small boy at the water's edge...."why do you canoe?" which I respond to with "wouldn't you like to canoe?" There is some current running today with so much recent rain, so I hug inside bends where the water is more sluggish and I make fine time. The river gets quieter as one moves upstream. Eventually, the roads move quite a ways back from the river. After an hour, I pass through a section of fast current, several minutes of strong paddling, inching forward, inching forward, until after about 70 yards of that, the current lets up.
Here, the river banks are plush and green. This is a constrained river, a contained river, high banks keeping it in its channel so that it no longer cuts new meanders and oxbows on the wide valley floor. Farm land long ago replaced the wildness of this little river's spring floods. Now, greed, in its infinite wisdom, replaces farmland with warehouses. Fortunately, the cities here got control of that before all was ruined. Most of the valley was saved.
I spot two otters coming downstream near the far brushy bank. They dive and as I pass by I know that they are watching unseen from the shadows, until it is clear that I am just paddling by.
I flush a heron and flush it again and once more. Three hops for a half a mile, and then it climbs up and over me returning to someplace near where I first saw it. It was a pretty large heron.
Several times, I think I should turn back, but the canoe continues its track upstream. After a bit more than two hours, it turns and drifts downstream while I write in my notebook.
I've no focus today and I figure that I might as well be doing nothing in my canoe as well as at home. I portage east to the big lake and when I get the canoe loaded, I continue east to the far shore. Halfway across I notice that a bee has landed on my camera case. I don't paddle across the lake that often, but this is the second time that a bee had landed on my canoe. A mile from land seems a long way for a small insect. It is tired and not interested in leaving. I set it on the center thwart so that I can use my camera, but it prefers my backpack, black and warm by what little sun there is. I follow the far shore north until I pass under the big bridge, then I head back west. It is calm and not quite warm, but almost. It is a day that saps ambition. I head over to the big beaver lodge and drop the bee off on a beaver chewed log. I imagine the bee is not long for the world and lost from its hive, but this seems like good place.
Sun has returned to the NW for the day. I portage up and over the hill to Lake Union passing through a schoolyard during its pre-class-recess-energy-burn-off session. Kids are usually fascinated by the canoe and sometimes, adults become kids when theysee the canoe.
There is more wind than I expected, a stiff one out of the NW that I paddle into while I am on the east shore. When I get even to Gasworks Park, I cross over to it and get in the wind shadow of the west shoreline. Then just a hazy minded paddle east through Portage Bay and the Crossing Under Place.
Today is taking on the feeling of a deep-soak, a day when I use my eyes and ears and let everything come and let everything go. I've noticed that after being away for a few days, it takes me a few more to bring my head back into the rhythm of the marsh. The new cattails are now as tall or taller than last years dried and matted pods. I sit in the east marsh, near where several marsh wren nests are, and soak. The nests are too hard to spot with the new growth, too hard for today.
Before I leave, I paddle into a beaver canal in the little island that lies in the arboretum. It goes 3/4 of the way through, but there is a tiny open pond in the center. I hear a loud, almost barking bird call that comes with the sound of air being sucked through teeth. I lay back looking for the source. It is a small hummingbird.
S and I portage down to the big lake. She laughs and calls me a curmudgeon when I make disparaging remarks at one of the Can People, until one of the Can People guns her motor needlessly to squeeze between her and two bicycles. It is warm and calm, overcast with light rain, and sleepy, but with the freshest of air. S relaxes in this stuff, her paddling gets a little too slow and she loses her focus, which is alright by me...it is good for her. She asks if we can go someplace quieter - a confusing question... yes we can go wherever we want as far as we want, but only at 3 miles/hour. When we get to Union Bay, we cross NW to the north point and then slip a ways up into Ravenna Creek. We see several cinnamon teal - the male a beautiful shiny red-brown. They summer here while the other varieties of teal are found in these waters during the winter. We pass through the crossing under place, which is unusually calm for a summer Sunday. The clouds and rain have so many thinking that there is something wrong with the day.
After a few days of paddling in a river to the east, a trip where I was constantly on my alert and ever watching for something ahead, I return to my marsh. I set out from Portage Bay, but only because I seem to think that I should earn my trip today by paddling an extra mile. I pause in the west islands and note that last years cattails are only visible in the new growth by their shaggy heads that for some reason still stand. I hear a marsh wren and locate it low in the cattails just in time to see it snatch a large flying insect from the air.
The goslings have grown so much in the last two weeks. They are nearly the size of adult geese. The irises are still in bloom, the cool and rain that people here have complained about has extended their yellow blooms longer than normal.
I head across the north marsh and spot a pied billed grebe with two or three young. They are diving so often it is difficult to count, but the young are the smallest water birds that I have seen. They are the size of small sparrows except for their longer necks. They seem too small to be here.
As I near the NE lagoon, the big female bald eagle from the north nest wheels in the air in front of me before setting up in a tall tree. I pause in the lagoon right under the her for a few minutes and then head south across the bay.
As I cross the east marsh, a raccoon appears in the shadows to my right. It ambles away into disappearance, all at its own pace.
The first 300+ entries in this blog were from the Seattle area on the west coast of North America. Starting with October 5, 2012, my blog (and myself for that matter) has moved to Connecticut on the east coast. I have a lot to learn about my new home. I paddle solo most of the time, but I do take others on many trips. Photographs are shot from the canoe on the day of the trip. The writing is done by pencil and paper in the canoe.
I am an interdisciplinary artist creating content-driven and concept-driven artwork in a diverse selection of materials and themes with a very strong recent emphasis on nature and ecology. I was the Rubicon Foundation/Smoke Farm Artist in Residence for 2011-2012. I now live in Connecticut.