Thursday, June 16, 2011

Dawn Patrol

I leave the house before sunrise and briskly walk the portage down to that unnamed lagoon that lays between the ancient portage trail and the Workbench Lodge.

A homeless man shouts unseen, unintelligible from the shadows, back under a bridge and reminds me of my most dangerous moment in 400 days of canoeing - when I faced down a man of criminal intent on one of my portages. I would rather face a grizzly bear than go through that again, the grizzly being much more predictable than the man. This preoccupies me as I set the canoe in and load my gear.

No sooner than taking up my paddle for the first stroke do I spot a beaver swimming past. I am on the west end of the Workbench Lodge territory and starting here means I traverse the area that they claim. A second smaller beaver is grazing in the shadows next to two mallards. A tail slap is all the notice I receive of a third. And, finally reaching the 100 yard point of the trip, a fourth slaps its tail back in the felled trees that line the point. As I near the lodge, a fifth beaver clambers over the submerged workbench island from which the lodge gets its name.

I continue into the south lagoon, towards the hidden lodge. I saw several beaver here the last time I was down here so early in the morning, but today there are none, until I head into the east channel of the burial island. A beaver comes swimming straight at me. I stop and it swims esses back and forth, raising its nose clear of the water at times to catch my scent. Then, it dives quietly and I sit still waiting for a minute. I watch the water beside the canoe in case it swims under and past. After a minute I spot it 10 yards behind me. It has passed under without showing any wake on the surface of the still water.

The East Marsh is spectacular in the sunrise, as it always is, the cattails flaming to the sounds of redwing blackbirds and marsh wrens while a great blue heron silently hunts (it makes three catches) in the shadows. The main channel in the big dead end is only a half canoe wide today, cattails on the move again. The dead end is in the shade, so it has not yet woken up so I head around to the Big Lodge.

I pass the two resident dead beaver along the way and park myself just southwest of the lodge. A large beaver slips off of a rootball and there are a couple of tail slaps announcing my arrival. A mother wood duck herds her brood back into the safety of the beaver forest. The beaver return to their business after I sit still for a few moments. They keep an eye on me, but don't seem to be overly bothered. Two nuzzle each other in passing and I hear one let out the clicking chip of their call.

An osprey flies overhead.

I head down the big lake.

No comments: