I put in at the Eagle Scout canoe launch, which is situated on a small creek just 50 yards in from the big river. It is a cloudy with rain showers and a chance of thunderstorms, a day when 99% of boat owners don't go outside, a perfect day for a canoe trip.
There is little current, this being reservoir, and I paddle upstream with ease for the first half hour, the current gradually increasing and my route taking advantage of the slow water on the inside of the bends. As the river narrows the waterfront homes yield to forest on the east side and a few tired old cabins that were built before any recognizable building codes.
A cobble stone wing dam creates the first problem. It has pooled enough water upstream to create a stiff current from shore to shore. I sideslip out to where the current looks easiest, but it is not. For ten minutes I go as hard as I can, the slower water always just a few yards ahead of me no matter where I try. Watching the water, I seem to make progress, but watching the bent tree to my right, I am gaining no more than inches for every minute. I stop and drift back into the eddy behind the dam and wade past it instead.
Again, I make progress by taking the inside bends until, once more, there is shore to shore swift water. I get out on the east bank and line my boat upstream for a couple hundred yards. I beach it and walk upstream to see what is there, and rounding the bend find my day's goal, the Stevenson Dam, another quarter mile up...good enough. There is a good 400 yards of class 1 rapids here at this water level (waves, but nothing to run into, nothing to have to maneuver around).
When I get back to my put-in, or rather, across the river from my put-in, I continue. I can feel the dream time coming on, my time has been put in and I have stopped looking at the landscape and become part of the landscape. The senses heighten and the stuff that does not matter here and now drifts into the background. It is where you should be when you are out...where the focus is on everything that is around you and not on yourself...the contradiction that thinking about yourself is not as safe as thinking about what surrounds you. Most people never get there and I imagine their ring tone from the belly of a grizzly bear. Two little yellow birds chase each other. A second piece of blue plastic barrel finds a spot behind me in the canoe. Cicadas are near, they are loud.
I continue to Pink House Marsh, where I find a hawk and a pair of mating swans with one interloping swan to pester them. I watch the swans carefully having been charged not long ago. The dominant puts up the first warning signs, the raising of wings to make its body look bigger, but that is all. I pass and it keeps a watch on me.
As I return, thunder rumbles. I was going to write, "distant thunder", but thunder is never distant. It is where you hear it. It is a here and now event. I look over my shoulder and tell myself that the rain will begin just as I am loading the canoe on my car. But, I am wrong. It begins when I am a 100 yards from the put-in. I wish it had started earlier.