Tuesday, June 4, 2019

The Conversation

Reading some Sigurd Olson set the day's plan.  Nothing would do except a spot where I would have to hop a few beaver dams.

I was wide awake before 6 am and headed out as soon as I could load my gear.  The drive for this section of river is longer than normal, but I set out into the Great Swamp by 7:30, the cold night leaving remnants such that I would paddle almost an hour before it would feel less than cool.
Setting out in the early morning light
I set a conversation pace...a paddling speed that would allow for a conversation between myself and nature.  It is a pace that can be maintained for hours on end without pause, a sweet spot of covering distance without felling hurried.  I like to think that the animals in the swamp would be able to observe without panic, but that is probably just me.

I spot a Green Heron not more than a couple hundred yards into the trip.  I normally don't see them until after they have finished nesting.  I flush Wood Ducks here and there, which is no surprise as this grey stick swamp is prime Woody habitat.  Farther on a group of Woody ducklings take to the swamp grasses while the mother lures me away in a well performed injured duck act.  I always worry about the ducklings in these cases as the mothers seem to overact quite a bit and really should return sooner to the brood.
Wood Duck
I spot the first Great Blue Heron while nearing the halfway bridge, where I have to do a short 20 foot portage to get around a cluster of blow downs from a storm a year ago.  I find several more Great Blues in the forest section.
Water snakes sunning on a beaver lodge
The water is also high enough so that none of the beaver dams is visible and I cruise over them knowing most of their locations but seeing not a hint.

Below the forest the river is matted with weeds.  This is unusual so early in the year and I suspect that the nutrient mix in the river is well out of balance.   I imagine that it might be from farm runoff as the upper section where there are no farms was clear.  It's pretty bad for early June and it's not going to get better until fall.

I turn back at the Green Chimneys put-in, the normal lower end access.  Here, the conversation ends.  The swamp has taken over and I am on the receiving end of the sermon.  Ordinals drop from the observations.  I spot Herons, but they go uncounted, as do the Kingfisher, Flicker, Red Wing Blackbirds and Tree Swallows.  The meanders come and go, the grey sticks pass.  I paddle on without pause.  What I came here for has arrived.

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