Droplets of water dripped shimmering from my wooden paddle into the glass-like water. Anderson Creek narrowed around me. In the other direction, it widened as it flowed towards the Elk River. I was intimately familiar with that part of the creek. I grew up there, skiing and tubing and swimming and boating. We spent many vacations visiting my Grandma’s cabin positioned on this very creek doing those very things. But today I decided to adventure in the other direction where it narrowed considerably. This section was not safe for bigger watercraft. I chose an old metal canoe to explore these unknown waters.
I passed by several small houses of neighbors I didn’t know. Houses I had previously only seen the tar and gravel road during our periodic escapades on foot. Soon all the homes faded away as I paddled my way further down the creek. Trees grew tall on either bank and I suddenly felt like I had entered another world.
Ahead of me, the creek widened a bit. The water was crystal clear. So clear I could see fish swimming about, some slow and confident and others quick and erratic. I was so overwhelmed by the beauty surrounding me my breath caught in my throat. I slowly paddled onward desperately trying not to bang my paddle against the sides of the canoe. The resulting clank would surely break the spell.
Suddenly a beaver surfaced several feet in front of me. Just swimming along, not a care in the world. Then, “SLAP!” He slammed his tail against the surface of the water and dove to the muddy bottom. I nearly jumped out of my skin. It was deafening in the silence. He had caught sight of me and dove for cover with a distracting tail slap for good measure. As I was contemplating what had just occurred, he nonchalantly resurfaced and was just casually swimming along, leaving a small wake in his trail, as if nothing had happened. He caught sight of me again and “SLAP!” he was gone again only to resurface seconds later. I could hardly contain my mirth as this charade continued. Eventually, he disappeared and I continued on.
The wildlife was just spectacular, birds chittering about, squirrels rummaging in the leaves, and fish darting about in their underwater world. Up ahead I saw a doe cautiously approach the water’s edge to take a sip from the creek. I don’t remember at what point I turned my vessel towards home. My stealthy canoe without its sound shattering motor eventually transported me back to civilization. The experience seemed almost surreal. I had been a part of something like never before. I was more than a mere intruder.
This experience didn’t have me swearing off motor vehicles, but it did change me. And, for a few magical moments, I felt what it was like to be something other than a conqueror.
Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. — John Muir