Hidden in the far corner, a secret passage.
Aptly named for the residents of these waters, the narrow channel with tall pines to either side appeared from its widest point, to dead end in a large, tangled mound. Slender, trimmed sticks, their gnawed ends angled and left piled on top, confirmed recent beaver activity. But, as we slowly glided forward to get a closer look, the shallow water flowing past the dam easily carried us through the passage to the lake beyond—Beaver Lake, its broad, smooth surface, at over 750 acres, many times larger than that of Little Beaver.
We stepped out into the warm, clean water of the shelf and pulled Red Canoe to the edge.
A colorful mosaic of small, smooth stones collected here and several large snails cruised the bottom until it became the shore, where grasses and wild orchids grew in a narrow strip between water and woods.
Barely seen against the dark trees across this expanse, there was a flash of color--as two kayaks, their double-bladed, yellow paddles rising swiftly along the shoreline, quietly circled the large lake and disappeared from view. Until, on this fine September day, we were left alone, looking out across Beaver Lake, walking ankle-deep in the clear, amber water.
Heading back toward the passage an hour later, we soon encountered a bird, swimming toward us in the shallow water, the small crest of her rusty head parting the surface, as she peered below for small fish—a common merganser.
Dipping and lifting, and dipping again, the drops of water fell from her face, as she moved forward, swimming strongly.
Until, as if we were of no concern, she arrived to within just feet of Red Canoe.
We turned and paddled slowly beside her, across the clear water of the sandy shelf, for many strokes. Then, she turned and was gone.
I wonder at these close encounters, when nature seems more trusting than I would expect, if it is the sound and speed of our lives that teaches them to fear--a fear of man that is learned by our loud presence.
For, in these spaces that preserve solitude, it seems it has not learned to accept us, but has simply not yet learned to fear.
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