Saturday, October 15, 2011

Stealth of the paddle--finding the silent places

I've been studying my family's genealogy and history for nearly 40 years now.  Along the way I've located a few ancestors as far back as twenty generations ago. 

But my biggest surprise came last year when I made a breakthrough in my mother's French-Canadian line.  I discovered more than a few of them had been voyageurs and fur traders. 

Maybe that explains my 50-year-long obsession and passion for canoeing, and my quest to discover the silent places that can only be reached by paddle and portage.

Nearly half a century ago I made my first river float trip down California's Owens River. 

I was amazed at the variety of wildlife along the river, and I couldn't believe how close I could get to them in a canoe. 

Since then I've canoed the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) in Minnesota, portions of Algonquin Park in Ontario, Canada, the Upper Missouri River in Montana, and a myriad of other lakes in California, Wyoming, and Montana, as well as a few in British Columbia, and Alberta, Canada. 

In the BWCA I paddled along accompanied by a giant bull moose, and on the Missouri River I floated for miles in the company of golden eagles and osprey.

Today my favorite place to paddle is the Snake River Oxbow in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park.  It takes a little effort to get the proper permits, but the reward is ample. 

Last year a young bull moose appeared on the edge of some willows, then waded into the oxbow, and swam past me. 

The next day as I was floating down a portion of the Snake River, I spotted a bald eagle on a river bank.  I pulled my camera out just in time to get one quick shot of him launching into the air.

I've always known that the stealth of a paddled canoe assisted my fishing efforts, and I am no longer amazed when I paddle along with otters, beaver, moose, and eagles. 

Oh!  And, I do carry a can of bear-spray in case grizzly 399 and her cubs decide to swim past me in the Oxbow.

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