The blog of the adventures (or mis-adventures) of an active mountain woman.

Wildlife before Breakfast

My new backyard

At 9 o’clock at night, getting up at 5:45 am to kayak the river the next morning sounds like a good idea. At 5:45 the next morning, it sounds like I want to throw something (anything) at the person who is waking me up. Did you know it’s still dark then? As in, middle-of-the-night-pitch-black dark? I didn’t. But I did get up, pull on a layers of clothing, hat, headlamp, and pogies (kayak mittens and incidentally, a key invention in the evolution of man) and proceeded to put my tired self into the front of our tandem kayak. Let me tell you what I saw.

I didn’t really ‘see’ the flock of geese as much I heard them. We weren’t 10 minutes into the paddle when a commotion sounding a bit like a Mack truck started immediately on my left. The Mack truck grew louder as we approached and started furiously honking for us to get out of the way before it decided to take flight and relocate downstream. A narrow miss.

The low water allowed for a more leisurely Chai-sipping pace and at one such interlude, I spied something moving along the bank towards an obvious den. The masked critter heard us and froze to assess the new bright orange creature on the river. Not often seen in this area, the raccoon decided we were more curious than threatening and we were allowed to safely observe him in his entirety with a comforting distance of water between the two of us. Cool.

Finally, I saw what I had been waiting for- a beaver! Although their dam-building can make them a serious nuisance for river recreation and to homeowners, it is super neat to see them in action. This one had its head above water and was swimming upstream straight at us. We spotted each other around the same time and he promptly dove underwater to resurface later closer to the bank. By this time we were downstream of him and he boogied to shore with amazing swim skills. He was probably breaking curfew as it was getting fairly light out. If this amazing Fall weather holds, I’ll try to find his dam and see if I can catch him in construction mode. But as that will require multiple 5:45am mornings, I wouldn’t hold your breath.

Super Cool Video of the Day: Tagging bears in Canada- the three adorable cubs are worth the watch (it’s funny, too).

Kayaking the Snake

The author finishing a "roll"

The author finishing a "roll"

Summer in the mountains is much too short and Friday was much too beautiful to stay inside, so I skipped out to play in my kayak on the scenic stretch of the Snake River. While rafting and kayaking was once my singular obsession, it has given way in the past 5 years to mountain biking, climbing, hiking and the like. As such, I was not as practiced in strapping my kayak on the car I’ve owned for the past 1.5 years. Apparently, this is something worth practicing.

As I put on the brakes to pull into the takeout and set the shuttle, my kayak abruptly slid forward. Jutting my right hand through the open sunroof, I gripped the kayak tightly while reaching across with my left hand to shift into neutral as my knee directed the steering wheel. Unsure of my ability to stop the kayak from bouncing off my hood, I came to an awkward stop while my friend drove by, looking at me quizzically. I got out of my car, face red, and explained that I usually strapped the kayak on in the opposite direction. Now I knew why.

This friend had never been kayaking with me. In fact, we had never shared any sort of outdoor adventure together. Having randomly intersected paths after some amount of time just a few days before, I was somewhat self-conscious of coming off as a total dumbass. Strike one.

My friend mentioned that his dog liked to ride along on the back of the kayak if I didn’t mind. I was more intrigued than anything by the idea (as were all the fishermen and drift boat occupents along the way). However, he had discounted my mention of “low water” and not realized that the lowest water he had ever seen meant some serious maneuvering and a few decent size waves.

The poor dog proved herself to be worthy of the adventure. After falling off, she would bee-line it for the nearest bank and run down until her owner could eddy out (pull over in slack water) and cajole her back on the kayak. For my part, I shouted out a few helpful “she’s falling” or “you just lost her”. The photo below is posted at a large size so you can read the clear expression on the dog’s face. It’s not photoshoped, I swear.

My friend and his dog on the scenic Snake River

The Dynamic Duo

At one point we decided to stop and have a little swim in a large, calm pool. I gathered the courage to submerse myself in the not warm water and dove down with sunglasses on. They immediate floated off my face and I went ass-up, feet kicking in the air and knowing that if I didn’t find them in seconds, the river gods would claim another pair.

I spotted them through the filmy water and surfaced with them in hand, triumphant. Gasping for air, I explained that I had lost my sunnies when I went under. He answered that he thought I had taken them off before diving, which would have been the smart thing to do. Dumbass strike two. Luckily, we were close to the takeout (end of a river trip) and I managed to hold it together for the next 20 minutes (I think). I’m still in the game.