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

Shooting in the Dark

Reason to get out of bed: early morning light on the Platte.

Mornings are a difficult time for me. When I was little, my two sisters employed wildly different tactics to wake me up. One would open my door, turn on the light and shout, “Mom and Dad said to get up.” I promptly chucked whatever was closest, usually a paperback, in her general direction.

My youngest sister, however, would crack open the door so the light would gently fall into my room, and then snuggle with me in bed while whispering, “It’s time to get up!”.

Although I awoke like an angry grizzly bear, my first sister had more success.

Action Lab with Sports Mode on camera! He's more of a snuggler than a duck retriever.

Fast-forward to the present, when my husband has the privilege of prying me out of bed to engage in an activity that I participated in planning. It always seems like a better idea the night before, less so when the alarm goes off and it’s still dark outside.

I tried “I don’t want to go anymore.” At first, he was surprised and then realized it was just a stalling tactic. A few minutes later a bowl of oatmeal was plopped down by my head (which I will admit is very sweet and sneaky tactic). Because I wake up famished every day of my life, I woke up to eat.

The mighty hunter with the duck. Look hard for the duck - camo works! (click photo for larger view)

Fast-forward again to the great outdoors, both of us shooting. My hubby with a gun, me with a camera. It wasn’t dark anymore but it makes a catchier title. I alternated reading the Nikon D3100 Digital Field Guide (v. helpful) and taking pictures of slightly annoyed canines and a much more willing landscape. The husband shot a beautiful Mallard drake (that’s a boy duck). We’ve learned the hard way that plucking the duck and cooking it whole is far tastier than breasting it out, and a 350° oven for a little over an hour rendered Mr. Duck quite delicious. As for a camera trick, my very non-technical advice is that the sports mode works great for pets, too.

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).