Beaver, Otter, Eagle, Chipmunk, Ducks, and Loons
August 26, 2022
Sitting and reading in the quiet and taking in the view was how I started my first full day in the Boundary Waters. We brewed and drank our coffee and eventually cooked our breakfast. We were in no rush. It was grand.
Late in the morning we piled into the canoe with a few supplies and rowed to upper Basswood Falls, a narrow spot on the lake where Canada almost touches America. Along the way we encountered an otter swimming in the lake. As we came near he poked up his head to look at us. He furrowed his brow and then dived down under the water. We'd see him the next day, and he would do the same thing.
That otter and a beaver we watched swim across our cove the night before, were the biggest wildlife we saw on the trip.
I was surprised we didn't see more birds, having gotten used to the massive flocks of waterfowl that live and migrate along the Missouri River. But we only saw isolated birds here and there. I fell hard for loons, which everyone seems to. Beautiful to look at and of course even more mesmerizing to listen to. They are fun to watch on the water, as they suddenly disappear under the surface with no sound and hardly a ripple, and just as surprisingly reappear sometime later.
From the falls we hiked the one mile portage--but without portaging--and it was good to stretch the legs and back. This brought us out on the river below the falls and some rapids. We hung out there for a while and chatted with a guy who was portaging the full mile on an annual canoe trip with his son and friends.
Then we walked back to our canoe and the falls for lunch and to go swimming and play in the water there. We wanted to swim to Canada, so Robyn found a spot above the brink of the falls and we swam over. There was a small metal pillar on top of the rock that marked the border. The moment we climbed ashore, however, a bald eagle flew down and landed on the first tree on the American side and watched us. We wondered if this was some service the nation provided or we were being scolded?
We decided instead of swimming back that way to cross on the rocks and walk along the shore a ways and then cross between the falls and the next set of rapids. I went first that time and easily made it past the current and to a rock I could climb up. I assured Robyn she'd be fine--she's stronger than I am and swims for exercise. Yet from the moment she jumped in the water it was clear the current was pulling her on a sharper angle than it did me, and she ended up swept down the rapids. Luckily, no scrapes or bangs and very luckily no hitting her head on any rocks. I yelled out, "Was that fun or scary?" and she replied, "It would have been more fun if I hadn't been so scared."
As we made our way back to our canoe we enjoyed finding a chipmunk snacking on the trail mix some other folks had left unsecured in theirs.
Back at our campsite that evening there were two highlights. First, we watched a mother duck and her ducklings travel through our cove. We first spotted them at distance and weren't sure what they were, but as they came more clearly into sight we could see the mother leading. The ducklings were skittering along behind, often climbing up onto the rocks, clearly playing with each other. She eventually got them to a rock and got them all on top and settled down. Then she went and sat two rocks over. We laughed at that. Eventually, when we got up from our chairs to begin cooking dinner, she seemed alarmed at our movement, and before long, had the ducklings all lined up, following her dutifully this time, as she crossed the cove and rounded the point out of sight.
The other highlight was the clear skies which afforded marvelous star gazing that night as we stayed up late, lying on the rocks. Unfortunately we did not see the aurora. I have never seen it and was hopefully, especially since on Thursday morning as I was getting ready for our trip, I heard a report on NPR that we were to expect a geomagnetic storm that weekend. In the car I informed Robyn and asked if she wanted the good or bad news about that first? The bad news was that the storm could disable GPS, which we would be using to navigate. The good news was the aurora. We never saw the aurora, nor lost our GPS signal.
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