Letters from Ely Quiet water

by Duane Behrens

Quiet Water<BR><BR>It was almost time to put it all away for the season. But on this relatively balmy morning in mid-October, we managed to get the canoe out for one last day trip. The previous month I’d put together a small, four-by-eight-foot brush trailer as a tool to help in clearing the front woods. Today, that same trailer would perform reasonably well as a canoe caddy. The trailer rack is more than sturdy enough to support that heavy old Grumman - and loading a canoe onto a four-foot high trailer rack is much easier than wrestling it onto the top of the pickup/camper shell as we once did. Ahhhhh! Recreation is much more fun when it’s easy. Jane swears much less with this arrangement, she comes out with us more often . . . and I think her cooking has improved.<BR><BR>Today, son-in-law Eric and O.C. (my own eleven-year old) were eager for their last chance to put a line in the water. We had the canoe lashed down to the trailer in minutes. <BR><BR>Part of the fun of living here is observing the many ways in which canoes can be attached to trailers, pickups, cars, horses and large dogs. In our case, a red flag tied on the back makes us legal - if a bit odd in appearance - with almost six feet of canoe extending past the rear trailer gate. It’s probably not a rig you’d want to haul to California and back, but it’s absolutely fine for getting to any launch point on the Farm lakes.<BR><BR>Today we chose Low Lake, north of Bass. I hadn’t been there since June, when friends introduced us to its high cliffs and scenic beauty. We’d been lucky on that summer day. A road grader had passed through, making the miles-long journey smooth and enjoyable. Today was different. Today, our road speed was often less than 10mph as we skirted potholes and “washboards” that had formed after recent rains. But never mind. . . I understood the reason for this lack of maintenance when we arrived at the launch. We were the only ones there.<BR><BR>Eric and I unloaded the canoe and threw in fishing gear and lunch while O.C. conveniently disappeared, playing along a nearby creek bed. Surveying the loaded canoe, I realized what an inexpensive hobby this can be. We were about to embark on a morning of fun - on a sturdy, lakeworthy craft costing less than $400 and still looking and performing like a brand new model. Oh, sure - we’ll own a new Souris River some day. I can’t wait, and I know I’ll enjoy it immensely. In the meantime, paddling an old Grumman is like playing racquetball with a gas can; a little heavy, a little noisy - but still heaps of fun.<BR><BR>And today. . . well. I’ve been on the water a hundred times at dozens of locations, but had never experienced water like this. It was absolutely, completely, unchangingly calm; a glassy mirrored surface that stretched to the horizon in a stunning reflection of tree-lined cliffs, cotton candy clouds and an achingly blue sky. <BR><BR>As we moved south, conversation ceased involuntarily. From my pilot seat in the rear, I could see both young men concentrating on inserting and extracting their paddles as quietly as possible. There is an illusion of solidity to perfectly calm water. Today it seemed as if you could step off the canoe and walk to shore. Finally, O.C. looked around and said quietly, “Dad, this is weird.”<BR><BR>“I know,” I replied. “Do you like it?” <BR><BR>He looked up at a deer observing us from the cliffs on the right, and a pair of mergansers sharing a meal to our left. <BR><BR>“Well, YEAH. . . like, DUH. . . .” <BR><BR>I smiled – he and I often have such deep and meaningful conversation. The rest of the 20-minute cruise to the south shore was spent in comfortable silence on this eerily calm and beautiful liquid highway. We had the lake to ourselves today.<BR><BR>As feared, the fishing was a bit less productive in October than in June. No matter. A beaver moved across the water in front of us, and the popple and birch were splendid in their fall dresses. Surrounded by such beauty, even our simple lunch of baloney sandwiches and chips seemed elegant. After lunch, we made a short hike along the sand bar for a quick hello to Bass Lake (which I’d previously always reached from the south, via Bass Lake trail), then loaded up the canoe and headed back. Despite the relative lack of fishing success, the boys were celebrating on the return trip by paddling in unison and paddling for speed. <BR><BR>Mark my words – 3 strong paddlers, paddling together and moving in a straight line on a quiet lake, will cause a canoe to actually lift slightly with each timed stroke, providing a unique sensation of power and speed unmatched in the motoring world. I’m beginning to understand the thrill of team paddling.<BR><BR>“How was the fishing?” Jane asked as we pulled into the driveway. <BR><BR>“Not so good!” both boys responded in unison. <BR><BR>“Well, then, why all the smiles?” she asked. <BR><BR>O.C. shrugged. “I don’t know,” he replied. “I mean, it’s like. . . well, DUH. . . “<BR><BR>Okay, okay. We’ll work on that. <BR><BR>[Duane may be reached at duanebehrens@cox.net]<BR><BR>