May 25, 2003—Ian and I joined our neighbors, Margy and Jerry, for a paddle down Rice Creek. We looked up the route in the book, Paddling Minnesota, and the map looked like this.
Note all the twists and turns! Margy and Jerry decided to bring along Harriet, their Black Labrador dog, for her first canoe trip. The creek was gorgeous and the afternoon sun filtered through the trees making the whole world seem to shimmer in an arch over our canoes. And that’s when Harriet spied something interesting and quickly turned for it! In an instant the canoe went over, spilling our neighbors and their dog into the chilly creek. We paddled up, helped get the canoe back to shore and turned to watch Harriet swim with glee around a downed tree. Next thing we knew, she had climbed out of the creek and up the downed tree. It was so astonishing to see a big black dog up a tree that I quickly snapped this picture. After that, Margy and Jerry headed for home with the wet Harriet and we continued down the creek.
Unknown to us, the spring rains had made the creek much higher than usual and our paddle turned out to be very adventurous as we had to skirt downed trees by the dozens amid a rushing current. We both lost and found things…Ian found a soccer ball trapped in the limbs of a fallen tree. (It is signed by Cassman, Tyler, and TC. If it’s yours, please write me.) We lost our ice chest once on a spill, but we paddled up to it later and found that the chocolate bar was still inside, dry and delicious! We had some scary moments when the swift current drove us into branches and when we had to shoot through the culverts under the many bridges. Ian is a good paddler and I am learning and together we managed to arrive home safely.
Along the twisting creek we saw a pair of deer, too many mallards to count, several giant blue herons, white herons, blue jays, and one tiny new bird making its very first flight. It frantically fluttered out over the creek ahead of us and then took a swift dive, landing head first in the water. We paddled over to it as quickly as we could but the wet wings were too much for the young bird to lift. By the time we scooped it up on the tip of our paddle it was no longer struggling. We paddled to shore and Ian carefully put it on the ground next to a tree.
I have thought about this tiny struggling bird often. I know that something probably ate the bird before nightfall and that is just a part of the circle of life — but still — I wish the bird had flown over land, or caught the wind and just made it back to safety. It’s hard to be a tiny bird in the big world. It has made me congratulate every single bird I see flying about the busy city. How did they all make it through that first dangerous flight?