A feeder river, known officially if blandly as “The North Bay Stream” flows into Forked Lake at the end of the lake’s North Bay. A short paddle brought us to the mouth of the river, and the calm waters invited further exploration. On our first venture, I left the camera back at camp because we had Sean with us and I can photograph or I can parent, but I can’t do both. We paddled quietly, the river winding its way through a large marshy plateau.
It was there that I first noticed the driftwood, reflected perfectly in Monday’s overcast light, and said, “We need to come back tomorrow with the camera.” Travis nodded. He views his role as a simple one: he paddles the canoe while I shoot, and he spots the wildlife that I then synthesize into images and words. And he really does have quite the knack for wildlife spotting, which is why he saw the loon bedded down before I did. The bird was lying on a grassy island in the middle of the river, its neck and head lowered down as if to conceal itself from our view. I would have missed it completely, but Travis saw the black and white markings on the loon’s back.
“We’re definitely coming back,” I said.
The next day we left the boys at the camp to fish, and headed out. The light was much the same as it was the day before, and we stopped to photograph some marsh flowers before paddling deeper into the wetland. June is obviously Dragonfly Love Season in the Adirondacks, because they are everywhere, and they are all flying around attached to one another. One landed on the bow as if to say hello, and I shot off a couple of frames.
“A couple of them just landed on me so they could have a fight,” said Travis.
“Are you sure they weren’t doin’ it?” I asked.
“Well it was a pretty volatile scene,” he said. “So if they were, they were into some pretty kinky shit,” he concluded.
I was sitting in the bow during this conversation, as I always do, when the water began to roil about fifteen feet ahead, and a big, black, red-eyed bird head popped out of the water. “Loon!” I gasped. The loon ducked back immediately back under the water when it saw the canoe in front of it.
Here is the problem with this: I have never been able to get a decent shot of a loon. I love them, but they taunt me. They always have. I have to be satisfied with their sound. They evade my camera and make me surrender to their terms. And then the little turd popped up right in front of my canoe. This time, I thought, I’ll get you.
Except I didn’t.
We followed the bird all the way up the river until we reached a beaver dam we didn’t want to portage, and then turned around. The loon popped up and re-submerged a couple of times on our way back, but a few minutes after it went under the last time, we heard a call from the mouth of the lake, far downstream from our current location. The damn thing swam under the canoe. I grinned. The loon wasn’t giving in; she would give us what she wanted, and no more. It was enough.
* I know you get the reference.