Last weekend my friend Zen Master hit me with an idea we’d been bouncing around ever since he got his canoe – taking a float trip along a frozen river. Now, he’s had his canoe for a year or two, but we haven’t had any serious ice or snowfall since then, so up until now the idea was just a fantasy.
That is, until last week. I was lucky enough to get home from Massachusetts just before the big ice storm hit, and while I was snowed in the first day or two (which prevented me from immediately joining in on the fun in Springfield – bobsledding the old Hydra-Slide) Zen Master’s the proud owner of a Jeep Cherokee with 4-wheel drive. The next thing I knew he was sitting in my driveway with canoe strapped on top, ready to go.
We picked a section of the Sac River we were familiar with, and one we knew was shallow this time of year, in case one or both of us should fall in. When we arrived we found that – much to our surprise – we weren’t the first to have this idea. There was a truck parked nearby, and some unmistakable tracks in the snow; that of a small boat dragged to the water’s edge.
The river wasn’t quite as icy as we would have hoped, but there were still frozen areas, which we chewed through like a soviet icebreaker, and plenty of snow.
The first thing we noticed was something hanging several feet over the water. It had two spinning halves and resembled a large pinwheel. My friend commented that it appeared “otherworldly.” As we drew closer we realized it was an artificial duck suspended in mid-flight. Looking around we noticed a whole array of decoys sharing the water with us, and a camouflaged duck boat on a nearby shore. Above it we spotted a similarly camouflaged man with rifle in hand, hiding in the trees. It was at this time I wished I had remembered to wear some orange, but we decided our big red canoe would be sufficient.
There were several turbulent spots along the way; more so than usual. We reckoned it was due to the lower water levels. This wasn’t a problem going downstream, naturally, but it made for an interesting return trip.
Passing by a submerged car, we finally reached the old bridge (mentioned in a previous entry), which we decided would be our turning point. After getting out and attempting to cross it without falling we returned to the water and began our trip home.
We had no problem powering through the first set of eddies, and were forced to portage the canoe around another, more powerful current, but were finally stopped by one particularly shallow, fast-moving area. The currents spun us around and had our craft pinned against a log when I got the idea to pull myself along some roots and vines protruding from the washed-out shore. This worked for a time, and we almost made it, but something went awry at the last minute and our ship capsized, dumping us into the frigid water. In retrospect it was bound to happen.
Clambering onto the shore we bailed the water out of our boat, then proceeded to empty our boots and wring out our socks. After we felt like we had warmed up enough we carried the boat along the water’s edge until we found a safe point of re-entry. However, it wasn’t long before we hit another trouble spot, and rather than take the plunge a second time we opted to just get out and walk.
The trip back took longer than either of us imagined, and the hunter was gone by the time we returned, though we did find an errant decoy along the way. We heard several shots during the course of journey and actually passed a dead duck floating downstream, but it was only one of several frozen animals we encountered along the way.
I was intent on sitting by the fireplace the rest of the night once I got home and out of my sopping wet coveralls, but against my better judgment I was goaded into joining White Rabbit, Hiccup, Underdog, and Punctual at the Hydra-Slide after all. I had to scrounge up some dry clothes and get Zen Master to tow me out of my driveway, in which I was completely snowed in, but it was worth it in the long run.
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