Saturday, August 6, 2011

Platte River Paddle (part two)

Taking photographs from a canoe or kayak is a challenge. The wind or the current is constantly working against you, pulling you away or pushing you too close to your subject. Even with a companion to assist, they don't always know what you're looking at, so as soon as you put down your paddle to grab your camera, away you go. But who can resist a "flock" of darning needles, brilliant in their blue and black against the green of water plants just below the surface?

We were braced against a downed tree to get these two.

This root ball, probably of a white cedar, looks like skeletal, cloaked Death reaching out towards the river for every paddler who floats by.

As we left Death behind we entered a marshier area, and Blue Herons started turning up.

Easily spooked, they don't allow one to get too close. This one flew off down river,

only to be spotted again in the shallows.

I was so busy watching the heron fly away for the second time that I nearly missed the cardinal flowers, blooming on a tiny island. I made Lisa help me turn us around so I could go back and get a closer look.

Simply astonishing color!

Past the marshes we entered a stretch of a few hundred yards of sandy dune environment. We knew the Big Lake was very near now.

And sure enough, around a few more bends and we emerged on the shore of Lake Michigan, just as the sun was beginning to set.

And the best part of all? The Sleeping Bear, hazy in the distance, ever watching for her lost cubs.

Don't know the legend of the Sleeping Bear? It is a Native American story, probably Anishinabee, and it goes like this:

"This legend relates that there was once a terrible forest fire on the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan, which drove all the animals into the water. Among them were a mother bear and her two cubs who, to escape the flames, struck out for the Michigan shore. They swam for several days, but the cubs became confused in the smoke and before reaching the land their strength gave out. The mother bear, on landing, paced the shore for days, calling in vain for her children, until at length she too became exhausted and fell asleep. Sand swept over her and there she still lies, looking out upon the lake, and to reward her devotion the Great Spirit created North and South Manitou Islands where the cubs sank from sight. Here they remain to this day."


And here is an areal photo of the dune, with the Manitou Islands in the distance. I believe the mother bear is the dark lump on the top edge of the dune, but I have always seen the whole dune as the mother bear.

Photographer unknown.


  1. Marie: The Irish in me rose up mightily with the telling of the tale of Sleeping Bear. I so empathize with such stories -- always have. My mother, for better or worse, instilled an anthropomorphism in animals, nature. I also like the "darning needles." I have seen those copulating? insects since I was a child and never saw a prettier photograph of them than yours.

  2. Thanks, Jack!

    I do not have a problem with anthropomorphism. I think it is a legit way of relating to other species. We are more animalistic and have more in common with them than most of us will admit. Perhaps we should be described in less "humanistic" terms!