Grab the paddles!

One of the wonders of summer is how fast it can pass by! We usually find ourselves looking to house projects and to-dos before another long winter, but somehow, the clock rounds the dial at a much faster rate than all the other seasons, and you find yourself staring at fall sooner than you'd like. Still, we make sure and plan times to get outdoors and enjoy the wonderment of nature.

Our canoe serves as a great transport to take us around the northern lakes of Minnesota and enjoy the spoils of lake living, and of course, glimpses of all the new little wildlife springing up around us. With over 400 lakes in our county, there’s plenty of water to explore, yet somehow, the Cuyuna Lakes Recreation Area keeps drawing us back.

We certainly have seen some gorgeous vistas from these particular lakes. The sunrises are phenomenal. For a photographer, one of the best parts of being on a canoe for the sunrise is the freedom to navigate to different parts of the lake to change the landscape perspective quickly. It can also mean that because the lighting will be a bit trickier than solid ground. Especially when space is limited and the looming thought of expensive camera equipment taking a dip over the edge is a gambled risk.

Usually, it takes us a ride or two at the start of the season to get down a good pattern of where our gear should be placed, and how best to utilize the small space we have. But when we finally do get into a good groove, that sunrise (or sunset) is golden for us. It's like we're chasing summer and hitting the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. 

As much as we choose to canoe in the early mornings for gorgeous sunrises, there is also a special reward for  being alone with the wildlife. Dawn proves effective in catching animals big and small coming down to the water's edge for a drink of water (or a nice splashing swim). 

One particular deer caught us by surprise as he walked out on a peninsula near where we were paddling. It looked apparent that he had come down to the water many times and seemed unafraid and curious about us. Then, as if he'd done this many mornings prior, he ran the length of the peninsula and jumped in the water, splashing about and swimming. 

It was both comical and special to see such playful behavior, and we felt lucky once again to be invited into the wonderful world of wildlife. 

Wild flowers are also springing up and blooming in full force. For someone that enjoys gardening and flowers, it's a treat to see them blooming on their own in the wild - no gardener needed except maybe the occasional deer passing by to trim them back a bit. Nature has a way of being beautiful on its own, without human influence.  

We visit the lake enough that we thought for sure we would have the opportunity to see a baby loon or two, especially since these clear waters attract so many loons to be able to easily fish. It is not uncommon for us to see 6-12 loons on one lake, and we had paddled past a few different nests that held 1-2 loon eggs.           

Excitement turned to sadness as on one of our returns to the lake, the loon nests were void of loon babies (and adult loons). One egg was left abandoned, perhaps due to so many fishermen passing by, perhaps because the nest was improperly built and flooded during the last storm with water. Still it was hard to witness and was a clear reality of the harshness of being in the wilderness.           

Fortunately for us, on another visit to walk one of the nearby trails, we looked through an opening in the trees and saw a pair of loons swimming with two baby loons! Here were the parents toting (and doting) their littles. The mom and dad of this family were flawless in both protecting and nourishing these little guys! We did our best not to disturb the big journey they have ahead of themselves to feed and teach these ones how to be our state bird.

The crystal clear waters of Cuyuna also attract the herons and osprey to get in a good fishing session. It's also a great place to spot turtles practicing their water aerobics and with water that allows you to see to the bottom, fishes swim in large groups among the tree branches under the surface rising up out of the water. They are fascinating lakes and it makes it difficult to want to explore anywhere else.      

The wildlife we have been blessed to encounter is particularly captivating as each creature exhibits such unique beauty. It seems as though the more we encounter the wildlife around us, the more attached we become. Our sadness for the ones that don’t make it deepens while our appreciation for everything we see grows. Our hope is that our encounters will allow others to see some of the beauty that we increasingly admire, adore, and cherish as well as develop a greater appreciation for this incredible world we live in and the nature around us.

June also brought heartache, even with the unforgettable moments at the lake or among our lake friends. For over a decade a certain furry friend has been a part of our crew and this month having to say goodbye to him was nothing short of painful and gut-wrenching. Not seeing his sweet face when we come in the house from one of our adventures to greet us has left the home feeling empty. And not hearing his loud purr and meow to let us know it's time for bed makes our day feel unfinished. 

Datsun came to us by luck of fate..a super companion. He was the dog of cats, made himself the center of attention in any activity, held his mouse toy as his most prized possession, established his 'kingly' spot on the bed, and was a distinguished listener. He also had a very dedicated spirit for taking it upon himself to become a service animal in the face of chronic illness when it struck our home. Pulling all nighters to be by my side, alerting others when needed, and finding ways to simply be available to comfort during tough times. There are not enough paragraphs to fill in all the smiles, laughs, and tears that were shared over the years with this sweet boy. 

How grateful one can be for a pet..they give everything and ask for almost nothing in return. This handsome boy was full of loyalty and love, and the Interlaken Haus is most certainly void of his presence.

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