A Part of It All

Sometimes, if you’re fortunate, you get the unique opportunity to experience nature at a completely different level. It’s hard to describe, but it’s as if you feel you’re a part of your surroundings, not just observing it. It’s a very special gift that doesn’t happen often. For me, that depicts my time spent at Rifle River Recreation Area in northeastern Michigan.

We camped in the primitive area in August and found beauty beyond words. Many pristine lakes offered canoeing adventures. Quiet early mornings paddling on mirror-smooth surfaces that reflected the skies above. No traffic noise. No motor boats. Nothing but the gentle sound of the paddle entering the water as you slowly move along, with loons calling in the distance.

You won’t find loons on very small lakes, as they require up to a quarter of a mile of open water to be able to lift off and fly because of their relatively heavy bodies.

Sometimes you’re rewarded with loons that decide to share the lake with you. And if you’re very lucky and your timing is right, they just might have immature ones with them, teaching them how to feed themselves. Guarding them. Protecting them.

Teaching them how to find breakfast… Until eventually it will be time for them to find their own way from freshwater lakes to winter on the east coast.

You can completely lose yourself on a paddle in Michigan. Whether it’s on one of the many lakes or on nearby streams that connect lakes together such as this one. Pristine waters with wildlife all around you.

It’s not uncommon to see Green Herons along the banks, keeping an observant eye upon you.

Or sometimes it’s an Eastern Kingbird in the overhead branches…

Or this Dragonhunter dragonfly who was ovipositing eggs in the stream just ahead of our canoe, and then decided to take a momentary break on a nearby shrub. Beautiful coloring on this big girl. The wing venation is so delicate in these creatures…almost lace-like.

And a new one for me is this American Rubyspot. A beautiful damselfly. I’ve read the males have a red head and thorax, so I’m assuming this is a female.

You may also see a Bald Eagle or two in your adventures. They’re not uncommon here, and sometimes seem very curious like this one.. Did you know they can live 20 years or more?

Being so near the water you’re also rewarded with views of flowers you may not see very often elsewhere. Like this Fen Grass of Parnassus. Small petite flowers with the most exquisite veining. Once you see it, it’s not something you easily forget.

Another flower that resides close to water is this Bur Marigold. It’s in the daisy family and has long stems. A very showy flower that I’ve read reproduces from seed.

When you paddle on a lake or stream, you have opportunities to see nature up close, like this view of a young Killdeer which blended so well into its surroundings, it was difficult to photograph. But well worth the effort. Such a quiet little well-camouflaged bird – as are their eggs. Killdeer usually lay 4 to 6 eggs – eggs that are sometimes laid in stones along a driveway and are so well camouflaged that you can look right at them and not see them at all.

Camouflage in required in nature for survival. Most creatures embrace it, like this Northern Leopard frog blending into the rocks.

And there’s always Mother Nature’s artwork wherever you look, like this American White Waterlily. You’ve seen it numerous times I’m sure in photographs, but there’s just something about this flower when it’s just below the edge of your canoe, floating gently on the water. No one planted it. No one takes care of it. It just is. Beauty, simple and pure.

I’ll leave you with just one more photograph of something that struck me as particularly beautiful. Oh, it’s not a rare flower or bird, or anything extraordinary by most standards. It’s probably pretty common – what I believe to be an Orange Hawkweed. Yes, to most people, a weed.

But on this day, while having lunch along the riverbank, canoe resting peacefully on the edge of the shore, it caught my attention and brought me back to the realization that we’re all a part of nature. We don’t just observe it. We are a part of it, as it is a part of us.

Until next time…