OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Photo Credit: Dick Anderson

Dick Anderson relates his solo canoeing adventure during the frigid September in Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula in his essay, “Canoeing the Kenai,” from Deep Wild Journal: Writing from the Backcountry 2021. The essay also appears in Anderson’s recently published book, Solo: Venturing Alone in the Northern Wilds

“A bald eagle perches high in the tufted apex of a cedar, and as
my canoe draws near, it swoops down, as if guiding me forward,
alighting on a treetop far down the lake, repeating the process over
and over as I approach. Thus, I am escorted on my journey, as if
a spirit animal were leading the way. Finally, the magnificent bird
soars off, leaving me alone and strangely bereft, as if to remind
that companionship is ephemeral, and only I can determine my
ultimate destination.

“Sometimes the trees are guideposts, an objective to mark my
progress. Other times they are a haven of shade for a noonday
repast, a cradle for a nap, or a terminus for the day’s journey,
providing shelter for the night’s camp. From my canoe, as the late
afternoon shadows lengthen, causing the tree-filtered sun to dance
on the water, I search for just the right spot, where the forest
encircles protectively, the wind is diminished, and a patch of level
ground awaits my tent. Taken together, these sheltering conditions
are rare along Kenai shores, and I think back on last year’s
journey, canoeing through the remote warren of lakes that saturate
northern Saskatchewan, when I learned the perils of waiting too
late in the day to locate a suitable campsite. This time, my search
is quickly rewarded, and I set about the chores of establishing my
temporary home.

“Dawn breaks in a frigid chill, and with drowsy reluctance I
climb out of my body-warm sleeping bag and race to pull on long
johns, socks and boots, and add the layers that I know will later be
peeled off as the day progresses, a daily ritual which is the price for
communing with nature at this time of year. Emerging from the
tent, I am greeted by the sight of my own breath, fogging a world
covered with the icy crystals of a first September frost.”

To read the rest of the story, visit deepwildjournal.com/subscribe.

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