ok, it's finally here. spring, i mean. here in Fairbanks, spring is a start-and-stop process until the warmer weather finally comes to stay. a few weeks ago, it was warm, SO warm, and then things went south and we got about 7" of snow inside of a week. need proof? other Fairbanksans noticed it too.
regardless of this schizophrenic seasonal confusion, we get out there anyway, weather be damned. that's why we gathered up our gear, pushed the snow off the canoe and put her in for the first paddle of the season. we headed out to the Clearwater, a wonderfully mellow river that remains ice-free for much of the winter due to its spring-fed source and so is a favorite among canoeists itchin' to get paddlin'! This is Cara doing her best snow-canoe bunny:
We put in on Friday night around 8 pm, paddled around a few bends until we saw this:
Our friends' cabin. now maybe you can only get to it by boat, but this place is DEEE-LUXE! a nearby spring from which to haul water, propane lamps and full copper stove, real wine glasses, all the utensils you can imagine, and an outhouse with pink shag carpet. oh yeah - pink carpet in the outhouse! who knew? after a fabulous dinner and a rousing game of Cranium, a few of us popped into the hot tub on the deck before falling off to sleep...the next morning we were up bright and early for our adventure paddling the Clearwater. this is a shot early on in the day -- that's Nuch's tail between my feet -- he sits in front of me while we paddle.
we marveled at the scenery and kept our eyes and ears peeled for the sounds of migratory birds who were due any minute back to the Great Land on their northern migration. Here, two of our group negotiate the shelf ice on their way to our lunch spot.
we found a nice spot, tied off and then lunch went as it often does on the river....
shortly thereafter, one arm of the Tanana blended into the Clearwater, we made a sharp turn and a mad paddle up a small river (against the current) that drains Clearwater Lake, where Mia and Steve snuck up on Cara and Gerken to hitch a free ride.
(see that silty water? not exactly the CLEARwater anymore...the Tanana is a glacially fed river and virtually impossible to see through. it was a far cry from the beginning of our paddle where you could literally count the stones on the river bed.) but our paddle upriver paid off and we were rewarded with this sight:
loads of swans and Canada geese taking a brief respite at the lake during their long journey north, or as Greg Brown once said about migrating redwings, "to talk over the long journey and sing..." i'd love to know just exactly what all those honks mean. this early in the season, the lake was still partially covered with a thin layer of ice, strong enough to support a bird...
...but not a dog, as Nuchie found out when he decided that he'd leap out of the canoe onto an ice shelf. so folks, no pictures - i was too busy panicking about how to get the bad dog out of the 40F water and back into my canoe! this was taken before the offending event while we were still relaxing on the lake and enjoying the bird serenade.
not much worse for the wear, we made it back to the cabin, had another lovely dinner with the group, more hot-tubbing, sleeping, waking to a glorious WARM morning completed by a little morning knitting.