HomePublicationsThe Tracker MagazineVol 4, No. 1, 1985

The Tracker Magazine - Vol 4 No. 1, 1985

Canoe Stalking
by Rick Shrack

After obtaining a canoe, I relished the increased mobility and the easier access to the outside world from my wilderness home near Slana, Alaska. With it I could travel faster and carry more cargo. Our Native American brothers have donated much from their culture, but the canoe is one of my very favorites.

Negotiating the creek I live near isn't very difficult - no rapids, no fast water, no fun at all! To be rather frank, it can be downright boring!

The creek has a variety of names Grayling, No-Name, and Paradise being most frequently used. The last, I assure you, is the least likely. The first is most accurate. The second is only good if you are looking at a USGS map. It is home to beaver, muskrat, grayling, trout; a stop-off for transients such as mallards as well as a nesting area; and a spawning spot for red salmon. I have tasted all but the waterfowl and beaver.

Numerous springs feed the creek, but so does a glacier at one side drainage. Who cares?

Now that you have been somewhat introduced, it's about time I got to the point, right?

Heading upstream requires diligence, especially at late dusk, as the creek is quite shallow in spots and trees overhang, creating "sweeps." Rounding a left-handed turn, I spied a chubby little rascal sitting at the water's edge. I approached as silently as I could, tiptoeing on the paddle's tip until adjacent the muskrat's site.

"Hey, you," I spoke, gently. No movement. I tapped it on the shoulder, saying, "Hey, bud. Tom says you really otter' be more careful!" The muskrat's eyes opened from an obvious sleep and blinked. It rubbed its eyes, trying to dismiss me as a dream, apparently. I held my "ground" by holding a branch and the marsh rabbit snorted, "Can't even get comfortable for a decent night's sleep around here anymore! Why don't you homesteaders take a flying leap?"

Testy! Well, I know he didn't really mean it. I mean, heck, he should have thanked me, especially with a pair of great horned owls patrolling the creek regularly. Maybe he just didn't know better. I hope he took the hint.

Not too long ago I saw the same muskrat swimming upstream, same as I was - only canoeing, you understand. I know it was the same 'rat because of the glint of hate in its eyes.

As I endeavored to overtake the swamp critter, he attempted to dive, but he was too close to shore. All he could do was make abortive tries, plunging his nose into mud immediately each time. Then his little legs were trying to run. Guess he figured that if the water was too shallow to dive, surely he could run! Wrong, buck-tooth breath!

I was laughing so hard as I passed the comedian that I almost failed to hear what made me suspect it wasn't an Alaskan muskrat, but rather a southern-state relative. I could have sworn I heard something about a "sunny beach."

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