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
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."