Muscles tire rapidly as I begin our third hour of almost steady paddling. The water has a slight chop, and our passage sluggish and never-ending. Hugging the lakeshore, I paddle on.
My thoughts first turn inward to pain radiating from my aching shoulder, then outward towards the sanctuary of the next group campsite. I begin to count my paddle strokes…nineteen, twenty, rest…one, two, three… My body eases into a zone of automation, sunshine and oblivion. I paddle on.
A whoosh, snarf and then an exhaling of fetid breath startles me from my reverie. Less than twenty feet away, the huge head of a cow moose rises from the reedy shallows. Water spills from her shaggy face, ears and bell. The kayak rocks in my rush to avoid this unpredictable animal.
“Moose,” I yell to those following behind me. The moose simply stares at me, probably wondering why this strange floating log is interrupting her meal. Unconcerned, she lowers her head to graze again on the succulent, aquatic plants below.
Aches and pains forgotten, nerves tingling, I paddle on.