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Midnight Safari on Little Averill Lake

Thursday Sep 25, 2008
Open Canoe: Mark Lienau
Organizer: Mark Lienau
Difficulty: flatwater
Level: medium low
Author: Mark LIenau

Wildlife Adventure on Little Averill Lake

Last night I took my boat for a ride up on Little Averill Lake in the Northeast Kingdom. I live about three miles from the boat launch, in fact, my house is the closest year round residence to it. I paddle up there 3-4 times a week, usually in the evening...Last night I got there around 8:00.

The surface was glass as I set out, and as I paddled across the Milky Way was my only light source, shining brightly against the velvet sky. Brousseau Mountain rose to the west, and as I approached the other side, Sable Mountain blotted out some stars to the east.

My circuit around this lake is almost always the same. I paddle straight out across the lake from the boat launch to a small bay on the south side with a rock that looks like Jabba the Hutt. Behind the rock is a small marsh. We call this "Hutt Cove," and from there I paddle counter clockwise to the southeast corner, then along the shore to my favorite swimming hole, "Pyramid Rock." From there, I shoot out to "Pete's Point," and then back to the boat launch.

I paddled hard and fast across the lake, and I coasted into Hutt Cove quietly, leaning into a skid in front of Jabba Rock. I was about to open a beverage that I had brought, when I heard a grunt at the edge of the woods on the other side of the marsh. The grunt was followed by a loud splashing, and I knew immediately it was a moose splashing around.

Luckily, I had not popped open my container! This is the rut, a time when the bulls act unpredictably. One definitely wants to keep one's distance this time of year.

It was when I remembered this that I heard him charging me.

I turned my boat and pulled hard for deep water. I know he can swim faster than me, but at least in deep water only his head would be above water!

I stopped about fifty feet out and I turned to listen. He was still in the marsh, I could hear him grunting and stomping and splashing...Then I realized that I was hearing two of them! Battling it out for the cows that I soon heard bleating over to my left. The titans pushed and shook each other for ten minutes or so, back and forth until one scrambled into the woods.

That was when I rememebered that I had a flashlight with me.

I pulled it out, but they were gone, one chasing the other up the hill and into the woods. I never even saw them.

Shaken, but not stirred, I continued on my way around the southeast corner of the lake. As I approached Pyramid Rock, I heard a loon across the lake. It was answered by another about a hundred yards in front of me. And that one was answered by about 25 geese (I thought) sitting in a mob between me and Pyramid Rock. They drifted out as they honked, effectively blocking me into the little bay.

I slowly and quietly paddled along, they continued to honk, then they stopped. I stopped paddling and the only sound I made was breathing. But I was drifting closer into the mob, and then, after about two minutes of silence, they broke.

There had to be a hundred of them, I whipped out my light again to keep them from flying into me...I never saw them but I sure did hear them, wings flapping, water splashing and frantic honks.

They flew across the lake, over past Pete's Point, and they split into two groups, one landing over by the Nature Conservency Land, the other flying into the outlet and circling, gaining altitude for their departure.

Five minutes later, depart they did leaving me looking up (with my mouth closed), still listening to the racket made by their cohorts left behind.

As I headed to the boat launch, I could hear the flock getting smaller as they left by groups of a few up to a dozen or more.

And then the owls started.

That was one of the coolest time I've ever had not seeing any wildlife.

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