January 5, 2015. I drive down late this evening for a moonlight paddle on Cedar Creek. By the time I get the kayak in the water it has turned dark. The creek gauge is reading 3.75 feet, and I decide to drift in the darkness to Dawson’s Lake. It takes thirty minutes. I feel like I’m barely moving until I look up and see the black limbs of the tree canopy drifting by, giving a sensation of real movement.
I’m surprised on this cool night in January to see eye reflections from wolf spiders on the tupelo trunks at the water’s edge. Most of the spiders are small, but there are some medium sized, and even a few large ones. I wonder what brings them out in this weather and what are they feeding on? Maybe each other?
The swamp remains dark since the full moon has not risen yet. It’s quiet, too, except for an occasional barred owl giving a brief, one-syllable whooo call. I see green deer-eye reflections up ahead in my headlight beam. There are two of them, trying to figure me out, but they get nervous at my approach and give a snort or two before moving back from the creek bank.
I arrive at Dawson’s at 7:00. The moon has just cleared the horizon and is visible through the base of the trees, off my left shoulder. It will be a while before it clears the trees. My drifting progress has slowed to almost nothing. The lake is still and quiet except for an occasional ripple at the surface, probably from fish, and I see a few eye reflections from small wolf spiders on the water. Near the lake’s edge I flush a large, dark bird, probably a roosting turkey, and it flies off silently. I am disappointed not to hear any coyotes this evening. I figure with a full moon they will be sounding off, especially when the Kingville train goes by.
The moon is taking its time emerging from the trees, and temperatures are dropping quickly. I wait until 8:00 before turning back. On the return I flush a squealing wood duck from the creek’s edge. By now the moon has started to light up the woods, although it’s still got another hour before clearing the last of the tree canopy. The temperature feels twenty degrees cooler than when I started, and my hands are cold under my thin gloves. I will appreciate sleeping in a warm bed tonight.