“What are those snorting and crunching sounds? What on earth is under this dock?”
On very hot summer nights, it is a wonderful idea to go for a late-night swim, and, in my remote neck of the woods, suits optional, of course! With no power, and no air conditioning, my little cabin can be quite warm in the peak summer months at bedtime. Without simple things like air conditioning, or even powered fans, it can be a tad stifling at bedtime, even with all the many screened windows open all night. A quick dip in the late is an absolutely delightful and refreshing way to cool down. Many a night I have gone straight to bed, no swim, because I was too tired or too lazy to head to the dock and take a late-night dip, and I have certainly regretted it! I am often the braver one when it comes to the cold water, at least that is, with my family, and with my husband, but this night he was also very warm and so we decided together to grab a towel and flashlight and head to the dock.
I am blessed with having the most exceptional cabin and dock set up. My cabin is hanging over the water. These days you cannot build near the water like these old cabins could. I am basically a few stairs and a handful of steps away from the dock. This is truly convenient for loading and unloading the boat with supplies, and for taking meals and drinks to the dock on bright afternoons. It’s also easier to navigate at night for a short walk to the dock. Obviously, I have more solar lights around these days lining parts of my shoreline and steps, but, truthfully, it is nice to be able to reach the dock, shut off the flashlight and sit on the lounge chair and gaze up the magnificent night sky in total darkness. There is nothing nicer than sitting in the peaceful late-night hours in the quiet of a remote forest after dark gazing up at the twinkling stars and the bright strip of the Milky Way. I can also see the Big Dipper every night from my dock. On this night it was very hot, and so my husband and I made our way to the dock, and then we stretched out onto the reclining lounge chairs and to gaze up the exceptionally beautiful night sky. The game we play is to sit in silence until we manage to catch those brilliant shooting stars. At some times of the year, usually in the second week of August, there are some pretty intense meteor showers. On this night, we were managing to catch quite a few of the streaking star trails as they carved their bright arcs across the twinkling night skies. Sometimes it seems that your memory captures the scene for a moment or two longer and you can relive the scene in your mind’s eye. It is also great to share the shooting start sighting with your dock mate, so you can both appreciate it. There is always several, “oohs, and ahhs,” when we both catch a sighting! We also like to watch the slowly meandering satellites as they slowly move across our view. As we lay there appreciating the cooling air and the spectacular night sky, that was spread above us like a feast, we started to hear the lake water swish beneath us. It was a calm night, and a night with no wind, no boats or people about, so there were no waves on the lake. Immediately, I did that thing, you know, sat still, twisted my head to listen more intently, and I remember saying, “shh,” to my husband so we could both listen in silence. We could hear the water moving, so something was definitely around. Then we started to hear, snorting and sniffing, followed by crunching and sloppy chewing sounds. In all the years I have been here, these sounds were brand new, and rather unsettling. What on earth was it? Worse, was the fact that these sounds now came from underneath the floating dock we were lying on, in our deck loungers. Also unsettling, was the fact that these unidentified weird noises were a mere couple of feet below our partially clad bodies, all be it separated by the planks the wood planks that formed the floating dock surface and our chairs. After several moments of listening we surmised that these must be otters. These were such unusual creatures to be finding in our lake world, and I can tell you I have never seen them here before, but in the past few days, we had noticed the piles of chewed up crayfish bits along the water’s edge, and docks, and the neighbours had said they seen a pair of otters in the marshy pond between our properties. I looked at my husband in the darkness and asked, “do you still feel like a dip in the lake, because I can sure tell you I sure don’t!” It was in agreement that this night there would be no cool dip into the dark waters of our lake in the buff. I never considered, or even thought that the otters would harm us. Most of us only see them as cute little creatures, and I have previously have only seen them in the controlled environment of a city aquarium. It just seemed that this night these creatures would be a bit creepy and unusual swimming companions. And so we skipped our swim that night by mutual consensus. However, in researching a bit further on the otters that these most likely would have been, the North American River Otters, it appears that in the wild these creatures are not always as docile as I had once thought. They have actually been known to attack human swimmers, and even dogs and people on land. Apparently, they are as nimble and comfortable moving around on land as much as they are in water. Though I have never seen any article of them attacking a dog, I did find information on human attacks. Who knew?
The otter-theory was proven a couple of days after that night swim. I watched the cheerful and playful little agile swimmers around our dock once or twice more, and in the little pond by our rock point during our visit to the cabin that week. However, I have never spotted them again around my property, and it has been several years now. I kind of wonder where they came from and where they went. One thing I do know is that I always enjoy those cooling night dips in the lake, and I do think of and remember that unusual night experience now and then, but that has never stopped me from slipping into the dark, fresh waters to cool off before I go to sleep. That is heaven...
Further note. I am sorry but I do not have a picture of the playful aquatic animals that were visiting my place that summer. I can only show you my dock, so you know how ‘up close and personal’ we would have been that night.