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Paddling Upstream: Literary Nonfiction

Updated on November 24, 2016
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Chris practices free writing which often produces humorous or introspective results with practical applications to living life more fully.

Author's Note

The first part of this article consists of a bit of free writing which I composed while kayaking the Clearwater River Canoe Trail near Seeley Lake, Montana. The latter part of the article describes the Canoe Trail, how to access it and where to find rental canoes in the area.

Clearwater River, Seely Lake, Montana

Clearwater River near Seely Lake, Montana
Clearwater River near Seely Lake, Montana | Source

Against the Current

Autumn leaves float by me on their way to Seely Lake. They are not passing me because I’m sitting still, but because I am paddling the opposite direction, against the current. I’ve portaged over two log jams already and those suggest that more are ahead.

A Quiet Place


The River Wants to Turn Me

The river wants to turn me around. Whenever the front of my boat turns a little left or a little right, the river takes advantage. She tries to turn me, tries to make me go the other way. I guess that’s one reason I’m paddling upstream. What’s she hiding up there?

The last logjam is acting as a dam, so that the water is two feet higher on the upstream side. It has created a quiet place for me, my kayak and a huge old pine that must have drifted downstream from the mountains during the spring melt. The top is furthest downstream with the broad root system bringing up the rear.

I lean against the old roots and think about the idea of paddling upstream, against the current. Shall I make that parabolic leap and tell about how I have spent my lifetime either paddling upstream or sitting on an old tree watching the river pass by? No, this writing is what it is. Allegory seems unnecessary.

Allegory Seems Unnecessary


Bear and Deer

Earlier I was hiking along the river above which I am now perched on an old pine, washed down from the mountains. As I walked in the trees, I heard a familiar sound off to my left in the thick undergrowth and pines. It was the breaking of logs and branches, all in one location, not as though some large animal, such as a moose, was walking along, but like something foraging among the logs and branches for insects, mice and moles. I say it is a familiar sound because I’ve heard it before.

I stayed for an hour, listening, watching maybe only two hundred feet from where a bear was foraging. Two deer ran past, spooked by me I am sure. They snorted their alarm as they ran. The bear heard them too for the breaking of logs and branches ceased.

This Writing Is What It Is


I'm Here, Where I Am and Who I Am

I just dozed off. I suppose that’s not a great idea considering where I’m sitting, but it felt good to sleep with the breeze blowing, the sun shining, the river flowing, the autumn leaves floating down stream, where maybe I should be, but am not. I’m here, where I am and who I am. And I’m okay with that.


Morell Falls, Near Seeley Lake, Montana

Another day trip worth looking into while in Seeley Lake is Morell Falls. It is a short drive to the west of town. Follow this link for more information about Morell Creek Falls.

Clearwater River Canoe Trail, Seeley Lake, Montana

Clearwater River is in Western Montana near Seeley Lake and a small town by the same name. The sun rises over the Swan Range and sets over the Mission Mountains with the Flathead National Forest covering both slopes and the valley between. To get to Seeley Lake, take I90 east from Missoula, to the Bonner exit and head northeast on Highway 200. Turn left at highway 83 and continue on to the town of Seeley Lake.

Clearwater River winds through a marsh to the north of of town and drains into Seeley Lake. A three and a half mile stretch of the river is referred to as a the Clearwater River Canoe Trail. To access the canoe put-in site, drive four miles north of the town of Seeley Lake to the Clearwater River Canoe Trail sign. Turn left (west) and drive to the parking area. The river empties into Seeley Lake and boaters should head toward the eastern shore where they will find the take-out at the Ranger Station. While on the river, a wide variety of birds can be observed as well as deer, muskrats and beaver.

Canoes can be left at the Ranger Station while you hike for about thirty minutes back to your vehicle. Along the way, there are more opportunities for observing birds and other wildlife.

Canoe Rentals for the Clearwater River Canoe Trail

Canoes can be rented in Seeley Lake at Seeley Sport Rentals.

Seeley Sport Rentals

3112 Hwy 83 S.

Seeley Lake, MT 59868


Campground in Seeley Lake, Montana

Contact Information:

Mailing Address:


3583 HIGHWAY 83


Phone Number:

Information: (406)677-2233



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    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 2 years ago from Missoula, Montana at least until March 2018

      Peggy, you have brought me back to one of my favorite hubs of mine. That was a unique time when I was in Montana. And that day was a one of a kind day. Thanks for finding this hub. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I absolutely loved the photos! They are so beautiful! Not sure I would want to doze off within sight of a bear, but I loved your style of writing. Up votes and sharing.

    • profile image

      christinemariezzz 3 years ago


      Indeed a ramble, a lovely one, the five pics are lined up just right, my favorite is the last: no question you had to doze under that huge blue air balloon with no need for an allegory!


    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 3 years ago from Missoula, Montana at least until March 2018

      Jennifer, Thank you for your kind words about this piece. My sons have been suggesting I do more of this kind of writing. I'm more comfortable with fiction, simply because I've done so much of it. I have one similar piece started. We'll see how it goes. Thanks again.

    • Availiasvision profile image

      Jennifer Arnett 3 years ago from California

      This was such a beautiful piece. I love your reflections of sitting alone writing, watching a bear, and contemplating life. I would love to read, perhaps a future hub, on your thoughts on life being an upstream paddle.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 4 years ago from SW England

      This is such a relaxing read. What a lovely setting to experience! It sounds as though the weather was treating you well. I can't imagine being that close to a bear but you obviously take it in your stride! Great! Ann

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 4 years ago from Missoula, Montana at least until March 2018

      Deb, there just is nowhere else to go but into nature, to be renewed and refreshed. It would be like you not having the Lake. Thanks for being here.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Sounds like a perfect day to me. Nature is where I reside in both my heart and soul, and it only leads me to believe that more will come along. Well done, and you have soothed the savage beast.

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 4 years ago from Missoula, Montana at least until March 2018

      Kathi, thank you for visiting and for your thoughts on my hub. The line you quoted is just how I feel at this point in my life. Contentment is a good thing. Nice to see you again.

    • Fossillady profile image

      Kathi 4 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

      Love the last line . . . "I’m here, where I am and who I am. And I’m okay with that. What a beautiful day you spent and later shared with us! Very enjoyable . . .

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 4 years ago from Missoula, Montana at least until March 2018

      Bill, Thank you for those words. They are not taken lightly. I have just read your hub, "I won't give up on us." You my friend, in that article, have said something of import. Thank you for setting a high standard, both in writing and life.

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 4 years ago from Missoula, Montana at least until March 2018

      Rosemay, and thank you for reading. Your presence in my hubs always brightens my day.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well I am seriously jealous. What gorgeous country...what gorgeous writing. This is the kind of writing I can celebrate and get excited about...well done my friend. This just might be your best.

    • Rosemay50 profile image

      Rosemary Sadler 4 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

      Easy and light on a Wednesday morning too Chris :) A beautiful relaxing read

      Thank you for sharing

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 4 years ago from Missoula, Montana at least until March 2018

      Eddy, thanks for taking time to read this hub. Sometimes it's just fun to let the ink flow and see what comes out. I wish you a great day as well.

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 4 years ago from Missoula, Montana at least until March 2018

      Jodah, I'm glad you enjoyed this bit of writing. I certainly enjoyed the atmosphere in which it was written. Beautiful day in the Big Sky State.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      A truly beautiful hub. Voted up and I wish you a great day ,


    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 4 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Made me wish I was there cam, seemed a peaceful time to just observe and reflect.

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 4 years ago from Missoula, Montana at least until March 2018

      Thanks Eric. Just something easy and light for folks on a Monday morning.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Well, bless you cam for sharing that with me. What a fine way to start a peaceful easy day. Just wonderful.