I spent a recent warm September morning gliding across Gavia Lake in the Swan Lake Canoe Route on a stand up paddleboard, casting my line in hopes of luring a rainbow trout to the board. Cast after cast, I came back with an empty hook.
My camping (and paddling and fishing) buddies all floated near their respective honey holes on the lake, seemingly catching fish left and right while my hook traveled out then in, with hardly a disturbance.
The group of us had portaged and paddled through a handful lakes the day before — Canoe, Contact, Martin, Spruce and Trout — and decided to make base camp along the shore of Gavia Lake before continuing out and down the Moose River.
I had wasted some hours already fishing by the time I caught anything beyond twigs. I finally found myself with a bend in my rod and a large (and growing larger with each retelling of this story) rainbow trout on my hook. I could hear the excitement in my own voice as my cheers echoed around the lake and back to me.
I could also hear my own disappointment when, once I finally landed the fish, I realized that I didn’t have the balance to keep the trout on the board. And just as the thought entered my head, the fish left my sight and swam down into the grasses.
So, back to wasting more hours paddling, fishing and catching twigs (and one peculiar shaped rock) — or sitting around the campfire.
After leaving Gavia Lake, and portaging to and paddling through Konchanee, Cygnet and Swan lakes, we reached the Moose River, a tenuous paddle for a large group who had already spent three days canoeing or paddleboarding throughout the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.
The first five miles of the river flew by just as quick as the Moose River flows, pretty slowly. But it was the good kind of slow, where your paddling gets technical or you stop every once in a while to hear the wind blow through the reeds and watch the grasses flow below you.
We landed below a bluff and climbed to the top where a fire pit and well-loved campsite was waiting for us, just as the guidebook had promised. We set up camp before settling down to a well-earned meal.
We’d continue on down the Moose River in the morning, but in the meantime the only task at hand was to pass some time and eat s’mores. With an entire trip of chatter behind us, our last night’s campfire talk jumped straight to the point with a game of “Hot Seat.”
The name of the game has nothing to do with the campfire we played it around. Instead, one person is put in the hot seat for three minutes and subject to answer any question thrown their way. From the embarrassing to the enlightening, no question is off limits.
So, with s’more in hand and a drink in the other, I’m asked, “What’s your biggest regret?”
And without hesitation, I answer because regrets are easy to find. They make you feel sad or disappointed in your choices or the way things turned out. They can tarnish memories or hinder future decisions. They can stick out like a sore thumb across a lifetime or, even worse, they can pop into your head every mile or so of paddling.
About regrets, I have a few, but there’s no sense in paddling upstream, even on a river as slow as the Moose.
Instead, I found that it’s better to go with the flow, paddle forward and find out which choices and decisions led me to where I am, and to be grateful that I made them.
Because even though I didn’t hold on tight enough to the biggest rainbow trout to ever grace my hook, the Swan Lake Canoe Trails and Moose River treated us well.
Kat Sorensen is a writer living in Seward. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org