Two kayaks gathered dust in our garage this summer. They got a good workout in 2017, floating the Lower Riley and Blanchard River to gather drag marks in low-water riffles. We talked about kayaking in 2018. Because of one thing or another— new fencing, the truck’s in the shop, llamas are coming— spring and summer came and went, taking kayaking plans with them.

Last week’s rain filled the floodplain below us. By Sunday morning, the bowl was empty and the creek was in its banks. But the water level was still high enough to keep a shallow-bottomed boat afloat. My child and I exchanged our Sunday Best for scrubs and lifejackets and dug oars out from under lawn tools. The kayaks yawned sleepily from beneath a layer of dried awful. We hauled them into the light of day, down the hill and slid into the current of Cranberry Run.

If you’ve not seen Putnam County’s higher ground from the center of a moving waterway, you’re missing out. You see the world from a perspective that humans aren’t built to experience. Secretive wildlife doesn’t expect you to be there. As we passed a rock wall between the creek and a wetland, a great blue heron startled. He/she squawked and wheeled in three different directions, trying to get a better look at the giant fishes floating past.

We made it to the mouth of Riley Creek in less than 20 minutes. One of us had the brilliant idea to return the way we came. An hour or so later we pulled out, two rapids downstream of where we started. A good share of that hour was spent pulling on exposed roots to inch upstream around a fast-moving curve. Our backsides were wet and the kayaks were coated with autumn leaves. Nemo the pig ate my cell while I put away my boat. We returned to the house to coat our throats—hoarse from laughing, shrieking and cursing— with hot tea. I ordered a new phone.

Let winter come.