“This has been a wonderful day!” said he, as the Rat shoved off and took to the sculls again. “Do you know, I’ve never been in a boat before in all my life.”
“What?” cried the Rat, open-mouthed: “Never been in a — you never — well I — what have you been doing, then?”
“Is it so nice as all that?” asked the Mole shyly, though he was quite prepared to believe it as he leant back in his seat and surveyed the cushions, the oars, the rowlocks, and all the fascinating fittings, and felt the boat sway lightly under him.
“Nice? It’s the only thing,” said the Water Rat solemnly as he leant forward for his stroke. “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing — absolute nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing,” he went on dreamily: “messing — about — in — boats; messing —”
“Look ahead, Rat!” cried the Mole suddenly.
It was too late. The boat struck the bank full tilt. The dreamer, the joyous oarsman, lay on his back at the bottom of the boat, his heels in the air.
“— about in boats — or with boats,” the Rat went on composedly, picking himself up with a pleasant laugh. “In or out of ’em, it doesn’t matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that’s the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don’t; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you’re always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you’ve done it there’s always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you’d much better not.”
— Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows
North Bend Lake formed when the North Fork of the Hughes River was dammed in 2003. It’s a near ideal place for a beginning kayaker — the water is flat and easy to navigate, with a gentle current, and there seem to be few motor boats. The lake is dotted with the trunks of dead trees, a “ghost forest” as the West Virginia Gazette described it in 2015, killed by the rising water, and it has become the home of a colony of red-headed woodpeckers. We saw a number of them, usually as they moved quickly from tree to tree, and some even fleeter tree swallows dashing across the water.