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COFFEE POT LANDING, Minn. – Two men dressed in blaze orange arrive in a four-wheel-drive Chevy with a dog box in the bed. They emerge from the cab and the older of the two offers a friendly wave. Grouse hunters, probably. The younger man unlatches the box and the dog, a white and tan shorthair of mixed heritage, bounds free; head up, tail wagging. The man speaks to the animal, which ignores him. It sniffs around then then returns to the Chevy and lays down.

One of the guys points toward the Old Town Predator kayak strapped to the roof rack of my vehicle, a worn but still serviceable F-150. “Got a good day for it,” he said. Then, as if to justify his assumption, added, “You paddling today?”

“No. Not this morning. Just looking around.”

“Good day for that,…