Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Nice Afternoon on the Lake

It was 24-degrees yesterday morning, but with a snowy, sub-freezing winter storm approaching, getting the canoe out yesterday was kind of a ’now-or-never’ proposition. It would be best to load the canoe and gear the night before, but after the last minute forecast change the other day, I was waiting to see what the weather was actually going to be. The forecast was for light to 8 mph east winds, so I decided to launch off the east side of the lake to put me in the lee of the land. The east side of the lake is really nice for a winter paddle in ice-water . The bottom shoals gradually and is reasonably uniform, so it’s possible to paddle in a nearly consistent 12-24 inches of water. In the event of a capsize, there would be no total immersion, and it would be possible to either walk to shore or right the canoe right where I was. But, since you can never predict what might happen, I wore a dry suit nonetheless.
I started north and got about a mile up the lake when the wind started to build rapidly to 15 kts. from out of the south. There were whitecaps, and I was just tearing up the shoreline. Finally I figured I’d better come about to see how I’d do against the wind in case it was going to build more. The east shore is also good for seeing wildlife.

The shallow water keeps boats further offshore even in the summer, and the shore is almost totally undeveloped. I saw a couple hawks, then a bald eagle. There were several smaller birds, one in particular followed me along the shore, flitting tree to tree as it sang loudly. I’m not able to identify most birds by their call, so can’t say what it was. I continued south against the wind, all the way down to the dam.

As I was going south, a couple dogs were running up the shore. There were no people around, and they were in the middle of nowhere, so I have no idea where they may have come from. They apparently saw a lone paddler on an empty lake as novel enough to warrant further attention, so after spotting me from a hundred yards away, both sat down at water’s edge and patiently watched me approach. I paddled in toward the shore, and they walked out to meet me. One showed that he’d be quite content to climb right in the canoe with me, and twice tried to do just that.  After a bit they apparently decided I wasn't as interesting as first suspected, and continued their romp up the shoreline.

The wind finally settled into the southeast at about 9-10 kts. That made paddling much more comfortable, so after reaching the dam, I turned and just paddled easily to let the wind help push me about two and a half miles back north to the take-out ramp.
For just a chance to get on the water and stretch the muscles for a little exercise, it was a very nice afternoon. We only covered 7.3 miles, but the sky was clear, and the sun helped ease the chill. If we get the storm being forecast, I’ll be much more content shovelling snow after having been on the water a bit.

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