Thursday, March 3, 2011

Canton Lake Paddle

I was up at 0445, and pushed the Micmac off the shore at the Longdale Recreation Area at 0700. The forecast was for 3-9 kts. Southeast, so I launched on the east side of the lake to be in the lee of the land. We headed south toward the dam. In the first hour I saw two beaver and a muskrat, but nothing once the sun got higher. There were a couple flocks of Coot. They are a black or slate duck with a rounded, dumpy profile. Their white bills makes them identifiable. They’re fun to watch. They will push up with the feet and raise themselves out of the water. It almost looks like they’re standing on the water. Then they’ll hop in the air and dive, almost like they’re diving off the side of a pool.
Coot.  Credit: Google pictures

From the dam, I turned back north and continued on past Longdale to a group of islands near the north end of the lake. I could see what looked like a snowdrift along the northeast shore of the largest island, but could see they were birds as I got closer. I didn’t want to disturb them, so I went around the west side of the island hoping to get close enough to see what they were. In the meantime, the wind suddenly came up like someone had hit the “on” button. It sprung up out of the WNW, and quickly increased to 15 kts. So much for a light southeast breeze. As I came around the north end of the island, I realized I was too close to the birds, which I could now clearly see were American White Pelicans. There were about 200 of them. I tried to back up around the point, but it was too late, and off they flew.

Fearing the wind may do something unforeseen, since it had already defied the forecast, I thought it best to head back in case it got worse. Since I was now on the wrong side of the lake, the leeward side, the waves quickly increased to a foot with occasional whitecaps. As I worked my way south, the wind started to back to the west more, which put the waves right on my beam. My leisurely, relaxing, flat-water paddle had suddenly turned to something more like work. I carry five-gallons of water to set in the bow when I solo the Micmac stripper. The weight forward makes it manageable in the wind, but it was still too light to keep it from pounding in the waves and sending spray and an occasional dollop of solid water over the gunwale. Oklahoma City was forecasting up to 30 mph winds from the south, and fearing their forecast may win out, I kept the coal on all the way back. By the time I made the take out, I was ready for a break.

Wouldn’t you know, by the time I had hauled out and finished lunch, the wind had settled into a nice 8-10 kts. from the west southwest, and the lake had flattened back out. I had made 9.3 miles, and after that sprint, and with my gear already loaded, decided that was it for the day. It was great to be on the water.

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