Sunday, November 26, 2017

September at Canton Lake, Pt. 2

Credit: Wildlife Heritage Foundation
I wish I had gotten a photo or two.  I was sitting on the settee when I
detected movement outside.  Then I was too enthralled to go after the
As the air began to cool, and the sun settled, we saw two grown quail come out of the hedge row behind our camp.  That’s a real rarity here, at least by my experience.  What was really neat was the 8-10 half-grown young that suddenly began stumbling out of the hedge row to join them.  They reminded me of a bunch of kindergarteners out on a field trip.  They ran this way and that, jumped in the air, reversed their track back and forth like any bunch of youngsters.  The parents stood tall, stretched their necks and swiveled their heads being hyper-vigilant of everything.  Shortly they were all hustled back into the tall grass and disappeared.
The sky was just barely getting a hint of light.  The windows were again all open, and we were suddenly fully awakened by a scream immediately outside our bedroom window.  It wasn’t possible to tell whether the scream was from a large bird or a squirrel.  The cry wasn’t distinctive as to the species, just a scream of sheer terror, the faint hoot of an owl, and then absolute silence.  I guess it was what a hunter would call a ‘clean’ kill, but there was nothing clean about some poor creature suddenly becoming breakfast.  There was an oak tree right outside the RV’s bedroom window, and a bit later we saw a squirrel venturing down the tree, so one of its kind was probably what had become the morning’s victim. 
There was a nice breeze on the lake first thing.  We decided to have a nice breakfast first before I launched at the ramp.  Jean fried turkey bacon and set a pack of frozen blueberries out to thaw over a low flame.  I then made pancakes, and with a pot of coffee, we sat down to a much nicer breakfast than that poor squirrel had been having. 
The wind was out of the south-southeast, or the full length of the lake, so was rolling small waves onto the ramp.  I set Ibi parallel to the water’s edge and used my legs to keep it from pounding on the concrete.  With a quick, or what translates to a quick launch for a senior, I got in and shoved off.  It was immediately obvious that landing would not be as comfortable.  There was no alternative landing option there.  To either side of the ramp are piles of concrete just dumped from a truck and allowed to harden into boulders.  Either side of that is non-stop riprap that stretches to the next ramp a mile away, or to the base of several cliffs. 
I pulled the Falcon Sail up as soon as I cleared the shore.  I sailed as close to the wind as I could, and with a light occasional paddle, worked to the south and nicely upwind.  The wind was continuing to build as I decided to stay upwind, but sailed on and off the shore on a beam reach using the paddle only for bracing. 
If the wind had just held where it was when I launched, it would have been an exciting paddle-sail, but it was obviously intent on strengthening quickly.  The alternative landing ramps were to the northwest as the shore dropped away in a large crescent called Big Bend.  There were two landing options I could escape to as whitecaps started to build.  I knew landing at the ramp where I had launched was out of the question.  There was a bit of cover from reeds by the next ramp.  I had the paddle cart with me, and it would only be a one-mile walk back to the campsite.  The next ramp was far enough around the bend that it would definitely be a safe landing, but then about a three-mile portage with the cart. 
I fell off on a nice broad reach and flew down the shoreline in two jibes.  As I passed my put-in ramp, my suspicion about not being able to safely access it now without banging up the canoe was confirmed.  The second ramp was marginal with some small waves rolling onto it, but it looked safe and serviceable.  I dropped the sailing rig, raised the rudder, and side slipped alongside the ramp.  Everything worked out fine, and I just had a nice one-mile stroll back to the camper with Ibi following quietly behind. 
As I walked past one campsite where two men were talking, one called out, “That water out there is getting a bit lumpy, isn’t it?”  They had already decided not to take their fishing boat out on the lake.  Within an hour, the couple fishing boats I had seen on the lake when I launched had also disappeared. 
This was probably my second shortest paddle.  I had only gone two miles, but with the sail I had likely not paddled more than a dozen strokes.  I can’t really pass it off as a paddle, so we can just call it a drill or an exercise.  I got Ibi wet, and it still counts as another outing on the water.  Back in the comfort of the RV, we listened to the wind and the rattling of cottonwoods. 
The highlight of the afternoon was looking out the window and seeing a large roadrunner right alongside the trailer.  He was working his way down the tree line.  He would see something in the grass.  I never could tell what he was after, but he would drop his head and rush off 20-30 feet straight at it with his legs flying.  Whatever he was pursuing, his aim clearly appeared to be  dead-on. 
The next day, Friday, would be our departure time.  We had aspirations of a few quiet days, and chose mid-week Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings.  We anticipated having the campground almost to ourselves.  Boy!  Add that to our ever-growing list of plans that didn’t bear fruit.  People started coming in Wednesday evening, and it never stopped.  By Thursday night it looked like the Fourth of July weekend.  Everyone else in the state with a camper had had the same idea.  I told Jean, “Don’t worry.  Just wait until November.”

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