Wednesday, August 2, 2017

An Unpunctual Paddle

I took a day off work last week so I could finally get out kayaking. I'd had to buy a new roof rack for the boat so I didn't scratch the paintwork on my new car, and this had taken some research, and of course money. I had to be able to load the boat onto the roof on my own without touching Stanley's bright white glossy exterior, and with a high roof, this wouldn't be easy. For the first time I had also put a cover over the kayak cockpit while it sat in storage. It had been so nice not to have to disinfect the boat after mouses who had been overwintering and left their messy nests behind. Loading Big Red on the car for the first time was difficult, and I almost wanted to go back to the old foam pads I'd used on Stuart. They had been twice as fast as the new rack but I hoped this would change with practice.
 But it was glorious to get back on the water again. I had a local lake all to myself bar one other guy fishing in a small boat. I noticed construction work was going on at one end and wondered if the new dock/pier that they seemed to be building would mean that the general public would have future access to this water instead of just current license holders. I hoped not, and resolved to make the most of the solitude for today. As soon as I pushed off, I was immediately aware that today would be a nature sensory overload, there was so much activity from the local inhabitants, who had all decided to visit the water with me today. This realization was marred only by the fact that I'd got my G15 camera today, which is OK at zooming, but not at taking zoomed photos. A new compact camera is the next item on my wishlist!
I immediately relaxed as I pushed away from the ramp, leaving the busy people rushing and bustling behind me, and I paddled silently across the still water, it's glassy surface only broken by jumping fish plopping softly or birds diving for their meals. This was divine. I could already smell the perfume of wild flowers wafting across the water, and there was a welcome breeze stroking my face and arms. I waited until I turned a corner before I stopped to apply insect repellent.
And what a sight beheld me! Right in front was a huge heron looking for his lunch in the shallow water and behind him were 2 deers, and then beyond them I spotted yet another heron. One of the deers backed into the undergrowth as I groped for my camera but the other stood his ground and defiantly tugged on some leaves overhead as I ever so slowly approached.
The heron posed very nicely for a couple of shots then waded back to the shore. But as I rounded the bend, he got very annoyed and took off for the other side of the lakes, busting the silence with his raucous croaks, sounding like a rusty old chainsaw trying to start. He was pretty fed up with me, that was very apparent.
The banks of the lake were lined with many Rose Mallow shrubs, and I wondered if these were providing the gorgeous aroma that frequently floated past me, but Google said no...
This expanse of water is like a fingered lake so I followed the banks around, paddling in and out of inlets and bays, often interrupting a heron's food foray or making a green heron jump into the bushes. I saw a few bitterns too. This place was alive with birds, most of which fled before I could take their photos, and I hoped their peace wouldn't have the constant interruptions that were possibly threatening them from the far end of the lake. So few of the water spaces here in our area are quiet places, most offering kayaks, fishing boats or paddle boards for rent, so that solitude is difficult to find, unless you come during the week or know of quiet destinations that you don't share with other people. I've always kept silent about this place.
The lake was quite shallow, compared to previous visits, and I often got stuck in soft silt near the banks or ran aground on pebbles. The water wasn't very clear either and again, I wondered if the construction at the far end was to blame for that. But as I was drifting to yet another sandy bar, which I knew I'd get grounded on, I interrupted two young deers who were crossing an open space in an inlet towards some trees. The young buck immediately sprang for cover but the doe stood and watched me as I spoke softly to her. I watched her for about a minute before she too took the same route as her brother.
I stayed stuck on my silt bar and watched the water, just simply enjoying and observing the activity around me. The fisherman I'd spotted earlier on really needed to join me. the water was alive with fish. One jumped clean of the lake, somersaulted about 1ft in the air, then plopped back into the lake again. Another reminded me of a shark as I watched its dorsal fin zigzagging about 20 ft from me, looking for snacks and obviously not worried about exposing itself in the warm waters near the bank, which was only about 3 inches deep. It was a huge carp, easily 2ft or longer. I watched him for about 10 minutes, willing him to come closer to the boat. He came almost to about 10ft away then went into deeper water. I decided to do the same, and continued to paddle around another corner.
There was an old boathouse, the only one, on the lake but it didn't look like it was being used. Even so it made a pretty attraction on the shore. I was so busy admiring the worn and weathered wood on the building that when I finally looked to the front again I nearly jumped out of my skin. Ahead of me, close to the bank, appeared to be a large bear looking for fish at it's feet...
...but as I got closer, it became evident that an old eroded tree stump had got the better of me. Wish it had been a bear though...
As I rounded the last bend, it seemed fitting that my last photo was of another heron flying away across the lake, and I thought, yes, time for me to go too. I was a little nervous about getting Big Red up on top of Stanley, especially as I had to park backwards with the car on a downward ramp, so I'd be pushing the kayak even more uphill to get it on the roof. But I amazed myself with getting it up there with barely a hitch. Practice was gradually making perfect, I'll have this loading business nailed by the end of the season. I got home as dark clouds crept up over the hill. Thunder started rolling as I dragged Big Red into the barn, and i was pleased to make it indoors just before the rain started.

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