Farcical Aquatic Ceremonies
This is how I rang in the new year, not with torrents of booze but with an 8.8 mile paddle on Big Creek Lake. It's been a month since I was here last, and it appears that they finished reparing the dam and spillway, since the water level has gone up 2-3 feet recently. Fewer stumps to run aground on. On the down-side, it also means fewer sandbars to get out and take a break on.
Routing: From the public ramp at the end of Howell's Ferry Road: across the lake and down the western shoreline to the dam, across the mouth of Hamilton Creek, and back up the eastern shoreline to the ramp. 8.8 miles, 3 hours 10 minutes.
I was out with some new gear this time. Harmony has made a few bucks off me lately, between the deck rigging kit, seat pad, bilge pump, sprayskirt, and the new paddle. Compared to the clunky, cumbersome stock paddle that was provided with this kayak, the Harmony "Adventure" takes the hard work out of paddling. It's lighter, with a smoother, more efficient entry and stroke.
It also doesn't jet water past the drip guards and into my lap when I dispense with the sprayskirt, as I did today until a certain set of assholes started running up and down the lake full-throttle, kicking up wakes to add to the chop that rose with the wind as the trip wore on. Seems that a lot of motorboaters don't pay much attention to kayakers. Pricks. Slow it down if a kayaker is nearby.
The newly repaired dam:
Compare with Rob Nykvist's picture of the same spot from about a year ago:
It looks like they have torn up the old concrete and replaced it with rubble. Stay well away from the waterline by the dam, since there's plenty of rebar sticking out of the rubble both above and below the waterline. Give yourself about 10 yards' separation. If the wind's from the north, the chop will push you towards the nasty, keel-puncturing tangle of rock and rebar, so keep an eye on your leeway as well.
I couldn't have picked a more spectacular day for this. Sunny, mid-60s or so, with a light breeze from the north.
Sprayskirt in place for the chop, which at times (especially coupled with wakes) came up over the bow and down the deck:
Hamilton Creek remains closed. This kayaker wonders why, but I have a hunch it's a Homeland Security issue. Just up Hamilton creek are the spillway holding all this water in, and the pumping station that sends this water to the treatment station for the city's use. In addition to the security concern, they don't need fishermen and kayakers getting sucked into the pipelines or tumbling down the spillway. It's pretty hard to do, one would think, but never underestimate the stupidity of casual boaters.
Next time, I'm going to go up the lake the other way, toward highway 98. Should be a 10-mile paddle. For now I'm not going to be poking around the lake's many inlets much, even though I have good maps, a GPS, and a compass just in case.