Monday, January 7, 2008

Kayaking again

but not nearly enough

Last year I waited only hours into the new year to go kayaking. This time around it took me a few days. This trip was well worth the wait.

After last week's horrid freeze, we had a fine, balmy, low-70s weekend. It took me the better part of Saturday to find, clean, and reorganize all my gear since it's been close on three months since my last outing. Since I headed out a little too late to make a worthwhile trip to Dauphin Island, it was off to Big Creek Lake once again. Four inches of recent rain and the completion of the dam and spillway repairs have brought the water level up three or four feet since my last trip out there. No more sandbars to stretch out my legs on. Here are some before-and-afters to chew on:

Havoc Branch, December 2006
This is on the west side of the lake, a couple of miles from the boat launch. At the time the low water exposed this thicket of old stumps.

Here is the same place today:Those stumps are now a foot below the surface.

As I set off from the launch, the sun was right in my face. For some reason, I didn't object much.
I only went about six miles. Instead of setting a goal (making it to the dam and back in under two hours, or circumnavigating the entire lake in five) and paddling for it, I reveled in the day off and the relief from the incredible amount of stress I have endured lately. I was also on the lookout for bald eagles, since Big Creek Lake is a known nesting ground. For the first time since I've been paddling this lake, I wasn't disappointed: Paddling into Havoc Branch, I spotted not one eagle, but two circling around. I really need a camera capable of zooming, since only one of them was close enough to sight clearly. You may need to click on the picture to see the bird:

By way of a paddling break, I found a small, sheltered inlet just off the lake and put my feet up for a bit. It was out of sight and earshot of the main part of the lake. A good thing, considering how many people were out and about on the lake running their fishing boats at wide-open-throttle or thereabouts, paying nearly no attention to me or a small family of paddlers near the launch that ended up hugging the shoreline. Here I was in late-afternoon, feet-up-on-the-foredeck bliss:

That's what I like about winter paddling. Clean, crisp, clear air vice the awful, rancid, hazy fug that makes up the atmosphere here in summer.

That puts six miles and one trip on the clock for the new year. Many more to follow. I have long since lost interest in election news and fully intend to write-in The Dude on the presidential ballot in November. Abide, bitches.

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