Wednesday, March 3, 2010

WINTER DAY PADDLE

click on photos to enlarge

The wind was up when I arrived at Calderwood Lake this morning.  I came alone, meaning, I did not bring a dog.  I am erring on the side of caution with the canoe in this frigid weather by limiting the risk of capsizing due to the sudden movements of an 85 pound dog.   I have stabilizers for the canoe that work great but, I wanted to experience the grace and beauty of this boat without the addition of ugly, nontraditional pontoon stabilizers attached to the gunwales..  Douglas, the Golden Retriever, is sorely missed I assure you.  His time in the canoe will come shortly.  I missed my old friend today though.
The breeze would not be a deterrent to a nice canoe ride but it did drive the cold air before it and that is always a concern..  I don't own fancy wet suits or any of the prescribed specialized garments that are recommended for Winter paddling.  After the familiar process of unloading the gear and situating it all inside the canoe;  I pulled my old favorite Woolrich over shirt on and slid into the green insulated hooded jacket that I bought on sale at Tractor Supply a few years ago.  That's pretty much the extent of the specialized garments I have.   Those two garments have served me well and have become a staple in my wardrobe, which isn't much to speak of these days.
The paddle today would be along the shoreline to Slick Rock Creek and beyond to the little water falls and stream I named Little Otter Creek.  If you'll remember last week's episode;  I named this beautiful cascading stream Otter Creek.  I added the "Little" in front of it just now.  Well, it's my creek isn't it?  I'm floating at the mouth of Little Otter Creek now as I scribble these few lines down on paper.  The Canoe is postured nearly against the lake bank.

 My hopes are that an unsuspecting otter will emerge from the den and find the canoe interesting enough to investigate.  I can envision him swimming over to the boat stopping a yard away and waiting until I get all my photographic equipment unlimbered and the camera to my face.  Then he waits patiently until I snap thirty or forty pictures of him.  Well;  whats wrong with that thinking?  Otter or no otter;  I'll sit here awhile until I get chilled, which won't take long.

I truly feel that Little Otter Creek is the most beautiful spot on this lake.  It doesn't overwhelm the viewer with grand vistas or giant waterfalls whose water crashes down and into deep green pools whose banks are lined with multicolored flowers that contrast with the rainbow that arches up and over the entire vision.  Little Otter Creek is simply the perfect example of what a cascading mountain stream should look like.  And, it is perfection.  I was compelled to exit the canoe and climb the steep hillside beside the creek.
I have often read poems about dogs who have passed on to a better place.  I remember them always crossing a bridge to the other side.  The meaning of the other side eludes me but, it must be beautiful over there.  When Douglass time comes to move away from me,  I want this stream to be the one that flows under the bridge he crosses.  I can think of nothing more beautiful for him to see on his lonely journey.  I know he will find comfort beside this water.

It is a tuff climb up this cliff but the good views are from high up.  The little stream is tumbling down near vertical cliffs lined with rocks and boulders.  It splits and flows back together again.  The rhododendrons add a rich green texture to the cascading clear waters as they dash against unmovable rocks and fallen logs.  The sound of falling water is relaxing and soothing.  If it were Summer I would stay here along this falling water for the entire day and wait out the Otters.  But, I'm getting cold and must return to the canoe.

It is really cold.   I would guess 32 degrees to be about right.  I tried to paddle out here without gloves but had to dig them out.   I consider myself a fairly sturdy person but below 35 degrees I have to keep something moving or I get cold.  I better get back to the canoe and get the paddle moving.  I wish I would have worn my ski pants today.  They are totally wind proof.

One last look down the lake from up here and then the long climb back down to the bottom.  I somehow wish it would snow hard right now.  What a view that would be.



The photo here is nothing spectacular but, it will remind me of this great spot years from now when I revisit these photos.






The canoe waits there tight against the embankment where the water is quiet and smooth.  I love that magic boat.  The feeling of moving down a gorgeous lake in total silence is difficult to explain.  It borders on magic.  It can be complicated under difficult circumstances and  requires skill and effort to "make the puppy go where one wants him to go." but; the satisfaction of blending with the natural environment is monumental.  The key word is (blending.)



I love this canoe.  She's a magic carpet..............
I fooled around too long here and have gotten chilled.  I'll pour the coals to the paddle and see if I can't get warmed up.  These Kevlar canoes will really move along.  They weigh in the neighborhood of 32 to 36 pounds and do not displace much water.  The drawback to minimum displacement is the tendency to lack really confident stabilization.  Hence, the reason I place ballast in the extreme front of the canoe.  That keeps the boat displacing water evenly along its entire length.  I need to go through that cut in the mountain ahead.  It's not a big deal.  That cut is about fifteen minutes away.
I love to paddle along the bank and move under overhanging trees.  This is particularly enjoyable in the summer months as I can enjoy the shade provided.  Ah, Summer;  "will you ever arrive?"






It has been a super paddle.  I am indeed addicted to canoeing.  I mentioned that these kevlar canoes are lightweight.  I could never lift a 68 pound royalex canoe onto the cap of the truck.  I can't imagine handling that weight.  It wouldn't be an issue if I had a companion to help with the lift up but, I am always alone and have to be self sufficient.  I'm very happy with the kevlar Champlain.  Incidently;  you're looking at the perfect adventure vehicles.  A modern age canoe made of space age materials and a 1991 Ford F150 six cylinder two wheel drive pick up.  It don't get better than that.

Remember the movie "The Fugitive?"  The movie was partially filmed at Cheoah Dam.  See Below.


Finally;  a view of Calderwood Dam from a road side pull off on Route 129 high above the resevoir.
 That's it for today.  I'll see what kind of trouble I can get into tomorrow.  The dogs are long overdue for some exercise and I think they're going to get their chance in the morning.  I also have the urge for a Gheenoe ride and may use the afternoon for that purpose.  It all depends on the weather.  Until next time;  be kind to the dogs...........