Tuesday, July 17, 2012

SOMBER MOMENTS & THE STORM

click photos to enlarge
I have been off work this week for three days in a row and was looking forward with anticipation of getting back on the water this morning.  I checked the weather radar  before leaving home with the rig and all looked clear.  The sun was just starting to rise and a beautiful morning was on the horizon.
The dock at the boat ramp at Douglas Dam appeared to be in disarray.
It looks like a large section of the dock broke away from the structure anchored to the boat ramp and someone simply stacked it on top of the existing dock.  No matter - I could deal with it.  I simply launched the boat and tied it off to a heavy rock on the boat ramp while I parked "old trusty truck."  I think Lewis and Clark used this truck.  I'm due a new one but it's in the mail to me as we speak.
The sun hasn't been up long and the sky was colorful and reflected off the water's surface beautifully.  I idled out to the center of the bay through the no wake zone and permitted the engine to have a dance on the water.  It was exhilarating to feel the power.
The sun shining through the morning clouds created magnificent views.  I couldn't believe I was streaming along on the waters of the mud hole, Douglas Lake.  Everything looked new and fresh.


























My boat was the only vessel on the lake.  If there was ever a time to find wildlife in this mud bowl it would be early morning before the heat of the day arrived and,  pleasure boats.
I turned into the first little cove I came to and throttled the engine down to idle.  A cormorant blasted out from the back of the tiny bay.
Rays of bright sunlight filtered through the clouds and reflected off the disturbed water the cormorant created as he powered into flight.  Cormorants appear to run across the water when they take flight from the surface.  As their powerful wings lift them off the surface - they extend their legs out until their feet can thrust against the water to aid their wing in lifting them to flight.  Their feet may push against water several times before the bird is safely in flight and the legs tucked tightly under its body.  You can see the splashes behind the bird where his feet pushed against the water.
Can you find him in the photo below?
The above shot was a difficult shot to make.  I didn't have time to make adjustments to the changing light.  Such is the case when shooting wildlife with a camera from a boat.  Animals don't pose very often.  Below:  He's out of here!
I had been on the water for over an hour and haven' t seen a fishing boat in all that time.  A scan of the lake with binoculars proved that I was alone on the water.  Too bad!  There was a deep cove just ahead that I always liked to float around in.  I turned into it and eased down the shoreline.
I saw movement at the very back of the cove on the shore.  A deer was drinking water. The engine was shut off and the electric trolling motor lowered into the water.  I advanced toward the deer slowly and quietly keeping some trees that were flooded and in the water between him and me.  He never saw me coming.  I guided the boat into the grove of flooded trees and shut off the motor, allowing the boat to glide slowly to a stop.



















To advance closer to him would require me to leave the cover of the trees and go boldly into the open.  To him it would be like the allied army landing on Omaha Beach. I waited patiently for him to move around.  

I, for some reason in a normal voice said, "Hey you."  The deer turned his head and looked straight at me.  Now I did it, I thought.






























I sat on the bow of the boat perfectly still.  He dropped his head and slowly walked along the shoreline.  He soon would be directly across from my right side and much closer to the boat.  I turned the electric motor on and pulled the boat around in the trees and shrubs until the bow pointed directly toward the shore in front of me.  He kept coming.  This was great!



This is not just some deer.  This little guy is part of the wild places.  He is the reason it is so important to establish, maintain and protect habitat in the state for "all" wild creatures.  They are indeed the native inhabitants here.  Not us.  Not humans.  "We, in our unique positions as knowing what is good for everything on the planet need to re-evaluate the habitat situations we have caused;  good, bad or ignored throughout the state and rectify areas where habitat is diminishing.  Douglas Lake is a perfect example of "to hell with animal habitat cause there's money to be made on lakeside property."   OK - I won't get into it.

His antlers are covered in soft velvet.  Blood vessels lie beneath the velvet and carry nutrients to the new antlers beneath.  Later in the fall he will scrape the velvet off his hardened antlers by rubbing them against saplings or bushes.


I was enjoying the privilege of watching this wild creature go about his daily routine in peace and quiet.  He was oblivious to my presence.  I carefully watched him select certain grasses only.  He would nose through the weeds and grass until he found that certain patch of green he searched for.  He did not grab the grass in great swaths as a cow would.  Instead he plucked the grass from the ground in small quantities.  It was a delicate, unhurried procedure.  At times he would gently nibble the very tips of the blades.



I had to move along.  The little guy still had no idea I was present.  If he would survive the season called hunting in the Fall - he had better hone his survival skills a bit.  I wish him success in evading the many who would seek to take his life later in the year.



 Above:  The Face Of Innocence


I silently moved the boat away from the trees and out into the cove.  As I approached the mouth of the cove where I could see the mountains I looked at the sky.  Not again!  The sky was dark and growing darker by the minute.  We have had storms here daily on the lake for the past week.  I can't believe how quickly the storm cells materialize.  
The boat I drive is a 22 footer and will handle any rough water that happens on these lakes.  The most dangerous activities to undertake during a storm would be loading a boat onto the trailer at the dock.  The wave action and high wind could make that operation interesting.
Lightning is my biggest concern.  Lightning is an insidious killer and must not be ignored.  Other than lightning - I'm good to go.  That's sort of the attitude I had until I got back to the dock, loaded the boat and drove down past the local marina.  I got a wake up call and a shock.   The storm last week swept this lake with a lot of power.  I had just received a call from a friend telling me to get off the lake "now."  I did.  I'm glad of it.  Look below.

Above:  What you are looking at is what's left of a large marina located adjacent to the Dam on Douglas Lake.  The storm I mentioned earlier roared down the lake with winds clocked at 108 miles per hour.  The winds combined with the forces of the water it was pushing all but annihilated this marina.  It tossed large boats onto the banks of the shoreline as if they were toys and threw others against themselves causing them to be crushed into useless aluminum junk.  The marina itself was torn apart and much of it sunk.  This wasn't a tornado or hurricane.  It was just a storm.


There were approximately 40 boats totally destroyed by that storm.





The boats in this yard are for the most part pontoon boats.  That is the style boat of choice for folks who like to tour around on the water.  I would think that the pontoon style boat is the worse boat to be on in a bad storm.  There is too much surface area for wind and wild water to make contact with.  Some of these boats were on the water when the wind hit.  The occupants are indeed very lucky to be alive.
As a matter of fact I found a father and his son on the shoreline the morning after that storm.  They're pontoon boat was tossed all over the lake and finally was blown onto the shore.  They spent a very uneasy night on that boat.  I towed them in to safety.


Seeing this put things in a new perspective for me.  Could I navigate the lake in a storm with a hundred mile per hour wind in a 22 foot boat that weighs half a ton?  I doubt it.  I believe if the wind caught the boat on the side that it would flip it over.  Sure makes a guy think.  Sure makes a guy keep his eye on the horizon for dark skies.  Sure reinforces the fact that you shouldn't go up against nature when she's angry.  You'll lose most every time.