Gorge-ous Ithaca: Lake Encounters

I know what you’re thinking. That I am neglecting something in the tale of my trip to upstate New York last summer. Waterfalls, rocks and way too much geology – enough! The region around Ithaca is known as the Finger LAKES, not the Finger GORGES, after all. Something’s missing!

What about the LAKES?

Continue reading

Kayak Days Are Here Again

It’s kayak season! There is no happier place for me than on the water. This wet, chilly spring, it seemed those treasured kayak days would never get here, but arrive they did. I’m fortunate to have three paddle buddies this year. Without further ado… Continue reading

White Rock Lake: A New Perspective

161226_tx-white-rock-kayak_4763acsKayaking, the day after Christmas. Who would have guessed?

Yet that’s the way I spent my holiday this year. Christmas with family in Dallas, Texas is a tradition. Spending time at White Rock Lake, walking and photographing the park and the wildlife there, is a tradition. Getting out on the water there – well, here’s to new traditions!

Last year I discovered two kayaks, hidden away behind my cousin Jensen’s house. I immediately began a subtle (ok, not so subtle) campaign to coax him into an excursion on White Rock Lake over the holidays. All we needed was warmth, sunshine and light winds, the last always essential on a big lake like White Rock.

The day was warm, but the sky was dark and moody, and we even had a brief shower. No matter. The morning was dead calm, the lake as smooth as glass. I was paddling, for gosh sakes, the day after Christmas. All was right with the world.

161226_tx-white-rock-lake-kayak_112937acsAfter years of exploring White Rock Lake from land, this was the perspective I had been itching to see – White Rock from the water.

161226_tx-white-rock-kayak_4761acsMy cousin Jensen, lookin’ good.

161226_tx-white-rock-kayak_4767acsCruising past the marina. Brightly colored kayaks rested among the sailboats, just waiting for someone to liberate them from their land-locked existence.

161226_tx-white-rock-kayak_4771acsJensen knifed through the water so powerfully he threatened to paddle right out of my picture. One-handed, yet!

Elaborate mansions line the shores of the lake behind him, and beyond that, the Dallas skyline.

161226_tx-white-rock-kayak_4777acsA wonderful pedestrian bridge arched over a narrow arm of the lake.

161226_tx-white-rock-kayak_4795acsWe paddled under the Mockingbird Lane bridge, where Jensen tried his hand at a little fishing. The day after Christmas. Imagine that!

After this, my photography went south. To capture images in the darkness under the bridge, I needed to adjust the settings of my small waterproof point-and-shoot camera. I forgot to reset it afterward. Later I learned that this camera can’t handle those settings. Only a few images after that point were even usable, and they’re a little embarrassing.

161226_tx-white-rock-kayak_4823acsHere’s one of them anyway, which I only share since it’s of my favorite White Rock bird, the American Coot.

Jensen and I paddled a short way up White Rock Creek. We could have explored a lot further up the waterway, but frankly, it got depressing.

Why? Trash. Plastic bottles, Styrofoam cups and other bits and pieces of detritus. Now, I’m used to Darby Creek at home, which draws its fair share of refuse. But not this bad.

img951911acThe scene inspired Jensen and his son Jake to do a little volunteer work a month later.

They spent a good three hours cleaning up trash from a 40-foot section of shoreline, filling two large Hefty bags in the process.

Here’s one of their finds. Way to go, guys! (Photo by Jensen Moock)

170101_tx-wrl-kayak-jensen-and-alex_950923acsSpeaking of family… Jensen’s daughter Alex had really wanted to go kayaking with us. Alas, we only had two kayaks. So she went with her dad a week or so later. As you can see, they had a much prettier day. And Jensen had prettier company. (Photo by Jensen Moock)

Notice the GoPro behind the seat. Alex, soon to graduate from high school, is a talented filmmaker. She starts at prestigious Belmont University in the fall. Can you tell I’m proud of her?

(That doesn’t get you off the hook, Alex – I still haven’t seen footage from your White Rock kayak experience. Or anything you shot from the drone.)

170101_tx-wrl-kayak-jensen-and-alex_9155acsA lake, a fishing rod and a sunset. Jensen, enjoying the serenity of a day with his daughter. (Photo by Alex Moock)

Back to my little White Rock adventure. After the paddle up the creek, Jensen and I returned to our exploration of the lake. He had no luck fishing, but we chatted with another boater who told us a few fish tales. I showed Jensen the dog park, and the arm of the lake I call “Cormorant Corner”, for all the Double-crested Cormorants that roost in the trees there. Funny to think that a lifelong Dallas resident needed to be shown around White Rock Lake by a part-time visitor.

161226_tx-white-rock-lake-kayak_122640acsHere’s a rarely seen sight – me, captured on camera.

On White Rock Lake.

The day after Christmas.

(Photo by Jensen Moock)

161226_tx-white-rock-kayak_4843acsDramatic clouds over the lake. They would part just as we were getting off the water, yielding to sunshine and blue skies.

I ate lunch in my bare feet. The day after Christmas.

It doesn’t get any better than that.

My Happy Place

160418_NJ Oswego Lake Kayak_3199acsEveryone needs a place of retreat, a place to restore one’s soul. Through the long winter I pictured it only in my dreams. Serene. Meditative. Calming. My happy place.

Y’all close your eyes now. Let’s go there in our minds…

Ah, that’s better. Wave goodbye to the dark, dreary, landlocked days of winter. Shed the layers of thermals and fleece. Wade through the shallows, and settle into the kayak. Turn your face to the warming rays of the sun.

Now, dip the paddle blade into the water, and smoothly, gently, pull. Feel the boat glide effortlessly forward.

Ahhh. That’s better.

After six long months on land, I am once again a creature of the water. Blessed with a warm sunny day in the middle of April, I pack up my kayak and head for the Pine Barrens. Lake Oswego awaits, glittering indigo under a clear blue sky. No longer a dream, my happy place is now reality.

The water of the lake flows dripping off my paddle, and runs chuckling down the length of the kayak’s hull.

Ssssshlooooop -drip-drip-drip – drip – d r i p – d r i p – gurglegurgle

160418_NJ Oswego Lake Kayak_3190acsThe first strokes are awkward, and I find myself paddling not across open water, but through a mass of lily pads and dark green pondweeds. Oops! Better watch where I am going.

160418_NJ Oswego Lake Kayak_3429acsHmmm. That looks interesting on the other side of the bridge. I wonder if I can fit under there?

160418_NJ Oswego Lake Kayak_3415acsEasily spooked, turtles dive at the mere hint of my presence. I stow my paddle and drift, and soon a turtle forgets me and begins to nibble at a nice wet salad.

160418_NJ Oswego Lake Kayak_3193acsMy happy place. Around the upper curve of the lake and down the far shore, past the dam and the portage beach. Blue sky, green trees, dark blue water. Ahhh.

160418_NJ Oswego Lake Kayak_3373acsAt the southeastern end of the lake, I find this fantastical sculpture, the twisted remains of a long-deceased tree.

Lakes don’t occur naturally in the Pine Barrens. Something had to die for the pond to be born.

Gone, but not forgotten.

160418_NJ Oswego Lake Kayak_3295acsMy happy place is… a cemetery. The ghosts of drowned cedar trees haunt the shallow places, a reminder of the forest that once was.

160418_NJ Oswego Lake Kayak_3357acsYet life abounds among the tree spirits. A fallen phantom attracts a turtle, very much alive. Several of his shelled buddies are also soaking up the sun nearby.

160418_NJ Oswego Lake Kayak_3285acsBleached cedar tree trunks are the totem poles of the Pine Barrens lake, the resting places of arboreal souls. I drift among them like the clouds wisp across the sky, soaking up the twitter of tree swallows.

160418_NJ Oswego Lake Kayak_3264acsA spectral white trunk leans on another for support. Like the wrinkles of an old woman’s face, its weathered skin whispers of all that it has seen. Wait – what is perched on the right end of the log? Photobombed by a dragonfly!

There’s that sound again. QUONK! Like a metallic thunk. I heard a few of them near the launch, but at this end of the lake the sounds are much more numerous. No bird I know makes that sound. It has to be a frog. But what one? No matter how close I get to each QUONK, it’s not close enough. I see no frogs.

One of my missions is to find where the Oswego River comes into Oswego Lake. I follow a pair of honking geese into a cove. At the far end is a narrow passage into another cove. Beyond that a thin little stream squeezes between trees and disappears.

160418_NJ Oswego Lake Kayak_3322acsCould this be the Oswego River?

But there’s another cove, with another stream beyond it disappearing into the trees. This one looks wider, more like a real stream. Hmmm. Mission postponed. Best to leave some mystery for another day.

160418_NJ Oswego Lake Kayak_3393acsLeft also for another day is this inviting little pathway.

Journey’s end.

Ahhh, that’s better. My spirit has been soothed. Winter is past; its cold and confinement have faded. A season of warm days and blue water unfolds before me like a map. A map that leads to…

160418_NJ Oswego Lake Kayak_3448acsMy happy place.

Lost on the Lakes

150821_MI LSP Lost Lake Kayak_1665acsNow, as the cold days draw near, close your eyes and dream…dream of a Michigan summer…

The sun shines brightly in an azure sky laced with fluffy white clouds. All is quiet but for the fading voices ashore and the rhythm of the paddle. Dip, swish, drip, drip; dip, swish, drip, drip.

150821_MI LSP Hamlin Kayak_1527acsThe kayak glides effortlessly across the deep blue of Hamlin Lake toward an island of rich greenery and white sands. A cool breeze brushes warm skin and paints ripples on the canvas of the water.

150821_MI LSP Hamlin Kayak_1546acsAt the small island’s tip, driftwood and old pilings bleach in the sun while a single tree keeps watch. A kayak rests on the shore, awaiting the return of its paddlers from an exploration of the island’s wild interior.

Across Hamlin Lake lies the inviting inlet of the much smaller Lost Lake. A spit of land barely ten feet wide separates the two lakes.

150821_MI LSP Hamlin Kayak_1598acsThe Lost Lake Trail spans the inlet on an elevated walkway. Underneath, an uprooted stump has wedged itself under the bridge. This is the land of drowned forests, cut down and buried under water in the name of progress. Progress complete, the lakes are now a place for play.

150821_MI LSP Hamlin Kayak_1550acsLost Lake is serene, and the water amazingly clear. Every tree stump and aquatic plant can be seen with clarity.

150821_MI LSP Lost Lake Kayak_1620The coves offer a sheltered place for water lilies and sedges to grow. On the isthmus, a tree leans at a precarious angle. The peacefulness of a summer’s day is deceptive; the Lake Michigan coast is a harsh environment, and whipping winter winds take their toll on trees clinging to the water’s edge.

150821_MI LSP Lost Lake Kayak_1661acsA towering sand dune offers a place to stop, rest and explore.

150821_MI LSP Lost Lake Kayak_1681acsIf snails would seek sanctuary from predators, they will not find it here. The shallows of Lost Lake offer no hiding place. Yet again, the crystal clear water astounds.

150821_MI LSP Lost Lake Kayak_1712acsA pair of damselflies patrols over a field of water lilies.

150820_MI LSP Lost Lake Trail_5156acsWee mushrooms loom large over moss and pine needles, a landscape in miniature on the forest floor.

150820_MI LSP Lost Lake Trail_5163acsTiny treasures such as this captivate the imagination and tempt the soul to linger.

150821_MI LSP Lost Lake Kayak_1728acsBut nearby the narrow entrance to a small cove beckons, dark and mysterious.

150821_MI LSP Lost Lake Kayak_1754acsAt its mouth, a fallen log has been eaten away by time like Swiss cheese. In one nook, new life has taken root.

150821_MI LSP Hamlin Lake Kayak_1814acsNothing is so tenacious as a plant. It takes but a tiny bit of soil, tucked in a crevice of an old tree stump, for a new tree to sprout and grow. Water, soil, light. What more could a tree wish?

150821_MI LSP Hamlin Kayak_1900acsMallards splash and bathe by the roots of an overturned tree…

150820_MI LSP Lost Lake Trail_5134acs…while a green frog idles in the shade.

150821_MI LSP Hamlin Lake Kayak_1846acsAn intricate entwining of twisted white limbs adorned with greenery graces the shore. Tree sculpture is but one form of Nature’s artwork.

All too soon, fierce winter will intrude upon peaceful meditations of summer. When it comes, find sanctuary in dreams of sheltered coves and sand beaches. The dip, swish, drip, drip of the paddle. The plants swaying sinuously beneath the clear water, the sparkle of the sun on the surface, the sand and the trees reflected there.

150821_MI LSP Hamlin Kayak_1890acsSavor the moments spent lost in reverie… on the lost lakes.

Watery Weekend

In which, Captain Robb takes us Pontooning, and a Short Kayak Excursion nearly leaves us Marooned on a Deserted Island.

150801_PA Nockamixon Pontoon_2651aOne of our favorite things to do in the summer is to go to Lake Nockamixon and rent a pontoon boat for a couple of hours. A gorgeous Saturday, blue water, a light breeze, a shady boat canopy; what could be more relaxing?

150801_PA Nockamixon Pontoon_2521aDon was so relaxed he took a little nap, trusting in Captain Robb’s superb piloting skills.

150801_PA Nockamixon Pontoon_2646acsOne of the rock outcroppings along the shoreline.

150801_PA Nockamixon Pontoon Sailboat_2854acsSailboats in front of the marina.

150801_PA Nockamixon Pontoon Haycock Mt_2764acsHaycock Mountain. Calling Haycock a “mountain” is a bit of a stretch, in my book. It’s only 960′ in elevation, nothing more than a hill. But it is the highest “summit” in Bucks County.

150801_PA Nockamixon Pontoon_2876acsThe guys chit-chat away, with Haycock in the background. All in all, it was a lovely day on the lake.

150802_PA Little Tinicum Island_1024acsSunday morning we set out on a much-anticipated kayaking expedition, down Darby Creek to the Delaware River and across to Little Tinicum Island. It’s a small uninhabited island about 3 miles long by 500 feet wide. Most of the island is overgrown with impenetrable vegetation, but the shore is lined with narrow sand beaches.

150802_PA Little Tinicum Island_1018acsWe paddled out on a day so calm the water was like glass. The tide was out, and we were surprised at how shallow the river was. Robb saw a crab swim by his kayak. Here’s Robb and Don paddling around the southern tip of the island.

Partway up the New Jersey side, we decided to land. This meant walking across a long stretch of slippery, sticky mudflats while dragging our boats behind us. Yuck! Once we reached the sand, we had a grand time exploring the shoreline.

150802_PA Little Tinicum Island_1083acsLooking north from the beach.

150802_PA Little Tinicum Island_1090acsRobb and Don on Little Tinicum Island, looking south, with the Commodore Barry Bridge in the background.

150802_PA Little Tinicum Island_1119acsWe found two cozy little “camps” on the island, one on each side. People had set up chairs, a table, tire swings, even fire rings. Probably fishermen, since each camp had its own skillet. Robb couldn’t resist one of the swings. Really, he’s just a big kid.

When we left the Jersey side, there was a large freighter out in the main channel. I was back on the water first and glanced back to see the guys sitting in their floating kayaks, ready to paddle away. Then I heard Robb shout something. I turned around to see them still in their kayaks, still in the same place – but now high and dry on the mudflats! No water anywhere near them!

FUN FACT: Why did the water drain away from the shore? Something called bank suction, created by that large ship that was passing by. The increased velocity of water past the hull of a ship in a restricted channel causes a decrease in pressure which draws the ship bodily toward the near bank. That decreased pressure also draws the water towards the ship. The effect is temporary; the water flows back in a moment or two.

150802_PA Little Tinicum Island_1144acsDon paddling along the Jersey side of the island, once he’d gotten some actual water to paddle in.

150802_PA Little Tinicum Island_1348acsA “lazaretto” or “lazaret” is a quarantine station for marine travelers. The Philadelphia Lazaretto, on the Delaware County shore of the Delaware River, was built in 1799 in response to the 1793 yellow fever epidemic. All ships were required to stop here for inspection, and ill passengers were quarantined. It operated as a hospital until 1895. A century older than Ellis Island’s inspection station in New York, this is the oldest surviving quarantine hospital in the U.S. The view of the building from the river is something a lot of people never see.

150802_PA Little Tinicum Island_1301acsNot everyone can say they’ve paddled under the runway lights of the Philadelphia Airport, either. These are on a long wooden pier extending obliquely along the shore. Needless to say, there were a lot of planes taking off and flying overhead while we were out on the river.

The first three hours of our fateful trip were relaxing and fun. The second three hours, not so much.

Tides are tricky things. We had only planned to paddle partway up the Philadelphia side of the island, for about 45 minutes. But we reached the north end in 30, thanks to the incoming tide.

Then it took us over 2 hours of HARD paddling to cover the same three miles against the tide. We seriously underestimated the strength of the flood current. At times we were making no progress at all.

And that’s how our three-hour tour turned into a six-hour marathon, and nearly left us castaways on a deserted isle!

150802_PA Little Tinicum Island_1282acsAll in a wonderful watery weekend.

In the Garden of Stone

150417_PA Susquehanna Conowingo Pool_0328aHold on to your hats, folks, as the Wild Edge takes a sharp detour from the Great Smoky Mountains of the South to the Piedmont of Pennsylvania. We’ll return to the Appalachians soon. But sometimes a trip so excites me that I just have to share it RIGHT NOW.

And what could tear me away from the Smokies? A simple kayak trip Robb, Don and I took to the Susquehanna River. At least it looked simple. Guide books and satellite map research only hinted at a river dotted with rocky islands. That didn’t come close to preparing us for what we found.

150417_PA Susquehanna Conowingo Pool_0214acsNeither did our initial half hour on the river. We paddled across to Lower Bear Island, a wooded island in mid-stream whose southern end sports a series of power lines.

150417_PA Susquehanna Conowingo Pool_0350acsThe Susquehanna River is punctuated here by three hydro-electric dams. Between the dams is the Susquehanna Gorge. At one time it was 400’ or more deep, where the river carved through bedrock of Wissahickon schist, forming spectacular sculpted rock formations, potholes and three levels of terraces. Now much of it is below the still, lake-like waters. Only where the water is shallow, just below the dams, do the geological wonders appear.

150417_PA Susquehanna Conowingo Pool_0219acsThese wonders revealed themselves slowly as we paddled upstream along the shore of Lower Bear Island. At first we saw islets no more than a foot high. Even the smallest had some sort of vegetation on it. Gradually the islets became larger islands, and the shores became steeper and rockier.

150417_PA Susquehanna Conowingo Pool_0289acsWhen we reached the channel between Lower Bear and Upper Bear Island, we began to really appreciate this amazing place. Islands of stone were everywhere. Fantastical sculptures lined the cliffs on both sides of us. I started to give the formations names.

2 Susquehanna - Mount RushmoreMt. Rushmore.

3 Susquehanna - Robb at the Fist of GodThe Fist of God. Robb in devout worship.

4 Susquehanna GorgeAbove Upper Bear Island, about a mile and a half from the dam, we began to see signs of trouble. Or rather, we didn’t see trouble, which came in the form of shallow rocks just below the opaque surface. You’d be paddling along, admiring the scenery, and suddenly find yourself spinning sideways and threatening to tip over. Getting unstuck was challenging, and left me with wet shirt sleeves.

Another quarter mile up, the water got too low for our kayaks. We tried a cross channel around Crow Island, but had to turn back. By this time we were hungry and itching to stretch our legs. But where to land? There were no soft beaches in this garden of stone.

150417_PA Susquehanna Conowingo Pool_0303acsWell, yes, there was, just one. When we passed it earlier it had been occupied by two kayaks, with two kayakers above on the rocks. Now the beach was empty. We stopped, picked up our little lunch sacks, and threaded our way through the trees to the top. I was first to arrive, and this is what I saw:

150417_PA Susquehanna Conowingo Pool_0381acsOh, my goodness. Yes, this will do quite nicely.

6 Susquehanna - Robb & Don at the Lunch SpotRobb, Don and I spent a lovely siesta eating, admiring the scenery, taking photos of butterflies, a snake and each other, and taking care of other (ahem) necessities.

Or not. I  really have to put a bell on Don.

(There you go, Don. See how nice I am to you? I put this photo in at your request, even though you insist on continually disturbing my (ahem) solitary moments.)

1 Susquehanna GorgeThe little pool formed by the rocks below our lunch spot made for a serene place to explore.

7 Susquehanna  - Don & Robb in SyncIt’s rare that I put people in my photographs. The gorge requires it, to give a sense of scale. Don and Robb paddled on, dwarfed by the surrounding stone walls.

150417_PA Susquehanna Conowingo Pool_0444acsMany of the rocks show a strong tilt, the result of thousands of years of geological forces far beyond my comprehension. (Really. I read a scientific paper about the gorge. Didn’t understand a third of it.)

150417_PA Susquehanna Conowingo Pool_0464acsFor something completely different, we took the channel (right) between Upper and Lower Bear Islands to the other side. Here we found the river even wider, and not nearly so rocky. The main channel passes close to the far shore.

By the time we passed Lower Bear Island, Don was ready to call it a day and headed in.

Not Robb and I. He’d been talking all day about some cove on Big Chestnut Island he’d spotted on a satellite photo. I thought he meant a small beach. Little did I know.

150417_PA Susquehanna Conowingo Pool_0494 acsThe approach to the cove was narrow, and nearly invisible. It took some deft paddling to wind through the tight and twisty opening. A couple of Bald Eagles flew close overhead, a good omen if ever there was one.

We found ourselves inside a small hidden lagoon, a secret garden. Wooded rock walls towered above us on all sides, cool and green and shady. It was amazing.

8 Susquehanna - Robb in the Secret GardenWe wanted to linger awhile longer, but needed to press on. The exit was far too narrow for passage, so we left the way we came, and crossed the river to the boat launch. Our day was over, and we were tired but elated.

It’s taken me a while to find a place as awesome as the Smokies. Hard to believe I’d find it so close to home. Even harder to believe a landscape as dramatic as the Susquehanna Gorge exists so close to home.

I can’t wait to wander again through this watery garden of stone.

5 Susquehanna - Lunch Spot

Watery New Horizons: Part II

141030_Lake OswegoLaunch_124522acsOh, the places we’ll go!

No longer tied to the land, limited in our vision to the edge of the shore. Now the whole watery world opens up before us, and we are free to explore each cove, each inlet, each river bend. Wildlife, once skittish, will meet our gaze with fearlessness and dance for our pleasure. Oh, the places we’ll go!

141009_New Kayak _132554aYup, I finally got my own kayak. Here she is still in the store. She’s officially a “Pungo” model, but I have dubbed her Calypso, in honor of explorer and conservationist Jacques Cousteau.

141011_New Kayak_9248aReady to go home. The first thing everyone says is “It’s the same color as your car!” As if I would get anything other than blue. Blue, the color of the clear sky, azure butterflies, bluebells, and blueberries. Blue, the color of water…

Oh, the places we’ll go!

Like Lake Oswego in the Pine Barrens, for Calypso’s maiden voyage on a cool but bright October day.

141030_Lake Oswego Kayak Launch_2080aUnlike friends Don and Robb, I chose a hard-shell kayak over an inflatable model. No PUMPA-PUMPA-PUMPA for me. I just have to lift a 50 pound boat onto and off my car. That turned out to be easy. Reaching the tie-down straps, however, is another story. Nice to have a handy-dandy stepladder available.

141030_Lake Oswego Kayak Launch_2094acsA journey of a thousand miles begins with a single paddle stroke.

141030_Lake Oswego Kayak Launch_2096acsI had the lake to myself. Unfortunately, finding a warm calm day on a weekend to get the three of us together had proven impossible. On Launch Day, Robb was at work. Though Don accompanied me to the lake, he declined to paddle.  Something about a new book. No worries. I enjoyed the peace and solitude and the chance to get to know my new craft.

Oh, the places we’ll go!

130615_Pine Barrens Marthas Furnace_3371 aAnd where might we three voyagers go? Why, there’s a world of possibilities! We might explore the Oswego River downstream from the lake that shares its name.

131026_Pine Barrens_9849aThe tea-colored water of the Mullica River in the Pine Barrens looks inviting…

130615_Pine Barrens Batsto_3230 aAs do Batsto Lake and River.

Oh, the places we’ll go!

130927_OC 51st Street_5847 aThe Jersey Shore is a treasure trove of bays, marshes and tidal creeks to explore, like this creek near Ocean City.

140422_HNWR Ducky_9986 acsOf course I want to explore Heinz Refuge on Darby Creek. The guys had already ventured out in their itty-bitty blow-up tub toys. On the canoe launch, their mascot awaited their safe return.

140511_Nockamixon Fishing Pier_8239 acsLake Nockamixon beckons, with Haycock Mountain looming on the watery horizon.

With the approach of winter, it’s likely that this would be my only trip with Calypso this year. But come next spring, I will be ready for adventure at the first hint of warmth.

For now, I have dreams, dreams of paddling…

Around the bend and out of sight, with a whole watery world shining on the horizon.

141030 Lake Oswego Kayak Launch_2097 acsOh, the places we’ll go!

Watery New Horizons

The first river you paddle runs through the rest of your life. It bubbles up in pools and eddies to remind you who you are. –Lynn Noel

1-197807xx_Delaware Campsite 2acsMy first river was the Upper Delaware, in the Pocono Mountains in 1976. I was a teenager at Girl Scout camp and I fell in love with paddling right away. Memories of the river come floating back – blue skies, dark green hills, drifting quietly down the calm sections. The fun of running the rapids – Mongaup, the Eel Trap, Skinner’s Falls – and the frustration when we hit a rock or got stuck. Grey misty afternoons, and the one bright morning when the early sun bedazzled us with a myriad of sparkling diamonds on the river’s surface. I lived in canoes for four wonderful summers and paddling has coursed through my veins ever since. (The photo above was taken at an overnight campsite along the Delaware in 1978 with a Kodak Instamatic camera. Gotta love that ‘70s film look!)

Ghostbusters!Don started paddling in the 90s, on Darby Creek in a folding kayak. “I think that first time out in my folding kayak was a lot of fun and a big relief once I realized that my watercraft floated! Pine Barrens river trips came later… and I might have thought how peaceful and quiet it was and how isolated the spot was though it was all so near a major metropolitan area.”

140906_HNWR Kayak_9128acsRobb just started paddling recently, and his first kayak trip, to a rain-swollen Batsto River, left him cold. Being separated from your boat and stuck in a tree can do that. “[My first river] was Batsto and I remember being in a tree because of Don’s advice.” Later trips have gone more smoothly than that first experience, and Don and I are crossing our fingers that Robb comes to enjoy the sport as much as we do.

Don’s the only one with a kayak (an inflatable one, no less) so he coaxed Robb into the purchase of his own small inflatable boat called the Firefly. The Firefly took her maiden voyage on a cloudy and cool day at Marsh Creek Lake; she and her captain were a sight to behold. Once the boat was ready, that is.

140830_Marsh Creek Kayak_8446acsPumpa-pumpa-pumpa!

140830_Marsh Creek Kayak_8461acsPuffa-Puffa-Puffa!

140830_Marsh Creek Kayak_8498acsNapoleon at Waterloo, in his snazzy new vest.

140830_Marsh Creek Kayak_8524acsAre you sure this thing will float?

140830_Marsh Creek Kayak_8554acs_CaptionA journey of a thousand miles begins with a single paddle stroke.

140830_Marsh Creek Kayak_8592acsThe boat goes faster if you stick out your tongue.

140830_Marsh Creek Kayak_8632acsBoys and their bitty blow-up tub toys. For some reason Don wears a rain hat when he paddles, no matter what the weather.

One week later, the sun was out and the heat nigh unbearable. Nonetheless, the guys were back at it on Darby Creek in Heinz National Wildlife Refuge.

140906_HNWR Kayak_8888aDarby Creek is tidal, and the water level varies greatly. This is the boat launch near high tide. At low tide it’s all mud flats.

140906_HNWR Kayak_8998aDon tells Robb where to go. As always.

140906_HNWR Kayak_9059aTrash is a constant problem along Darby Creek, and it all washes downstream to Heinz NWR. Every April there’s a watershed-wide cleanup, but by September, that’s just a distant memory. Please, folks, put your trash in trash cans. Better yet, recycle it!

Don & Robb Kayak CollageThe synchronicity of the paddle strokes is frightening. Click on the image to get a closer look.

140906_HNWR Kayak_9100acsOh, the power in the stroke. The concentration on the face. The wake behind the boat. No question, Captain Robb is a stud.

You may be wondering why I have been left behind on dry land. It’s not all that uncommon. Actually, I have my eye on a hard-shell kayak, and hope to test paddle it sometime soon. Never let it be said that I rushed into any decision impulsively.

For now, I have dreams, dreams of paddling…

140906_HNWR Kayak_9248aAround the bend and out of sight, with a whole watery world shining on the horizon.

Everyone must believe in something. I believe I’ll go canoeing. – Henry David Thoreau