Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Granger and Inks, a tale of two lakes, part 2
I have no idea what time I went to bed last night because I deliberately spent the day avoiding all clocks. (Not easy!!) Once I was safely parked at Inks Lake State Park I sat out under the oak in my chair and read a book until it was too dark for these aged eyes, I ate when I was hungry, and I put my magazine down and made up the bed when it felt right.
But I do know I was awake well before dawn. Which is kind of a life-time condition for me, though just how 'well before dawn' varies from day to day. Sometime it's just a little before dawn and those are the best days, sometimes it's enough before dawn to lay there in bed and write The Great American Novel in my head (And at the risk of bragging, I have to say that in my head it's a damn good read!; now if only I could get it down on paper before it morphs into really bad crap!!) and once in a while my mornings start almost before night has had a chance to get warmed up.
I haven't figured out why I sometimes wake closer to the middle of the night than dawn, but for this particular night I'm going to blame the new parts for the Fan-Tastic Vent. For some reason this new version of the fan sports a couple surface mount LED's on the circuit board that the original lacked, glaring red LED's, red LED's I didn't even notice when doing the install in daylight, but in the dark of night they're pretty dang bright and from the bed I'm looking right up at them.
You ever notice how many lights have been creeping into our lives in these 'modern' times? I'm not sure I took note when it began but now I notice all sorts of multicolored little points of artificial light in my space!
You can't really turn off the TV anymore so there's always some little light to remind you it's there, and the microwave doesn't care if there's anyone to see or not, its going to sit there broadcasting the time in greenish glow 24 hours a day regardless, and if you don't turn your phone off or hide the computer in a drawer somewhere or unplug all the various chargers modern life demands, there's enough light flying around in the middle of the night to cast shadows all over the place!
At the house we use power strips that get turned off at night, and throw a dishcloth over top of the ever-glowing robot vacuum. In the van I leave the TV unplugged, open the breaker for the microwave, and put tape over the little green lights on the smoke and CO detectors. (Not sure what I'm going to do about the LED's in the new vent, I just know that I have to take it apart again to get at them.)
Anyway. . . As soon as the sky began to properly lighten this morning I was out of bed and prepping to go kayaking. In deference to those with different sleep patterns, especially the old lady in the Casita next to me, who, judging by her near perfect eye avoidance yesterday, already doesn't like me much, I trod around silently on moccasined feet, pushed doors closed gently instead of slamming, and carried the kayak a-ways down the shoreline so the noise of inflating it with the foot-pump wouldn't bother anyone. (Or if it did I would at least be too far away to hear the complaints!)
Before long I was floating gently on the mirror smooth lake.
I had it to myself, not even any fishermen out there, only amazingly large fish (Of some kind.) unexpectedly breaking the surface, and the silence, with their exuberance.
I was in no rush and slowly headed in a generally westerly direction towards an arm of the lake I hadn't explored before, one that has state park on one side and waterfront homes along the other so I can be one with nature while, at the same time, marveling at (And scorning the heedless excess of. Jealous?? Hell no! Not me. I don't think. . .) the lakeside mansions, but on the way there I stopped off in a tiny little cove.
This cove is 100% state park and though the park road passes fairly close to the upper end of it, it's very secluded. I drifted in slowly, falling back on military training (Falling waaayyy back!) and paddling silently. (Back then it was rubber boats and canoe paddles but if you made any noise the drill instructors got pissed off, and you didn't want to piss off the DI's because then bad things would happen!)
I was rewarded with a racoon coming out and pawing at the water and a flock of American Coots that didn't seem to notice me for the longest time, and even then they just paddled off to the other side of the cove.
Of course the camera was in the dry bag and as soon as I started fishing it out the racoon took off, but I had better luck with the Coots.
Encouraged, I backed the kayak into a patch of water plants that would hold it in place near the eastern shore of the little cove and, with the rising sun behind me, readied the binoculars and camera, pulled out a book, and settled in.
Sorry to disappoint Mr. Troutwine, (An old teacher of mine.) but the book wasn't Ulysses or Ivanhoe or even one of the American classics; it wasn't a weighty tome on the state of the world and how to fix it, or a thick biography of some admirable character, but it was light and fun and good enough to fill a couple hours there in the cove.
It was a pretty quiet couple of hours, but nothing wrong with that.
The racoon never did stick his head out again. A few White Wing Doves, much bigger than the Inca Doves around the house, messed around in the trees across the way, a few turtles climbed up on various structures to take in the sun, but the most interesting inhabitant was a little 4 point deer.
He never did come down to the water's edge but I caught glimpses of him moving around across the way. I couldn't get a good enough look to be certain, but I'm pretty sure he had a little velvet still clinging to his diminutive rack even though it's pretty late in the season for that. It was probably still there because he kept picking the flimsiest of bushes and even weeds to savage while trying to rub it off. At one point I couldn't see him at all but I could see the spindly branches of some tall, end-of-season weed being thrashed and whipped and thrashed some more as he worked at it. It made me think of trying to clean my teeth while holding the dental floss at only one end. . . It's just not going to do the job dude!!
Perhaps not entertainment up to par for all, but plenty to keep me occupied; and by the time I looked beyond my little world there in the cove again, the dead calm day was no more! Through my binoculars I could see a distant flag across the lake telling me the wind had seriously kicked up and was coming from the east, right were I had come from and eventually needed to get back to!
This morning NOAA radio had said the wind wouldn't be here until late afternoon, but now Weather Bug is saying that at Buchanan Dam, only a few miles away, it's out of the ESE at 12 to 15. That was the good news, because when I used the old Boy Scout trick of estimating wind speed from a flag it said it was worse! (Estimate the average angle the bottom edge of the flag is standing out from the flagpole and divide by 4.) In fact the flag I was watching was pretty much standing straight out most of the time, which indicates winds up around 20!! Of course, I reasoned (hoped/wished), that that old method probably assumes a heavy cotton flag of years gone by and not the light, synthetic flags of today, so it's probably not as bad as it looks. But holy crap it's windy out there!!!
Some years ago I got caught out; way out; on Kentucky Lake in an earlier, much flimsier, one step up from beach toy, inflatable kayak and got pushed around pretty bad by winds that also raised some significant waves, significant for a tiny blow-up kayak anyway. (No smartphones or Weather Bug back then, though I'm not sure I would have been smart enough to check first anyway. . .) For a long time after that I did my kayaking within arm's reach of a sheltered shore.
I've only had my Sea Eagle FT385 for less than a year and, while venturing well out into open waters with it a few times, so far have been very careful to avoid pretty much any winds at all while using it. So sitting there with nothing but open, wind-whipped water between me and the campground, my first thought was to abandon my original plans, which would take me quite a bit further downwind, and instead make a (Half-panicked I'm sure.) run back across the lake into the teeth of the wind and attempt the safety of the campground.
I'm a pretty cautious person and caution has kept me safe in a lot of lonely places for a lot of years, but as I sat there in the protected cove, looking out at the riled up lake, contemplating running for cover, I realized that somewhere along the way I've allowed caution to grow to something very close to timidity. Lately I've been reading blogs written by people doing things like jumping into their Tracker and tackling mountain tracks I would be hesitant to hike let alone drive, or driving the Apache Trail in a class C with a toad behind after I chickened out taking my relatively nimble van on that same road. Well dammit! Those are things I want to do too and it's not going to happen if I keep letting a little fear get in the way! I'm either going to have to step up, push myself, test the limits (Gently of course!), or end up living a life of missed opportunities from my easy chair while growing my situpon to epic proportions.
So I sucked it up, double-checked to make sure everything was tied down and all the delicate gear stowed in properly closed dry-bags, glided past the line of turtle-heads guarding the entrance to the cove, stuck my nose out into the lake, and hung a right; putting the wind, and the safety of the campground, at my back.
I'm not saying I suddenly became fearless, because frankly, as the wind and waves drove me down the empty lake away from the campground at speeds I'm pretty sure I'd never manage by paddling, it was scary. It was noisy and bumpy and I wasn't at all sure that I'd be able to paddle back across the lake, uphill into those same wind and waves, and make it to the campground. But the only reason I wasn't sure is because I'd never tried it before, so dang-it! here we go!!!
Worst case, I have to stash the kayak somewhere and hike back around the lake then return with the van to fetch the rest of my gear. (As usual, just in case something like this ever happens, I had my hiking boots, socks and pack in the kayak with me.)
I very quickly made it to my originally planned destination under wind power with very little paddling involved, I was saving that, the paddling, for later. . .
Even though this arm of the lake trends north-south, it's large enough that the ESE winds wrapped around the corner and there wasn't a whole lot of shelter in there. I hugged the eastern shore, the State Park side, and followed it up to where a highway crosses the head end. If needed, that would be my stash point where I would begin the foot journey back to the campground.
The western side of the arm is lined with lakefront mansions. OK, OK, maybe calling all of them mansions is a slight exaggeration, but one or two had boathouses large enough for a family of 4 to live in very comfortably. Of course, mansion or not, every one of them had some sort of watercraft bobbing at docks ranging from basic and crude to extravagant and ornamental.
It didn't escape my notice that all of these watercraft were sensibly tied up tight and I seemed to be the only one foolish enough to actually be out on the water in these conditions! But I told myself that's because it's a weekday and all the boat owners are off working at jobs so they can afford the boat; oh, and the house on the lake that goes with it.
Once again I backed the kayak into a corner and pulled out my book, slightly watermarked now since it was in one of my pant's pockets and not a dry-bag.
My plan was to kill a little more time to see if the wind would settle down at all. A foolish hope I know; and I ended up doing little actual reading of book and a whole lot of studying of wave heights, nearby treetops and distant flags in the hopes of seeing some easing of the situation.