Friday, August 21, 2015


“I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”--Jack London

"There goes one!" a voice calls out in the darkness.
"Where? I didn't see it," says another.
"Through the Big Dipper. It had a bright tail."
"Oh man! I missed it. What is that?
"An airplane." says another.
"Geez, we're not going back till I see one."

Lost in space between the stars in the heavens and the serene of the lake, we are adrift in the magic of the night. The constellations, Pegasus, Cassiopeia and Ursa Minor shine brilliantly in the moonless sky as our eyes focus toward the east in anticipation of catching falling star.
There are less than a dozen of us floating in the tranquility of Loon Lake. Our bobbing armada of kayaks is lashed together by our fingers tips as each boater holds tightly to the boats between them. Colored glow sticks dangle in the shadows of our figures while some of our headlamps give an eerie glow. It's just after ten and there is a slight gleam over the mountains. It seems like the whole universe is presented before us.
Loon Lake renders the perfect backdrop for the annual Perseid Meteor Shower during its peak in the month of August. The Crystal Basin Recreation Area's lake on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains just west of Lake Tahoe, offers scenic beauty, limited crowds and no light pollution. Tucked away and only a short drive from Sacramento, California, Current Adventures Kayak School and Trips have been providing overnight camping trips for the meteor shower for nearly 10 years. With meals, camping equipment and kayaks provided, paddlers and first-time campers enjoy a cozy "roughing it" in-style camp-out.

"I love the night time paddle,  says longtime lake visitor Djuna Archer, "It's looking up at the stars. This time we have no moon so it's beautiful. It's quiet, serene and lovely."
 This is our second time out on to the water. We had kayaked the length of the lake earlier during the day, however, at night, the lake takes on foreign appearance. The California drought has taken a toll on Loon Lake, dropping it excessively. It is lower than most can ever remember. Just finding our kayaks on the shadowy lake shore is an adventure in itself. In line, we are an illuminated parade of headlamps over the rocky beach to the boats and then, one by one we drop our kayaks into the water and drift into darkness. We follow the leader,  Current Adventure's Dan Crandall's glowing headwear to the center of the reservoir.

In the middle of the lake, we group together and lean back looking at the stars. The daytime heat is gone and a coolness brushes over the water. Our voices and the sound of the kayaks bumping together breaks the silence of the lake. We feel the slight vibration of the water below us as the rocking bows gently remind us we are not on solid ground. There is the mystery of water below us and a dazzling array stars above. Our thoughts navigate us through time and space... How long does it take the light of the stars to touch the earth? Can those satellites see us from above? I wish I could stay here forever.

"Especially in the dark nights," naturalist Henry David Thoreau said long ago while night fishing on Walden Pond, "When our thoughts had wandered to vast and cosmogonal themes and other spheres, to feel this faint jerk, which came to interrupt our dreams and link you to Nature again."  

Our thoughts are disrupted by a flash of a meteor's trail. Fourth of July oohs and awes charge the air. But, the shooting star is gone much to quickly to fully enjoy its splendor. The Perseid shower is known to rise gradually to a peak, then fall off rapidly afterward. We have just missed the peak by a couple of days. The meteor shower is more of a sprinkle but intermittent with wonder and laughter from our group on the lake. Seeing a falling star is always special, however catching it with new friends while kayaking a high Sierra lake is simply magical. It is an experience we will remember for a lifetime.

Dan left a light flashing on the shore so we could find our way back. We had a campfire, a couple of bottles of wine and a full day of paddling waiting for us tomorrow.


Part Two of my trip to Loon Lake next week in Outside Adventure to the Max.