Saturday, March 5, 2016

Foul Weather Fan

  No epic adventure started with "On a bright sunny day. . ." tweeted adventurer Sean Conway.

We were grateful for the rain. It has been very dry since Christmas. Raindrops bounced off the windshield in big thuds before the wipers could push them away. We were driving down a winding road to the lake after leaving the highway. Gray clouds were everywhere as the lake came into view.  As we parked and began unloading the sky unloaded on us.

What is about adverse weather that makes my boat trips more memorable? A man vs nature type endeavor.  I'm not saying, I don't like bright sunny days. I really do. Nothing is better than kayaking along while being kissed by the sun. In a state known for its sunshine, I have experienced lots of dazzling days this past year. However, across most of the country unfavorable climates and kayaking coexist. Snow, rain. sleet and fog are paddled through heartily.

Both Canoe & Kayak and Adventure Kayak magazines always publish photos of boatmen and women manning up against the harsh environment. Sarah Outen and Justine Cugenven pounding through heavy wind, rain and waves while making their way through the Aleutian Islands, while kayak adventurer Daniel Fox's expedition from Victoria B.C. to San Francisco experienced a full blast of nature making his trip come to an end.
"The wave literally fell on me, and within a second the kayak was broken in two below my  knees," Fox told, Canoe & Kayak, "It was quite a swim."

The heavy rain didn't last long. Just long enough to send two fishermen running for cover and get our gear and kayak seats a little wet. This was the first time my kayak partner Erik Allen had brought me to Rollins Lake. The lake at 2,100 elevation, is on the western side of the Sierra near Colfax, California. It is a 900-acre reservoir with 26 miles of shoreline, perfect for paddling year round. Erik was on a mission to scout out some trails near the mouth of the Bear River. Our plan was to kayak up the lake and river as far as we could before the current pushed us back.
 The water looked like green emerald under the gray skies. We kayaked along the rust color shore, breaking up the quiet water. Around the bend loomed a bank of mist hanging over the lake. Erik, who grew up close by has paddled the lake many times before, but for him, there is always something new.
"Rollins Lake is always changing," whispered Erik, "It never looks the same."

Lakes are like that. I thought back to my paddling days in Minnesota, remembering the way the snow looked along the shore of Red River Lake and the way the rain came down in the early spring on Beers Lake in Maplewood State Park. The day's conditions have framed many of my paddling memories. My sons will always start their tale of camping with, "Remember how cold it was or how it rained when we went to..." The day's weather has added to our experiences whether it was fair or foul. 

A layer of fog engulfed us as we paddled farther along.  It was like floating on a cloud. I let Erik paddle up farther ahead so I could get a photo. Before long he disappeared in the white haze dropping into the unknown.  

Our paddle through the mist added to the magic of our trip to the lake. The rainy and foggy weather is now etched into another paddling memory.
If you wait for the perfect day. You will never go. "Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating," said English writer John Ruskin, "There is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather."

This article was originally published in Outside Adventure to the Max February 20, 2015