A week or so ago, a friend that lives in the Allentown area ( Lehigh County PA ) called and suggested we get together for a paddling trip. After comparing schedules, we decided on last night @ Mauch Chunk Lake.
That's correct folks, night.
When I arrived at ~1545h, there was one fishing rig taking out, and another trolling ( electric motors only ) on the opposite shoreline. We put in at about 1600h from the well maintained boat launch, and our twilight paddle began.
The lake's axis runs roughly east to west, so we were paddling into some very bright sunshine for the first hour or so. I actually didn't look at my watch for the next four hours, so I'm not sure how long we enjoyed the late afternoon conditions.
BTW - did I say bright? Blinding would have been a better description.
We'd been on this lake at night once before, but in much warmer weather and under a new moon. Last night's first quarter moon did have a definite impact on our ability to view the Milky Way in all its glory, but once the sun went down, it was still an incredible show. And on this mountaintop lake, once the sun set, it got nippy. Very nippy.
When we put in, the water was as smooth as glass. No breeze whatsoever...just the stillness caused by cooler night air starting to sink to the bottom of this valley. The water was exceptionally clear, and as we later discovered, much lower than the level maintained during the peak summer months. Paddling through unfamiliar boulder fields in the dark was a whole new experience.
Mauch Chunk Lake is about two miles long, so as dusk began, we continued to paddle west past the second boat launch - which has way too many outside lights on IMHO - until we started to run into boulders with increasing frequency. It was about then that I began to notice that my high tech neoprene gloves weren't keeping my fingers all that warm, so we spun around and slowly headed east. Once our eyes adjusted to the darkness again, the Milky Way began to become more visible along with countless stars that I rarely see even though I live well beyond city limits.
Outside of a barking dog and passing cars on the northern side of the lake, it was very quiet, to the point that we both commented that we thought we'd hear something...anything, along the wooded southern shore. For 2+ hours, outside of some geese honking at the far end of the lake, we heard no evidence of any nocturnal activity from what is a fairly undeveloped tract of this park. But, considering how little silence we have in our lives...I seized the moment and enjoyed the remaining descent into darkness.
As I was drifting, I noticed some of the brighter stars - especially from Cassiopeia - were clearly reflected on the water's surface. I then quickly looked to the right, and after a few seconds of doing the shifting eyes/visual purple thing, I found the reflection of the Pleiades. That was a first. For the remainder of our easterly paddle, the Seven Sisters were never out of sight along the bow of my kayak and are now forever etched into my memory. It was still a little early for Orion to emerge from below the horizon...but there's always next time.
On both trips through Jim Thorpe ( Carbon County ) yesterday, I gotta say there was a whole lot going on. That town has truly come a long, long way from where it was in the early '80s when I worked in Lehighton. On the ground level of the Hotel Switzerland, next to the county courthouse, there is now a fairly hopping place called Molly Maguires Pub & Steakhouse. I'm sure the 180 year-old building - just a few blocks from the Carbon County Jail - has lots of tales to tell...and I hope to check it out during our next trip through the area.
I scanned the 2011 moon phase calendar, and it looks like the last weekend in April will be a good time to plan our next evening paddle on Mauch Chunk Lake. I'll post the date here should anyone be interested in joining us.
Enjoy the rest of your weekend, folks.