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Sunday, July 13, 2014

ᓄᓇᕗᑦ - Within a Gentle Rain

Several weeks ago, my sister mentioned that she had recently added a sunrise paddle to her bucket list. For a myriad of reasons, that trip will have to wait until the early fall...but I countered with:

 "How about a twilight paddle?"
That happened last night @ Mauch Chunk Lake near Jim Thorpe, PA.
Above: Dee ( GAR '76 ) in my Point 65N Tequila modular kayak.
We saw a mature bald eagle. Check.
We heard bellowing bullfrogs...on both sides of the lake. Check.
We heard unidentifiable noises in the woods along the shoreline.
Check...and paddle faster.
 My sister had never heard a bullfrog in the wild, but had seen bald eagles on one of our prior trips on the Susquehanna several years ago. Her initial response to hearing the frog only a few yards away:

"And that would be a...? "
For those that visit often, you know I've been paddling for quite a few years. I've been on the water at least once in every month of the year...in driving rain, snow squalls, before sunrise and after sunset. I've experienced hypothermia and impending heatstroke. I've been on Mauch Chunk Lake (MCL) at least twenty times over the years, and I think this was my 5th or 6th night paddle.
As we were paddling west along the ~2 miles of shoreline, I noticed a line of darker clouds and what appeared to be a veil of rain approaching. It was still off in the distance, and when we turned around and started paddling back toward the boat ramp, I didn't think about it again, until I heard a noise that was quite unlike anything I've experienced on the water before.

Once you get well past the camping area - toward the ~southwestern end of MCL - it gets very quiet....especially at night. After sunset, there was almost no wind, and the lake's surface eventually was like a sheet of glass; the only noise and ripples being caused by our kayak and the brief resonance of my wooden paddle and I pulled it through the water.
At times, that sound created by wood & water - and the vibration I felt in the paddle itself - seemed to slow time to a crawl and connected me to the universe.

I wish I could bottle that moment.
Anyway, I'm not sure exactly when I first heard it, but after a few seconds, I swung the boat around to face the source of the sound, which I can best describe - after thinking about how I would recreate it - as a thousand grains of sand hitting a sheet of waxed paper; one at a time with ever-increasing frequency. And in the middle of a lake with almost no other background noise except some chirping birds...it seemed to be approaching us from every vector imaginable.  
The lake directly in front of us was still, and off in the distance, perhaps 50 yards away, we could see a line in the water approaching us, stretching from shore to shore. It was not a driving rain. It was just a very gentle wave of rain that lasted only a few minutes, after which the lake became calm again and we eventually saw a few stars overhead as the sky began to clear. 
Wet? Yes.

Soaked? Not even close.
The super moon everyone has been talking about eluded us, but missing that was not a major disappointment in my book.
For those that have never been to Jim Thorpe (PA) or MCL...make it a destination for some future weekend trip. You will not be disappointed. The lake and surrounding park are clean, and the far shoreline - opposite the two boat launching areas - is about as wild as it gets. There is a walking path, but in 20+ years, I've never seen anyone using it...especially at night. 
You can rent kayaks or bring your own, but if you do...you will need a PFBC sticker.
Here are a few pics from our dusk to dark paddle.

Above: Facing ~west along the far shoreline
Below: Chemtrails @ sunset...how lovely.
Above: The eagle was perched in this snag. Great vantage point.
Below: Work of Nunavut water gremlins?
Below: Snack stand & beach/swimming area @ night.
Bucket list: minus one.
+  +  +
“A single gentle rain makes the grass many shades greener. So our prospects brighten on the influx of better thoughts. We should be blessed if we lived in the present always, and took advantage of every accident that befell us.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or Life in the Woods 
        Thanks, Dee.

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