An afternoon out with some friends and my dog.
I can’t remember exactly when I decided I wanted to try calm water kayaking. It may have been last fall, after losing all that weight, when I realized that I needed some upper body exercise to build muscle tone in my upper arms. It could have been in December, when I realized that a kayak would be an excellent way to explore the Intracoastal Waterway that wound past my mom’s house in Florida. I know it was before I moved my RV to the Sacramento area in late February to begin a frost contract. In fact, I was so sure I wanted a kayak back then that I brought along Penny’s life jacket and a floatation cushion when I headed south from Auburn.
But it wasn’t until last Monday when I actually bought a kayak.
It wasn’t anything special. It’s an Equinox 10.4. I think that means it’s 10.4 feet long. It’s yellow molded plastic. It has a comfortable seat — unlike the only other kayak I was ever in, back in my old life — and adjustable foot rests so I can keep my knees bent. There’s a watertight-ish compartment on the back and a smaller one on the front. There’s a cupholder on the seat between my legs. And lots of elastic straps to tie things down. It came with a standard kayak paddle and a 12-page instruction book.
I bought it at Costco.
A few of my friends here in Washington have kayaks. There are plenty of places to use them. In Quincy, there’s a place called Quincy Lakes that has at least 10 lakes carved out of the basalt desert in a coulee formed by ice age floods. This is about 5 miles from where my RV is parked for the beginning of cherry season. A little farther away is Crescent Bar on the Columbia River, which offers a sheltered cove and access to the river. There’s Moses Lake and the Potholes Reservoir to the southeast. And then other lakes, ponds, and rivers all within a 30-60 minute drive.
This isn’t Arizona. This desert has water.
I was looking forward to going kayaking, but the weather simply wasn’t cooperating. It’s been wicked windy since my return, with winds gusting to 40, 50, and even 60 miles per hour, depending on the day. Not the kind of weather I wanted to experiment with my new kayak. The only nice day was Thursday and I had a charter flight that day. I’m not complaining.
Today would be my last chance for a few hours out on the lake for at least a week and a half. I had to go back to Arizona, possibly for the last time, and expected to be gone for at least 10 days. But the forecast called for more of the same.
I was messing around on my computer, trying to design a new kitchen for the home I hope to build this summer, when I got a text from my friend Katie at about 10:30 AM:
Did you get a kayak? If so are you available today to go for a couple of hours to H lake. Tyson wants to go and fish and Cody might go too. (H lake is the smallest of the Quincy lakes.)
Tyson and Cody were her sons. I knew H Lake pretty well. I’d hiked around that area quite a few times. I wanted to go, but it was windy. I replied:
Funny you should ask. I would like to go, but it’s it too windy? I don’t want to be a burden to you with my lack of experience.
She assured me that she was new to kayaking, too. She suggested about 1 PM but said we’d see what the wind was doing before we decided.
I checked the forecast again. Wind gusts up to 28 miles per hour didn’t sound good.
She called around 1 PM. It looked too windy. But she’d keep watching the weather. I shouldn’t put my day on hold for her.
At about 1:30, I realized I was wasting the day. I decided to take a hike down around H Lake to check conditions and maybe get a few photos. There was a chance that there were some wildflowers blooming. I changed into shorts and a tank top, put on my hiking shoes, grabbed my camera, and headed out in the truck with Penny.
The first lake we reached, Stan Coffin Lake, was rough. Definitely not something I wanted to take a maiden voyage on in a new kayak. I turned down the road toward H Lake and parked in the small parking area. We got out. The lake had some ripples, but also some smooth areas. I took a photo and attempted to send it via text to Katie. But there wasn’t a good enough signal and the message failed. I figured I’d send it later. Penny and I went hiking.
I didn’t get a chance to take many photos. Penny and I had just reached the lake’s outlet on its northwest end when my phone rang. It was Katie. She wanted to know if I could be ready in 15 minutes. I told her I was at the lake and that I could run home and get my kayak. But the signal was bad. All she got was that I was at the lakes before the signal dropped.
Penny and I hurried back to the truck. We were just leaving the area — where the cell signal was good again — when Katie called back. She’d meet me at my trailer and we’d throw my kayak in back of her truck with hers and Tyson’s.
A while later, we were heading back to the lake in Katie’s Ford truck: Katie, Tyson, me, and Penny. We got down to the lake and parked. Soon all three kayaks were in the water. Tyson’s was rigged with fishing rod holders and two rods. While Katie and I paddled around the lake, he’d cast out his fly rod, pulling in one tiny bluegill after another.
Katie and I did pretty well. There was just enough wind to make us need to put a little extra effort into paddling when we wanted to move against it, but not enough to really make us struggle. We paddled around the edge of the odd-shaped lake, looking at the weeds and fish in the water, admiring the rocks and the desert terrain, and watching the occasional startled duck dart out from the weeds and glide away. We chatted about so many things that were interesting but not important. It was nice to clear my mind.
Penny sat on the floor of the kayak between my legs. She was wearing her life jacket, which fitted considerably more snugly than the last time she’d worn it back in August. Although she seemed nervous at first, she was soon standing on her hind legs with her front feet on the edge of the kayak, taking in the view. I swear, this dog can get used to anything.
We circled the entire lake once, then just paddled around. Tyson kept pulling in fish and throwing them back. Two men showed up with rubber boats that they inflated and headed out on the lake with their fishing poles. One of them asked Tyson what he was using to catch all those fish. Katie took off to do another lap around the lake. I experimented with paddling the boat up to land, mostly to see if Penny would get out if given the opportunity. She did, but only to try to eat the weeds along the surface by the shore. She hopped back in when I told her to.
The temperature was perfect — in the high 70s — and the sun was bright and warm. The wind kept me from getting hot. I sipped ice cold bottled water. Penny lapped up the water droplets that got into the kayak when I paddled.
I tried some speed paddling and did pretty well. I really felt it in my upper arms and shoulders. I knew I’d be sore the next day and it made me happy.
In all, we were out on the lake for about two hours. I decided that on my next outing, I’d try a larger lake and I’d bring along a picnic lunch and possibly an umbrella for shade while I was eating. I figured I could also use it as a sail if the wind kicked up.
We came back into shore and stacked the kayaks back up in the truck bed with mine on top so it would be easy to remove. Katie drove us home. It was nearly 5 PM.
I considered my first kayaking trip a success. I’m really looking forward to the next one.