Well, with a week full of storms, cooling weather and a hefty work schedule, I managed to get out this weekend and get in almost three days of paddling. I got up Friday morning and loaded my gear and kayak, then swung by to pick up my new paddle, shipped in from the great folks at Aqua-Bound. My choice of water was Caesar's Creek, a several thousand acre lake about an hour from Cincinnati. By 10 o'clock I made it to the boat ramp and started sorting my gear, which is a mix of things I already have and things that I recently purchased or made. So with little idea of where everything would go, I set about finding a place for everything and after a little over an hour I was just about finished taking inventory of my gear. After stuffing my water containers and camping gear into the hatches, and packing my day crate with snacks and fishing tackle, I set off on my first long paddle with this kayak.
I paddled for several hours, going from the dam at the southern end of the lake to the first island I saw, and stopped to look around and eat lunch. The amount of rain we have had in this part of the country made finding a decent landing spot tricky, but I eventually found one. The lake has been up significantly with the rain, but the levels are dropping, just not entirely back to normal yet. The stench of rotting carp and shad was a constant nuisance on this trip as they were laying on the shores all along the lake; it seems to me that they may have dropped the water levels quickly at some point, stranding a lot of these fish in muddy pools and fallen trees. Of course, where there are dead things, there are buzzards. Although I saw dozens of other animals, I probably saw almost a hundred buzzards over the weekend.
Dead, half-eaten carp
These particular buzzards reminded me of the singing vultures in the animated "Jungle Book"
After lunch I paddled up the western shores of the lake and stopped to look around on the lake's beach. Friday was about paddling, so although I fished for a few minutes, I didn't do so seriously enough to have much chance of catching anything. The day was rather cool and cloudy, so around 6 o'clock I found a spot to camp on the big island in the middle of the lake. I ate a light supper and put up my tent well before dark, all the while noticing the large deer tracks around the area. With nothing to do but wait for darkness and sleep, I made a few phone calls and listened to the radio for awhile.
Sometime around 3 am I awoke to a buck only feet from my tent snorting and stomping. A little startled, I waited for him to catch my scent and bound off; for the next hour and a half I listened as he would slowly walk up, snort a few times and then run off, snorting as he went. Although a little unnerving at first, sitting in the dark in a flimsy tent, it became quite comical as he came back time and time again. Apparently, he was not happy with my choice of campsite!
With the distraction and loss of sleep from the unhappy deer, I slept in 'til 8 am and woke up to a breakfast of a poptart and gatorade. Apparently, deer were not the only critters on the island with me, because as I packed my kayak, I noticed that on the back were possum tracks.
After packing up my tent and stuffing gear back into my kayak, I circled the island and continued along the western shore. Saturday had 10 - 15 mph winds from the south, so I had a crosswind for the first couple of hours of the day. By 10 o'clock I made it into the headwaters of the lake and was paddling with a bit of a tailwind. Just before noon I made it to the actual creek that feeds the lake and took a picture before turning around.
The wily opossum!
This is Caesar's Creek, the source of the lake's name and water
While paddling out of the headwater area, I met half a dozen other kayakers and struck up a couple of conversations about my trip. They were all extremely interested and expressed interest about getting involved in the trip. Leaving the kayakers, I headed straight to the boat ramp at the campground and ate lunch. The rest of the afternoon was a marathon of paddling into the 10 - 15 headwind across the open middle bays of the lake and dodging the Memorial Day weekend boat traffic. Every time I finished crossing a large stretch of water, I would stop and eat some peanuts or craisins and drink some water or gatorade. What started as a mostly cloudy morning had turned into a mostly sunny day, with temps in the high 80s. The closer I got to the dam, the heavier the headwinds blew, but I finally reached my put-in boat ramp in sight of the dam. By 5:30, I had my gear in the car and the kayak on the rack, and was on my way to my Aunt Fran's house. With higher winds predicted for Sunday, I decided to forgo camping another night and paddling in the high winds, instead opting to hang out with my "out of town grandma", Aunt Fran, and some other friends that I haven't had time to visit with my previous schedule of school and work. The biggest surprise was getting to see Mama Rita and Poppy, two of my favorite people in the world, all the way from Lima, Peru!
So after church on Sunday, catching up with old friends and eating some really good food, I woke up this morning to an amazing breakfast at my Aunt Fran's house and set off for a short day of a little more paddling and fishing. With fishing the main goal of the day, I didn't pack anything into the kayak besides my fishing tackle, deck towels, snacks and water. After talking to several more kayakers at the headwater's boat ramp, I paddled as far upstream as I could go with my large kayak and began fishing back downstream. First cast, I caught a small drum on a piece of night crawler. However, what started quickly soon became a sporadic bite, and after only catching handful of similar size drum, I decided to paddle the secondary branch of Caesar's Creek before heading back to my put-in.
First small drum
After paddling back to my put-in, I had a great conversation with a kayaking couple that was also taking out. They told me that with all of their kids grown and gone, they have taken up doing all sorts of interesting things, kayaking just one of them. Although new to kayaking, they told me that they are hoping to get to paddle the Everglades at some point, so of course I had to tell them about my trip. So what started as chit chat has possibly turned into me having paddling partners next winter when I'm in the Everglades! So with a satisfying end to the long weekend, I packed up and headed back to Cincinnati to get ready for work on Tuesday. Next weekend I hope to paddle Brookeville Lake across the border in Indiana, so check back after next weekend for another, probably shorter, update. If you are still reading this, after the longest blog post ever, I appreciate it. Be sure to check out the DONATING page of the website to see how you can donate to World Vision's work with clean water wells or sponsor a child here in the U.S. and around the world. Also, be sure to forward my website and blog to all your friends and family, and feel free to download the flyer on the homepage. If you are on Facebook, just click the "Like" button below this post to automatically post a link to this blog on your page. Also be sure to like the Paddle for Wells Facebook page to receive more up-to-date pictures and posts on the trip. I'm out.