Calling an Audible
I had planned on paddling and exploring Cedar River Flow this past weekend and loaded up my gear for the trip with Wren. It was a breezy, overcast day, but I was hopeful we could still manage the open water in the boat. By the time we reached the put-in, the breezy day had developed into a gale, as storms were forecast for the following day. I looked at the choppy water and knew it was not a wise move to paddle it solo. A few folks were coming off the water and I chatted with them to see how things were further out. "It was better earlier," said the woman, "but things have gotten rougher."
"Yah, there were white caps on the open water," chimed in the man. "We got out a little ways and decided to turn around." I had already made my choice while looking at the choppy, black water, but this confirmed my decision. I solo paddle a lot, but there's no point in trying to fight strong winds while doing so. It's not only unsafe; it's not much fun either. I also like to take photos, and good photos are all but impossible to take in a strong wind since I have to put down my paddle to use the camera. And so, like Peyton Manning surveying the defense at the line of scrimmage, I called an audible.
A Relaxing Paddle on Wakely Pond
We drove a short way down the road to a small, sheltered body of water called Wakely Pond. I had noted it on the map and had thought it might make a good backup plan if things became too windy. While not as adventurous as the flow, Wakely is a beautiful, quiet pond, and offered a nice paddle without the strong southerly winds which were racing across the larger lakes. All the same, I turned the boat around and sat in the bow seat so my weight was more centered in the boat to help with the stiff breeze. We skirted the edge of the lake fairly quickly, but were able to take our time to enjoy it and to take a few photos of the misty peaks and their cloud-filled forests of changing leaves. A fairly short paddle is fine with Wren anyway, who would rather run around and swim than be stuck sitting still in a boat.
Northern Flickers called from the surrounding trees throughout our time and several of them were in the dead snags along shore near the put-in. A short way along the edge of the lake, I noticed a Common Merganser paddling just ahead of us. Wren was lying with her head on the yoke facing behind us, so she didn't initially notice it. The Merganser swam ahead and eventually turned away from shore, looping back behind us toward the middle of the lake. This brought it into Wren's line of vision and she was soon sitting with ears perked watching – almost wistfully – as the duck paddled off. They are some of the few birds to which she pays much attention.
We paddled on passing a beaver lodge, and pausing again for some photos of the misty woodlands on the slopes. A Pileated Woodpecker flew across the lake, and the Northern Flickers kept calling from all sides of us. Small lakes can be nice for that – you are never that far from the shore, and that can be great when the leaves change colors. We completed our loop, accidentally chasing a handful of flickers from the put-in area. It had been a nice paddle and I was happy not to be out on the windy flow. I reflected that I would still be struggling into that head wind to get us a few hundred meters from the put-in! Grateful for a relaxing paddle, I reloaded the gear on the car and prepared a little lunch which I ate in the parking area while Wren explored the nearby woods. Cedar River Flow would have to wait for another day.