February 2018
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Thank You Global Warming

Ok, maybe it’s not “global” but it’s certainly local. At one time, not too long ago, I could count on having solid ice in front of my lake house from November 15th to March 15th every winter. This is no longer the case. Last year, for instance, there was over 2 weeks less ice. This year the ice I expected to thicken actually disappeared and temperatures, at least this year, are much warmer than usual. So today, just before Thanksgiving and about a week to December, the air temperature at 51F, the water temp at 35F, and the

Instead of a convenient dock, at winter water levels I get a rocky beach!

Instead of a convenient dock, at winter water levels I get a rocky beach!

sunshine all conspired to lure me out of the house and into a kayak and out onto the lake.

Moses Lake, where I live in Washington state, is part of several reservoirs involved in the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project. These include the waters impounded behind Grand Coulee Dam (Lake Roosevelt), Banks Lake, the Potholes Reservoir, and more. Almost all of these make superb desert paddling with public and private campgrounds numerous and attractive and launch points spread throughout the area. In fact, if you enjoy paddling big fresh water lakes you’d be hard-pressed to find better water anywhere in North America. At least for three quarters of the year. Maybe now more than that.

Every year during the winter months the local water authorities lower the “pool” elevation on most of these lakes to control aquatic plants and Moses Lake is no exception.  So when I went out to paddle my dock was fully six feet above the water leaving my “beach” exposed: boulders, concrete rip rap, and rocks. This could explain why there are no bikini-clad girls lounging about. This and the cold. And Mindy, the guard dog.

I am somewhat disabled and getting into and out of a kayak are the least gracefull of all my moves. Generally I prefer a nice dock about six inches above the water so I can slide into my kayak’s cockpit while supporting my weight on the dock. My least favorite

I can paddle numerous islands in Moses Lake which extends some 30 miles towards Ephrata, WA

I can paddle numerous islands in Moses Lake which extends some 30 miles towards Ephrata, WA

entry is from a beach and a rocky beach is even worse. Fortunately no one was around to watch.

Once I was in and settled I pointed the bow south directly into the sun which was hovering about 35-degrees above the horizon. The light wasn’t that warm but it was certainly bright. The cut through the I-90 freeway looked entirely different – and much smaller – than it does in summer at the higher water levels. And my usual paddle through the grass island – only a few inches deep even at summer levels – was entirely blocked; but I could’ve gotten out and walked. Going around the islands I stumbled upon two forgotten crawdad traps someone had left in place. I checked them both to see if they were empty and left them together in case the owner remembered and came out to find them. Crawdads are numerous in Moses Lake but these were the only two traps for the critters I’ve ever found. Might have to do this myself next year.

I paddled down to lighthouse reef to get an idea of how extensive this reef is. At summer levels the water covers all but the highest pile of rocks but today the place looked like a coral atoll with numerous islets. Many a powerboat has fetched up on these

The lighthouse marking the reef which is almost covered at summer water levels.

The lighthouse marking the reef which is almost covered at summer water levels.

islets as the only marker is the lighthouse a thoughtful homeowner erected on his lakefront and maybe a seagull standing on the single rock visible during the summer. It pays to stay to the west of this rock in anything other than a kayak. Even at nearly 18-feet long my Mariner II easily maneuvered through the pools between the islets and I stopped to take my iPhone out of its water-resistant case and gingerly take a few photos.

A dog barking on shore lured me over to see what was up and I discovered two black labs harassing a school of carp in the shallows. By this time my hands were getting cold even in their gloves. I should have used the pogies and tomorrow, if the weather is anything like it was today, I’ll go out again but use them. Generally I prefer gloves as pogies give me a “trapped” feeling with my hands on the paddles. But perhaps I can get used to it.

I returned home at a higher paddling rate because my bum was getting sore and my hands were starting to bother me. The 35-degree water temp was the culprit, of course. I maintained a 5.5mph speed for the last 1.5 miles and maneuvered up to my beach under the watchful eyes of Mindy our rescued guard dog who thinks anyone who kayaks is crazy. She loves the jet skis though. Go figure.

The dry suit came in handy for my exit as I simply tipped the kayak to the side and crawled out. I’m always surprised that there is no feeling of wet or even cold when dressed properly inside a drysuit. My suit is an NRS extreme (my wife has a Kokatat) and I wear a full fleece body suit under it and wool socks inside the attached booties covered with an NRS bootie. Proper immersion attire is critical in the winter if anything goes wrong. You don’t have much time in water that’s close to freezing!

I don’t know how many of these paddles I can get in before the ice covers the lake. Even global warming can’t stall that forever. Sooner or later I’ll be able to walk around under the dock on the ice. Until then I’m grateful for a few extra days of kayaking.

It pays to live on the lake. All I had to do is drag the kayak through the gate and into its storage spot, take my gear up to the kayak locker, and go inside to grab a soda and take off my drysuit and “jammies”. It was still sunny and still 50F. Global warming is ok in my book but the central heat in the lake house was even better.

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