Sunday, April 3, 2022

Paddling Lake Guana


I started out writing about pizza, injured thumbnails and pandemic exit stories.  In the process, transcribing our two latest trips, one in December and one in March, took over.  After yet more changes of direction, I finally wound up here, at Lake Guana, part of Guana State Park on the northeast Florida coast, south of Jax.  This is a lovely if challenging place to canoe, one which we've previously visited twice -- the last time in 2014.  We paddled here during this year's Spring Break, March 3rd - 13th.  The day just happened to be one I fully wrote up in my Notebook.  Parts were heavenly fun.  I decided to pull it out and give it its own post, aided and abetted with photos taken back in 2014.  Ahoy, Mateys, all aboard!!

[Written 2203.10, Kingsland GA:]

"3:30 am.  Gnat/chigger/mosq bites under my chin, at crook of left knee, left wrist, sides of neck.  Sunburn both sides of neck, lower lip.  [...]  Sore elbow / Tendonitis on rt returns at night, its original attack time:  why would it not hurt while canoeing harder than ever I have this whole trip, but shows up in the wee hours & in the morning??  It must be a cooling-off / cold thing... [...]

Shore of Guana Dam, Wood Stork on beach

"While truly we are having the time of our lives, the best, most triumphant trip so far.  A giant step towards the After Covid.  It may not be really so -- no data, no numbers are we seeing;  no eating in restaurants, no theatres, no shopping, no entering crowds of any sort -- but it FEELS so much more like the Before Times, that it's a shock every time I see a mask on somebody.... 

"Yesterday, the 9th, was GUANA RIVER day.  A big success, if you don't count the sunburn and insect bites!  :)  We had 9:45 to 12:45 three hours of classic Guana Lakeshore, lower water & higher wind, but still much sun.  The 1st hour was the best w/ me in the stern and "sack o rice" Harrison-Ford-like cruizin' in the front.  We hugged the west shore so's to be out of the wind.  Great swathes of sun rippled down along across the forest over us like water reflections.  Surely that is one of my favorite shore paddles....  

"Distinctive w/ its windcurved profile, thick oaks and bays & Spanish moss (?lichen?) interspersed with sabal & palmetto and GIANT pines.  That King pine!!   Even dead they are the most strikingly beautiful tree.  I am a horrible photographer, I let that Osprey get away.  But I took stills & movies and 2 of Geo relaxing w/ bare feet, an iconic shot if ever there was one.  We floated downwind like Opus on his barge.       

"The second hour was beating back upwind, still along the shore & thus very shallow, making up all the distance back.  Geo paddled.  We saw a group of kayakers launch from the sand beach, & come towards us.  |  At the corner Geo had us go along the dam end just enough for him to look back & read the sky.        All along, the day was to've been a race against a storm.  But that morning gave us a bonus.  What he saw convinced him we had more time than we thought.  The sky to the West was still blue between clouds all the way to the horizon.       

"He surprised me by proposing a dash down the center of the lake.  The wind and I mean a strong breeze, sailworthy wind  was on our port quarter.  That was a hard dash.  I strained and struggled to keep her true.  The pressure seemed to veer her either left or right.  He was trying to teach me the value of a bowman in keeping trim.  I had him pulling (pointing) her right & it still wasn't enough.       What I learned was I could barely keep up by ruddering & wide-stroking on starbd & was quickly exhausted.  !!   I had to wide on port.  Even that was tough.  We got down to mid-lake, past our 1st hr turnaround, in 15 minutes!  He angled in toward shore & we turned & began beating back,  not in the sailing sense of tacking, but in a canoeing sense of slow continuous shallow-sweep paddling against a headwind,  right through eight kayakers in 4 huge double kayaks.

"Nothing is funnier that hearing somebody else yell "No! No!" when you know they are landlubbers experiencing a stiff wind; and you are professionally & experienced-fully safely in control, going up the least-windiest shore.  Most sheltered, most in control, we watched them plow past us all the way to the marl point, midway on the western shore. [...]  

"At the end of the 3rd hr & the second keen glance to the western sky, Geo made the decision to quit.  The sky was still largely blue-&-white but the W horizon was one vast smear of white.  It had tight cumulus heads embedded in it.  While we were taking out, on the beach, a cloud tower over our heads obscured the sun.  We had a leisurely, careful haul-out in unusual conditions because of the very shallow, very hard sand/shell/marl bottom.  Barefoot wade!!  This was one of the very few times we got to wade her in:  Take off shoes & sox, roll up pants, step over the side & lead her to the beach.  |   Geo got out first (he grounded first, hah!) & I got to ride.  Of course I grounded in a couple of lengths.  So then I knelt forward & rode on my hands & knees, straddling the thwart, so as to center my weight.  Got a few more lengths.  Geo drew her 3/4 out & I sat there in the stern & re-shod myself.  When I was finally out, he merely went back in, sat on the stern, rinsed his feet & reshod too.  And stepped out.  It was, he said later, our most elegant take out yet.

"Driving back North via palmetto parkway & 1 & 9B, we experienced the most awful storm.  Somehow we were not blown over.  Moxie rocked!!  It was torrential.  We wound up in John Muir boardwalk outside Yulee.  A nap & read before Whataburger was much appreciated."

So you see, drive-throughs had become standard by this time.

Laughing Gull on depth post at Guana dam

One more nugget on Lake Guana:  a movie taken in December 2014.  It is about 41 seconds long and reveals the entire western shore line as the canoe gradually swings to the right.  You can hear us talking.  It's a good glimpse of the forest and the water's edge, as well as a sense of the timing of our canoe rides.

Where have I been for 4 weeks?  One went to Spring Break  :),  at least one went to taxes.  The others, well, I have been deeply conflicted about pandemic and I suspect the accumulated stress all just became too much.  I am still struggling with how to do BreyerFest.  Is my imagination good enough to envision (and manage!) outdoor and/or safe visits with those I wish to see?  Can I invent my BreyerFest without indoor jamming, without crowds, yet with those elements I love?  I can risk my own life but not his.  Like I said:  it all became too much.  As ever, we'll just have to wait and see.  The numbers might keep going down.  Hope is painful.  But Spring is coming.

1 comment:

  1. I'm struggling too with the decision to do in-person or online BreyerFest.