Kayaking in the wilderness

Published 4:24 pm Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Kayak means “man’s boat” or “hunter’s boat” and were first built by natives of Alaska and other sub-arctic areas.   In use for thousands of years, they were often very personal crafts made by stitching animal skins together.  Early kayaks were often tailor made to fit the owner’s body size.

I found my own kayak this past week deep within the jungle known as Walmart, buying two for my grandchildren and two larger kayaks for the adults.  It wasn’t until everyone left Compass Lake this past week that Mary Lou and I got to try them out together.

I was hoping for a little exercise, while paddling at a leisurely pace so as to not get to hot in the brutal weather over the July 4th holiday.   What I found was actually quite different and unexpected.

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Our first trip turned into a one and a half hour paddle around the main lake.  We found our way through cypress trees to visit Jack’s Pond, which is accessible from the main lake by a small natural channel.   I had not been back into the pond in years.   

However, it was the next morning when I set off on a solo journey that I really found myself in a new wilderness.  Keep in mind that I have been playing on Compass Lake for all of my 62 years.  However, on this particular morning I could have been in any body of water in the country and it could not have been more foreign to me. 

I moved along the shoreline, just feet from the docks along the way, seeing them at a different angle and at a pace so slow that I seemed to notice something new about every home I passed. 

When the water got too shallow or full of stumps for boats to move, I kept pressing forward, discovering small coves and hollows I never knew existed.   For 30 minutes I traveled along the most remote regions of the 700 acre lake and took in sights that I literally had never seen before.

Startled turtles jumped from logs as I snuck up on them quietly.  Old docks partially hidden from view seemed to go nowhere, the paths on land now completely obscured by the dense growth.   My imagination was in full gear, wondering how long it might have been since anyone had actually used the old docks.  Who owned them now and why had they fallen into such disrepair?

Houses I had only seen closely from the road side for decades showed their true colors when visited up close in the water, particularly in areas not easily accessible by boat.  A few cottages were very plain when viewed from the road, only to have lush landscaping and graceful live oaks facing the lake.

As I made my way back into the main part of the lake, I passed by a couple of old posts visible in the water.  It was all that was left of an old boat house near where my mother swam 80 years ago.

I slipped under an active Osprey nest high in a massive old cypress tree.  The Ospreys never seemed to notice me or at least did not seem to care.  I have seen this nest for years, but never from so close.

I could not help but reflect on what I had seen that morning as I paddled back home.  In the same lake I have enjoyed my entire life, it was like a new world had been revealed.  

I suppose this is true about a lot of things in our lives. The people we know, places we live, and work we do all seem a little changed or new when viewed in a different way.

Two hours later I returned to our own familiar dock.    In a most unanticipated way, I had kayaked in a wilderness that I never knew existed.  A favorite quote of mine states that if you change the way you look at things the things you look at will change.   How true.