Monday, December 19, 2016

Kayaking St. Esprit Lake

I get a lot of invites to go for coffee or to go hiking or to walk the beach but I usually don't get invites to go kayaking. I only kayaked a few times and really like it but I don't have a kayak of my own and don't know too many people I can go kayaking with. My wish to get such an invite came true a few weeks ago when a friend who kayaks asked me if I would like to spend a day kayaking on St. Esprit Lake near Framboise. Of course I said yes...but with some reservations. For one, it was late in the fall and the air was starting to cool so I was concerned that my inexperience would make me more likely to tip the kayak and end up in the water.

I packed a lunch but had a hard time packing for the actual kayaking. The weather can do anything that time of year and I had no idea what to wear. I ended up packing shorts, tanks, sweaters, jeans and splash pants and a couple of jackets of various thickness and sneakers, boots and sandals. I also packed extra of everything so I had something dry to wear for the drive home if I happened to fall in the water.
Usually I take the shorter way through Gabarus and Forchu to get to the Framboise area and take the long way via route 4 home but on this day, I took the long way there. I arrived ahead of time at what I thought was Lake Esprit and waited for my friend to show up. And waited. And waited some more. After twenty minutes had passed, I drove up and down the stretch of road to see if I could see her anywhere and to make sure I was at the right place. I saw no sign of anyone and returned to the same spot near a lake that was near a sign that said Lake Esprit.

After an hour had passed, I began to again wonder if I was in the right place. I drove up and down that strip of secondary highway again but this time I went a little bit further and that's when I learned that I had been waiting in the wrong place all along. Fortunately, it was only noon and there was still almost 7 hours of daylight left so we had plenty of time to still enjoy a nice afternoon kayaking on this lake that is much larger than the one I had been waiting near.

My friend reassured me that it would take a lot to tip the kayak and, at first, I thought she might be just saying that so I wouldn't back out. Getting the kayaks off the car proved to be a little difficult but putting them back up proved to be more difficult as I found out later that evening. Decked out in my silly-looking water shoes and life jacket with my waterproof camera in hand, I waded out a few feet and hopped into the kayak. Once I was on my way, it didn't take long to realize that yes it would, in fact, take a lot to tip the kayak! I bounced up and down and swayed side to side and was unable to cause the kayak to even near tip. This gave me some reassurance for the rest of the trip and I was able to relax.
I got soaked pretty much right away but the air, even on that October day, was warm and the water was surprisingly warm too. I did well for my third time kayaking and was doing well keeping up with my more seasoned guide. I earlier told her I would prefer to stay closer to the edge of the lake but found myself leading the way toward the middle of the lake. I felt so comfortable out there on the water.

The weather held up all afternoon. I couldn't get over how well everything came together that day. The lake was as calm as anything. There was hardly any wind. The sun was shining. It was warm.  Loons were calling nearby. The sound of waves crashing onshore could be heard on the nearby beach (the lake was near the ocean). It was perfect. It was wonderfully serene.
It took about an hour to cross the lake and reach the beach. We pulled the kayaks onshore and found a nice spot on the beach to take our lunch. After tea and egg sandwiches, we took a little hike along that beach and stole a glimpse of the rough Atlantic surf which had tossed up a bit of seaweed during recent offshore storms.

On the way back to where we started, we did a few detours and ventured into some unknown corners of the lake around some unknown bends. Some places looked dangerously shallow but we made it through the thick grass and rocky bottom and were back to smooth sailing.  Although the weather held up, it did turn cool quickly but not cool enough to keep the flies from coming out. Darkness was coming fast too and although neither one of us wanted to return to dry land, we knew we had to soon or risk hypothermia. Also, if we stayed out too long, someone was bound to spot our cars parked on that dark road and wonder if we drowned while out on the lake. If not for those two factors, I would have stayed out there on that wide open lake all night long listening to that loon and gazing at those stars.
By the time I got back to my car, my feet were so cold, I could no longer feel them. I changed into dry clothes as discreetly as I could behind some trees. With the kayaks finally secured on the car and a clear night sky above, I drove the long way home with the heat up as far as it would go. I made a little detour to St. Peter's where I stopped at a Tim Horton's to grab a coffee for the long drive home. A kayak purchase may be in my near future. This is totally something I picture myself getting hooked on!

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