Friday, August 10, 2012

Lake Tahoe Circumnavigation - SUP

For the first time in years, I have a paddling-related blister.  My arms feel heavy and my abdomen is sore but I'm in good spirits.  I knocked off two of my summer paddling goals yesterday when I standup paddled 45 nautical miles in a day and completed the 56nm loop of Lake Tahoe.  This was sort of a backyard expedition for me.  I had 3 days completely free from any responsibility and the weather forecast was highly favorable.  I packed supplies for 48 hours on the water, loaded the car in the late morning on Tuesday and by 6:45pm I was launching at Carnelian Bay.

6:45pm launch at Carnelian Bay
A few folks approached me on the beach to see what I was doing and it probably looked odd since I was loading gear onto the front deck of the board and had two paddles with me.  All of the people were standup paddlers and commented on the trip; one guy was really intrigued by the Werner 3-piece paddle on my foredeck and repeatedly asked me why I carried a spare.  A different gentlemen told me that last weekend a couple of guys did the trip in "like 16 or 18 hours."  I assured him it would take me longer than that.  I'd wondered what it would take to complete the loop in 24 hours and knew I had it in me, but didn't quite feel the need to go that hard this trip.

As I floated the board and paddled away from the beach I could feel the weight of the equipment I was carrying.  I never did weigh the pack but it consisted only of a sleeping bag, pad, dry clothes, food, repair kit, first aid kit, spare paddle, water filter & camera.  I quickly second guessed my board decision, rationalized it and forgot it.  The first few strokes of any trip often brings up questions.  A half hour later, the wind let up significantly and by 9 o'clock that night, I was paddling in flat conditions.

With no moonlight and little light from land, I paddled another hour until it became too dark to effectively see.  It's difficult to stay near shore because there are so many moored boats.  I used a strategy of paddling straight into lights projecting from shore.  When an obstacle was in the line of light it would be easy to recognize as a boat, buoy or rock.  This came in useful at the very end of the trip too.  The 17' Naish Glide I paddled has a foot-operated rudder.  To break it on a rock would not be good and I didn't carry a spare.

Around 10pm I stopped at Homewood marina to eat and put on warm clothes.  The pebble beach I landed on would make a nice bed and with that a decision was made to stay and sleep.  I didn't even inflate the sleeping pad because the pebbles were so comfortable and smooth, conforming to my body.  I woke after midnight and was treated to a cloudless sky twinkling with stars and a half moon high up in the night sky.  The lake went completely flat a few hours later and was barely audible with the littlest movement up and down.  An hour later I woke, ate, re-packed and launched into glassy lake water reflecting the moon's light and had to once again follow the trails of light around the shore.

4:55am launch the next morning
Naish Glide 17 loaded and afloat for the morning launch
As I approached Sugar Pine Point, a shallow rocky area with an absence of light from shore, the twilight kicked in enough to help me see my way.  During my next break at Lester Beach I removed clothing, ate second breakfast and basked in the sun for awhile.  It was warm and bright with at least twenty miles of visibility as I sat and scrolled the entire coastline with my eyes.  I briefly contemplated the trip and in my head assigned checkpoints to the landmarks I could identify on the opposite shore.  That was 7am and by 10pm that night I would be all the way around the lake and back to where I started.  With such ideal lake conditions my body and mind kept telling me to move forward, so that's what I did.

Wednesday morning sunrise

Looking down into the "cockpit"

Love the view from a standup board - South Lake

Dinner at Secret Harbor

When I got off the water late that night I really started to feel tired, especially after walking on land for awhile and feeling less stable than I should've.  The last hour of night paddling was relaxing but I had just put in a 17-hour day with eight of those hours in confused wind chop and a headwind that put a strain on my body.  My muscles ached, sleepiness was starting to set in and I was craving red Gatorade badly.  Packing up, I made a final notation in my journal, called home and headed for the supermarket to indulge.  Once outside the market I realized I was still wearing my paddling clothes and probably offended the cashier with my stink.  She'll get over it.  I changed my clothes in the parking lot, headed for the highway and pulled off into the 2nd rest area to sleep a few hours.  The trip was over and I'd succeeded in meeting my goals and challenging myself physically.  Nice trip.   

Done.... and done

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