The weather has been so changeable lately, but the change that hasn’t yet happened is warm sunny days. Often we have our kayaks in the water as early as March, but this year has been long and cold. We even hauled the new boats to California in February, hoping for some good estuary kayaking, but it was not to be. The boats got lots of miles on top the Tracker, but not a single dip into the water thanks to high winds and low tides.
In the midst of soaking rains and occasional snow flurries, we had a day of brilliant sunshine, with temps maxing out at 50 F. At first I thought about trying to get out on the water around 11, good time for a lunch break from the home office for me, but a short step outside indicated that 40 degrees and a 10 mph wind wasn’t exactly conducive to being on the water. I finished my day of work, and by 4pm, while the sun was fading into the clouds of a coming storm, the winds had died to practically nothing.
For the first time since we got our new kayaks, we loaded them up in my truck and drove the long 1/4 mile to the boat launch at Rocky Point Resort just down the road. When we got the new boats, we also bought new lightweight Werner paddles, and during the first few minutes on the water, they took a bit of getting used to. It felt like there was nothing to hold onto as I paddled, but after a couple of hours out on the water, it was wonderful. The new Swift Adirondacks are a foot longer and maybe a couple of inches wider than our old Perception Acadias, but they are 15 pounds lighter. We did manage to launch them last fall right after they arrived, but this was the first launch on our home territory, and my first launch of the replacement boat delivered by Swift in January. I wrote about why I needed a replacement boat back here in November.
Ahhh. I can’t explain that feeling of gliding silently, and rhythmically along still water, surrounded by mountains only accompanied by the water birds. The sandhill cranes are hollering in the marsh along with blue herons. The Canada geese are everywhere, and many types of ducks. My little camera isn’t so great at the long bird shots, and as I slid along yesterday, I really looked forward to my coming ‘DSLR with a telephoto’ days. We spotted an eagle not far from shore, and some ospreys were fishing for their evening meal.
This time, instead of traveling north along Recreation Creek to the springs, we took a southern route into Pelican Bay along the western edge of Upper Klamath Lake. It has been a great water year, and the lake is higher than I have seen it in many years. We kayak here often, but everything looked completely different with the high water. The snow on Mt McLaughlin was thick and deep, and looking up, I remembered the hot August day that Mo and I hiked to the top of that mountain.
Even though McLaughlin is only 9450 feet tall, it stands majestically above the surrounding Cascade Mountains and is visible from Medford, from Klamath Falls, and even from California along Highway 97 north of Weed. It’s the remnant of an old volcano, glaciated to it’s current shape, and most of the time, has a snow-capped summit.
Back in 2003, Mo and I had only known each other a few months when we decided it was time to climb that mountain. My sister just laughed out loud when I asked her to join us. “I’m not crazy enough to even THINK about trying to climb that mountain”. That summer Mo and I were of course just young things, of course, and we were up for anything. At 63 years old, Mo was younger than I am now! It was a long day, and a gorgeous climb. Many people say they have climbed McLaughlin, but often they only go to the last landing before the steep rocky summit to the peak. From the landing, there is no trail, only huge boulders with faint arrows painted here and there. The forest service tries to remove those arrows since McLaughlin is in the Sky Lakes Wilderness Area, and they don’t help much anyway.
It was a daunting climb, and about 200 feet from the top, I got sick and weak, and gave out. Mo climbed on ahead of me to the peak while I tried to recuperate. A couple of climbers came along, one of them saying, “You should go down now, because you will only get sicker if you go higher and altitude sickness lasts for hours”. Another one said, “You should go to the top, because you will hate yourself if you don’t”, and gave me some Gatorade. I decided that I was going to do it, no matter what, and just about that time Mo returned from the summit and said, “Sure, I’ll go up with you.” You gotta remember, Mo is almost 6 years older than me, and even though I worked outdoors in the field for most of my career, she was a PE teacher, so often is in the lead on these kinds of excursions!
So we hiked over the huge, room sized boulders to the summit, where I crawled out across the dizzying space to sit with Mo for our summit photo. The 360 degree view was amazing in all directions. The mountain is visible from the road very near our house, and often we look up at the sharp summit and say, “Gee, I’m glad we did that and don’t have to do it again.” It took us 12 hours round trip, and our knees didn’t much like the down part on the return trip.
Yesterday as we kayaked across the bay with McLaughlin towering over the landscape, we thought again, “Gee, I’m glad we already did that!”