Words & Images by Paul Kolman
We're mid-way through the summer season, so I hope everyone is getting some descent paddling time on the waters surrounding us. I've been trying to get out as much as I can, mostly on the weekends, as during the week my work load makes it tough to get out. But, once in a while, I'll go for an evening paddle on Glenmore Reservoir. Until recently the water level was very low, as they are working on the dam. So there is not much of the lake left to paddle on and not enough water to make it into Weaselhead area, but there is still enough water there to paddle a bit. It's better than nothing and keeps my kayak from getting too restless. However, I always look forward to weekends and getting away to paddle on the various lakes and reservoirs around us.
My Dagger Stratos
Long weekends are especially nice, because there is an extra day there, which make them great to go out camping and paddling on bodies of water that are a bit further away. But even long weekends are still not long enough, so it's great when one can sneak an extra day in, on top of that, and make the weekend even better!
I spent the July and August long weekends camping and paddling with friends on Buck Lake. This is one of my favourite places to camp and paddle, mainly because one does not need to make reservations there. All the sites are "first-come, first-served" in the Calhoun Bay Provincial Recreation Area, where I like to tent-camp. I have always gotten a great spot there, even on a long weekend, when most other campgrounds are packed or you need to make reservations way ahead of time. The sites are fair-sized and mostly surrounded by trees, so it's great for tenting in privacy. I also use it as a staging area to go paddle other lakes nearby.
I think part of the reason that it is not as popular for boaters and campers is because of poor access to the lake itself. It is hand launch only, so only people with small crafts, such a kayaks, canoes or small boats, can access the lake there. There are other areas on the lake that are used for launching bigger boats, but not at this site. As the water level in the lake has gone down a bit from previous years, the launch at this site is not the most desirable. One of the streams feeding the lake is drying out, so this alternative launch option is out, for now. So the launch is a bit messy and you have to go through mud, which by mid-summer starts to get a bit aromatic. One has to launch out in that, keeping your feet outside the kayak until you get into the open water. Then rinse your feet, get rid of the mud, and off you go! Coming back after a day's paddle, you go through the same thing. except now you've got more mud. There is a well with a hand pump near the launch site, and so you can get buckets of water and wash yourself and your boat. It takes a bit of time, but the time you spent out on the open water makes it all worth the extra effort!
Buck Lake is a fairly large and beautiful lake. There are cabins and summer houses at certain parts of the lake, but most of the shoreline is untouched, well treed and overgrown with reeds and other aquatic plants, making it very desirable for nesting birds. Because of the luscious vegetation and trees surrounding the lake, it is very popular with all kinds of birds, especially loons, pelicans, ducks, geese, cormorants and eagles.
It is a fairly large lake, so the waves can get quite high. The reeds are great for paddling in, when the winds and the waves pick up, especially the side ones, which make the lake too rough to paddle on. So rather than waiting for more desirable conditions, we just paddle through the reeds, as they block the waves and provide some protection. You have to work a little harder, but the main thing is you're still on the water. If you keep your mouth open, while paddling through them, you can even get your teeth flossed at the same time. It's a win-win situation.
paddling in reeds
One of my favourite things about camping and paddling there is going to sleep and waking up to the sounds of the loons. One can also hear them calling during the day. There is a large population of loons there. Something I haven't seen before is the large colonies of loons swimming together in one area. Normally, you only see them by themselves or in twos. This year, I've seen and counted up to 24 of them together. Not sure why they are doing that, but will try to find out. It is a beautiful sight to see and I feel very fortunate to have witnessed it.
There is also an abundance of pelicans on the lake. They usually congregate in the same area of the lake and it is common to see up to 30 or more of them together. I love watching them, also, as they fly and fish around you. They look very graceful as they fly and then dive down to catch fish. It's almost like watching a pelican ballet in the sky!
It is a beautiful lake to paddle on, as there is always something to look at and admire.
plants and life
The lake can get very rough as storms come and go. They usually don't last too long, but can get very intense, especially thunder storms. Fortunately there are lots of places one can beach and wait the storm out. They come in fast and hard, but you can see them coming, and you usually have enough time to hide and wait it out. Within half an hour, or so, they usually blow over and you can continue enjoying the water.
Back at camp, after a good day's paddle, we get the fire going and make supper. Sometimes we pool the food together, kind of like potluck. Everyone contributes something. Food always tastes better over an open fire, be it breakfast or supper. This year I introduced a camping culinary delight to my fellow paddlers that they have never had before. Bacon-wrapped corn-on-the-cob. Yummy. You'll never eat corn any other way, once you've had it this way. A pure delight!
meals with bacon wrapped corn
One of the greatest things about camping and paddling is that you can get an early start on the water and go back out for a sunset paddle, without having to drive anywhere. The days are getting shorter now, which also has an advantage as one does not have to wait too late to see the stars over open water.
That's it for now. I'm looking forward to the next trip out.
Until next time....
May your paddles stay wet and your butts stay dry!
Bye for now!
By Paul Kolman