I need to write something. I’ve been neglecting you, dear readers. But I don’t have much to say. Summer has wound down with one last trip to the lake and one last (probably) paddle board excursion. I typically write about both of these, but I didn’t take many pictures with which to accessorize any such writing.
The weekend at the lake with my parents was fun, and we had an unexpected but more than welcome reprieve from the heat while we were there. We waited out a couple rain showers at the marina restaurant and enjoyed mild temperatures for the rest of the weekend. We saw several bald eagles, which I always admire and entirely fail to capture in any kind of decent photograph.
We also saw some wild game birds and I had a brilliant joke that went with the sighting, but because I didn’t get a picture. The large brown birds were on the ground as we drove through the State Park, just to the right of an informational sign. I would have sworn they were turkeys, but the sign clearly said “TH” with an arrow pointing right at the birds so I suppose they must have actually been thurkeys.
The paddle boarding trip the following weekend didn’t yield any corny jokes, but it was a nice time. Last summer we floated on Shoal Creek from the Redding’s Mill area down to Grand Falls Plaza. This time we decided to start at the falls and paddled downstream to Schermerhorn Park in Galena, Kansas.
It was about a 7.5 mile float, which we accomplished in about four hours. The current tended to be relatively slow, and it was a beautiful float. The spring-fed water was beautifully cool, but a little lower than I would have liked, and we frequently had to bounce or drag our boards through rocky shallows. This both slowed our overall float time and presented extra challenges. Luckily, the fins on our boards remained largely undamaged. The same could not quite be said for my own extremities, as the shallows often appeared more suddenly than anticipated and I fell in twice when my board met treacherous gravel bars.
The shallows in this lower section of Shoal Creek tended to be more gravelly than the shallows above the falls. Above the falls, many of the shallow areas were large expanses of a single stone worn smooth with water and time. The multitude of jagged rocks below the falls were a bit less forgiving to soft hands and bare feet. I had virtually no risk of drowning in such shallow water, but I was grateful for my lifejacket which at least provided extra padding around my torso.
Mild injuries aside, I enjoyed our paddle immensely, and we saw numerous fish. We saw several long, skinny gar floating near the surface in some of the deeper water, and countless larger fish that I first thought might be brown trout, but then thought might be some kind of sucker fish. After looking at the Department of Conservation website, I now have even less of an idea of what they were except for abundant.
We also saw another eagle, and because our boards move so quietly, we were quite close before the eagle took off from the trees. There are lots of reasons to like seeing eagles: the sheer impressiveness of their size, beautiful spiritual significance as described by Native peoples, a stunning national mascot. I appreciate all those things, but I think most of all, they give me hope. When I was very young, seeing a bald eagle in the wild was quite a rare event. Their populations had been devastated from the effects of the pesticide DDT making its way through the food chain. The use of DDT was largely banned in the 1970’s but even by the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, we rarely saw eagles at the lake, maybe once a year. Now we see many eagles, almost every time we are there. And you’d think that seeing them every time would take away from how special it is, but it never does. When we sit in the boat in the middle of a record breaking heatwave for the umpteenth year in a row, with lake water that feels more like bathwater and I worry what we’re doing to this planet, I see an eagle and I am reminded that, if we really try, we can make a difference. We can undo some of the damage we’ve done to this planet, and with a little effort, it will rebound.
That’s the kind of hope I need at the end of summer anyway. Almost everybody I know is excited for autumn with cooler temperatures and the changing foliage, but after the vivacity of spring and summer, autumn just always feels sad and sickly to me. It’s the natural cycle of things, and spring will come again with time. While I wait, I’ll remember the eagles and how they bounced back, just like the trees and flowers do year after year after year.