Kayaks have been on my mind. I’m trying to build 3 different alphabet prints/posters that tell our story of the Tetons and I keep tying the letter K to kayaks.
The alphabet posters will go along with a grownup alphabet book. I think. My plan keeps changing. My flexibility sometimes gets in my way. Generally, I like my flexibility–both the mental and physical kinds.
Kayaks demand all sorts of flexibility. Our primary goal is to get into our kayak with the effortless and silent approach that Natty Bumpo mastered in The Last of the Mohicans, but as a friend once told us, “Look what happened to him.” We keep plugging away though.
Mostly, all this kayak thinking has led to a list. I love lists.
Here are the most significant kayak memories I have. They are organized by the river or lakes where they happened.
- Going to Jenny Lake Lodge for the first time in 1996 and learning to kayak were simultaneous events. We spent the mornings hiking and the afternoons practicing our kayaking skills on String Lake because it was shallow. We wouldn’t die there. We worked on paddling together and steering and various speeds. It’s a lot like figuring out sex when things are new. There’s a lot of silent communication and coordination.
- We followed a blue heron along the shore in the learning years. We’d sneak the kayak up close to him and he’d do a hook flight to a branch down the store. It was nice.
- Once, we got up at 5:00 in the morning and went out on String before breakfast. We figured the critters would be up and it would be a wildlife bonanza. There were no critters. We were eaten alive by mosquitos.
- On our first outing, we hugged the edges of Jenny Lake. We couldn’t believe how brave we’d been. I mean, Jim doesn’t even really swim.
- Once on the north side of Jenny, we started hearing banjo music. Normally we hear birds, marmots, squirrels, water noises, boat noises, and people talking on trails. Not banjo music. There was a guy sitting on a log and playing his banjo. He told us he liked to hear the sound spreading across the water. We heard him when we were as far away as the Jenny overlook on the east side of the lake.
- On the northwest shore, we found an osprey nest and watched the couple and new chicks each summer. We saw the male dive and catch a fish one year. Beautiful. They are gone now. A new couple found a place nearby last summer. We hope they’ll stay as long as the first pair did.
- We’d been kayaking 4 or 5 years and were feeling we had things under control. We decided to explore the Cascade River where it spills into Jenny. The current suddenly exploded and we flipped the kayak trying to get out of there. We were terrified. We sat on the embankment after we rescued ourselves and the kayak and didn’t say anything. Then we started laughing and laughing. It’s as close to a Hemingway moment as we’ve had.
Two Ocean Lake:
- We headed out to circle the lake and a pair of trumpeter swans and their signets swam in front of us. They were gorgeous and we watched and waited for them to clear our path. We started forward and the swan parents reared up on their legs, flapped their wings, honked like demons, and ran across the top of the water to attack us. One wee signet hadn’t made it across and was trembling in the reeds. We all survived.
- We’d seen what looked to be a white sandy beach on the far side of the lake and decided we’d take a picnic over there. When we arrived, there was no sand–just rocks covered in goose shit. Things didn’t go according to plan.
- On our last visit there, we put the kayak in the lake and I climbed in, sat down, and discovered my feet were covered with leeches. We don’t go to Two Ocean Lake anymore.
The Snake River:
- We decided we wanted to float down the Snake River from the dam down beyond Oxbox Bend. We did it and it was glorious and then we turned around and paddled UP the Snake. Incredibly hard, but exhilarating. We floated down and paddled up again. People thought we were crazy. We probably were.
- We did the Snake two other times. Each with friends and enough cars we didn’t need to paddle up the river. Lots of eagles and ospreys and kingfishers on those rides.
- We often kayak from Spalding Bay up to Moran Bay. The park service closed this entry to the lake for a year and the following year when we returned, there were eagles sitting on branches everywhere. It was as though Disney had taken over and created a Teton eagle ride. The next year the eagles were gone because the people had returned.
- We left from Colter Bay and headed up to Leek’s Marina. When we pulled our kayak ashore, a group of foreign tourists left a bus and flooded the beach. Several went into our kayak, grabbed our paddles, and began inviting others to try out the boat. Some climbed on a sailboat where a couple was busily bringing down the sails. We failed to do anything about this at first. We finally just got in line and got in the boat and took off back into the lake.
- The first big storm we faced was on Leigh. You can’t always predict storms in the Tetons. I sit in the front of the kayak and the wind and rain and waves crashing in on me froze my hands and face. I was strong enough to hold my own though. We fought a storm again last summer. The storm was just as scary, but I wasn’t nearly as frightened this time. I still got drenched.
- We watched otters play on a rock near the north end of the lake. Pretty rare.
- We’ve seen both a moose and a bear swim across the lake. Both pretty close to the kayak.
- We saw an eagle stripping and eating a fish on a big, flat boulder. I made a notecard from that memory.
- We watched two eagles dancing among the pines close to the north end of the lake. We followed them playing and dancing for about 20 minutes. Then they flew straight up in the air, grasped talons and began spiraling down to the earth for the final mating procedure (it’s spectacular, but quick). We’ve never seen anything as amazing as this was.
That’s it for now.