Sunday, May 18, 2014

Laurel Gorge

It was a grand adventure for me yesterday: a kayak trip in a place I’d never been before – Laurel Gorge, formed by Laurel Creek, one of the streams that feeds Grayson Lake.  Some friends invited me to go with them.  I almost talked myself out of going.  The weather turned very cool Friday.  So yesterday morning, with highs expected to rise only to the low 60s, I overslept and then woke up to an unusually cold, foggy morning.  That gave me two reasons to stay in bed.  Disappointed in myself for being such a wuss, I got up and stepped out on the porch.  Yes – it was cold.  Yes – it looked like rain, but maybe it was just fog….who could tell?  I stood there, breathed in the morning air for a few minutes, and decided to go.  YOLO, right, and at my age, time is running out.

So, decision made, it was a very quick shower, slap on some sunscreen (don’t leave home without it), collect my shit, and hit the road.  I was to meet my friends at the designated put-in place at 9 AM, about an hour drive.  The fog forced me to drive a bit slower than I wanted to, but I pulled into the designated meeting spot right on time (my friends had only arrived a few minutes ahead of me).    

Thank heavens I decided to go!  When the fog lifted, it was a beautiful day.  The cool temperature and light breeze were perfect ambience for a  day of paddling.  Laurel Gorge has beautiful rock cliffs with mountain laurel cascading over the sides.  For sure, I’ll go back in late June or early July when all that laurel will be blooming.  We saw many broods of baby ducks, their mamas ushering them to safety when we paddled too close. We also saw something that must have been beavers or otters – they were dark and furry, but went underwater as soon as they noticed us. 
friends and I on pollen-covered stream

So, after 90 minutes of paddling downstream, my friends and I parted company.  They  had three people in one canoe and were sharing paddling duty, whereas I was just me in a kayak doing 100% of the work.  This was the half-way point of the journey for them; I turned back.  It was a good call.  The wind had picked up by then, and I had to paddle back into the wind much of the time, and against the current.  It was lots of work for this old lady.  When I rounded a bend and saw the dock at the place where we put in, my heart leapt for joy.  By that time, I was seriously worried that I’d made a wrong turn somewhere, and was wondering what it’s like to be really lost and alone in the wilderness.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  Does this make appreciation of beauty selfish?  Without the distraction and noise of other people, the pristine gorge took on magical qualities.  Shimmering reflections of sunlight on the cliffs, patterns of wind-blown pollen on the water, the symphony of birds, frogs, creaking tree branches, squirrels, and waterfalls…all there just for me.  The splendor was much more vivid when I was alone.  Would it be even better if I weren’t there at all?  I believe the trees there have lots of secrets. 

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