Finally. The river is ice free, so I put the kayak on the car and launched at the basin by the falls. It was a cool day (just around the mid-30s degF) and we had a steady 10 mph wind out of the NW. When I told some of my compatriots at work I was planning on paddling this weekend, the typical response is:
"Isn't it too cold?"
Too cold! I'm not in the water. I have a fleece layer on, dry-pants, neoprene boots, water-proof jacket, neoprene gloves, cap, and a PFD. I was plenty warm. It's a lot colder standing on top of a mountain in the winter getting ready to ski downhill with winds and 20 degF conditions. The only time I would get cold was putting the boat in the water. Even then, my feet never got very cold.
It was such a good time getting outside. It has been a busy week at work. My mind has been consumed with tons of details. I needed to just disconnect. I looked forward to the adventure. It's been about 6 years since I paddled on the Otter. It hasn't changed much.
Otter Creek is not a very big river. In the summer, it is only about 6 feet deep. Below the falls, it is about 50 to 100 yards wide. It isn't pristine, as it has houses and camps along its bank in many spots, but it still offesr great views of wildlife. I saw tons of waterfowl. Canadian geese, mallards, mergansers, cormorants, gulls, pintails, and great blue herons. At one point, two redtail hawks were flying overhead, following each other through the sky as part of their mating dance. It was great.
I could see signs of the beaver in the area. As the river is large, they build their lodges into the banks of the rivers. I look forward to paddling by the lodges at dusk as the summer approaches as the beavers will be out.
At one point, I paddled into a flooded field. I was only able to go partially into the field as the water there was still covered with ice. I was able to push through the 1/4 inch ice, but got stopped about halfway into the field.
After paddling 5 miles downstream and 5 miles back, I was getting tired. This was a good paddle for the start of the season. I stopped to admire the waterfall at the basin in town before taking out.
I left my boat on top of my car, but not because my shoulders are tight. Rather, I just might go out for another paddle tomorrow. What a great day.