Crater Lake To Stanley, Day 2 : Curiosity

I’m down at the Rocky Point Resort, on the west edge of Upper Klamath Lake, standing on a boat dock. The old fellow there is advising me on the type of watercraft to use for my exploration of the nature preserve.

“You could get in this canoe if you want something really stable. See, it’s got cross-bars. Problem is, since there’s just you, you can’t use the front bench or the rear bench. If you do, you’ll paddle a lot but the canoe will just spin around, because the other end will be sticking up out of the water. So you’ll have to kneel in the middle, and row it from there. It’ll be a lot of work.”

“What, you mean, I have to sit down on my knees, the whole time?”

“Yep. You might want to try a kayak instead. Ever used one?”

“Years ago, yes. Never launched one from a boat dock before.”

“Well I can help you with that…”

He takes me around to a stack of plastic kayaks and selects a stout-looking teal one with a wide bottom, and straps an L-shaped seat cushion into it. He grabs one end of the kayak and I grab the other, and together we walk it over to the side of the dock and lower it into the river. Then he squats down and grabs the lip of the kayak, holding it tight against the side of the dock.

“Climb on in,” he says.

I toss my backpack in and carefully arrange myself in the kayak, legs shoved under the front, backpack between my knees. The man stands up and passes me a double-edged plastic oar. I sit there unsteadily on the water for a while, very slowly testing my balance, and making hesitant jabs with the oar.

Eventually the man asks, “how’s that workin’ for you?” He’s a few yards away, applying paint to the side of a dry-docked canoe.

“Good so far … I have to remember how to balance this thing.”

I take my sweet time – I’m on vacation, after all, and this boat trip is the only thing on my to-do list for the whole day – and eventually I become confident enough with the oar that I can paddle around the border of the dock. I give the man a thumbs-up, take a picture with my camera, and then head off towards the swamps of the preserve, on the opposite side of the slow-flowing river.

As the morning ebbs into the afternoon I slowly regain my skills with the kayak. By the end of the day I’ll have logged nine hours in it.

Many pictures transpire!

The lake is home to tons of aquatic plants, dimly visible beneath the water:

The water itself has a greenish, silty character. It’s like paddling through a gigantic cup of tea.

Not all the plants live underwater of course. Some are amphibious. They start growing on the lake bottom, and then change appearance only slightly when they begin to protrude from the water.

Here’s a plant of the same species that has stayed under water. Check out the tracery of sticky webbing left by some aquatic insect.

Here’s a very different, strictly underwater plant. See all those little nodules on it? What do you suppose those are for?

Most of the preserve is covered with aquatic plants. These broad-leaved specimens began life three or four feet under the water, and the leaves only reached the open air when they were most of the way grown.

It’s actually possible to kayak your way through this foliage, but an incredible amount of squiggly worms, snails, beetles, larvae, and pond scum will stick to you along the way. Easier to go around.

The broad, flat plants compete with the tall grasses for the same shallow water along the borders, with the grass crowding down from the dry shore and the flat plants marching up from the deeper water.

Sometimes the current is a bit too strong for the underwater plants, and the grass can grow unchallenged, and sometimes the water is unsuitable for other reasons, like a lack of sun:

Here’s an interesting formation. The logs trapped underwater prevented the dirt on top of them from eroding long enough for plants to grow on the dirt, anchoring it in place. The effect reminds me of Jim Henson’s swamp environment in The Dark Crystal. I expect those little tufts to sprout eyes and teeth any moment.

Of course the preserve is home to many birds as well. I see this fellow taking off and manage to get the camera up, but I don’t have time to adjust the settings, so the result is blurry. Oh well.

In the more open sections of water, I encounter many honking geese:

Honk honk honk!!!

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