Monday, July 23, 2012

Camping Out Of My Kayak

I haven't been camping in about 30 years. I thought it would be neat to camp on an island, accessible only by boat, so I tried Knight Island, in Lake Champlain.
Parked at Hero's Welcome general store, in North Hero. They had a steep boat ramp & dock for which they charged $3 to launch a kayak. Here, I made the embarrassing mistake of loading my boat with gear on the dock instead of in the water, nearly doubling its weight. Had to ask for a hand. 
The trip over was not bad. I had been a little concerned about how the 'yak would handle with  the extra weight , but it was fine. Wind was out of the south, so I headed into it south of my target, and rode in. About a 1' chop, nothing major.
I think I have trouble judging distances over open water, or trouble judging my speed or, both. I aimed for the Ranger's house, which started out looking like a gray dot. I judged my progress by details. Now the house looks rectangular. Now  I can see a window. Now I can see two windows, Now I can see an outbuilding, etc, until its closer than where I left from.
Met the friendly Ranger. Interesting: he said that a family had just left my campsite , and that he'd come over by bicycle "in about an hour" to "clean it up". I went straight to the site, found it neat as a pin, with firewood neatly stacked, and even a kindling pile in the fire pit. "Wes" arrived within minutes on his bike, and we had another chat, then he left. I think that was part of the "procedure", to check me out and make sure I wasn't unloading atomic bombs or anything.
This is the only site on the island without a lean-to shelter, but they seem to have made up for it by selecting the best spot. Great views of both sides of the island, and if you count "my" campsite as starting at the Famous Composting Privy (more on that later), a good 1/2 acre.
Camp set up, I had a swim, cup of coffee, and walk around the island. There are walking trails in the interior, with the campsites marked such as "ASPEN Campers Only", to insure privacy. I also tried to circumnavigate the island on shore, but was stopped by cliffs.

 Interesting rocks on the beach. 
Obligatory Sunset Photo. At this point, it was still fun-made a fire, some lousy freeze-dried stew, and had another swim.
Now comes the part where I was reminded why I haven't been camping in 30 years. Too early for sleep, read by head lamp for a while, heard unusual animal noises. Retired to tent, more noises. Went back out found a raccoon in my lamp, not happy to see me.Back in the tent, turned the light off, and he took a tour around my tent. Only leaving the light on all night kept him away. I think I got about 3 hours fitful sleep. And of course, it absolutely had to rain a little.

The aforementioned Privy. They seemed to proud of these. There is a poster inside, explaining how its set up to biodegrade your leavings. I was tempted to swipe some of the straw for padding, but I didn't. The system seems to work,because it barely had an odor. The crossed paddles in lieu of a crescent moon are a nice touch, too.
Sunrise, finally. 
By 9:00 the night before, the wind died down, and the lake was flat and glassy. My bright Idea was to leave in the early morning, "before the wind came up", but the wind came up during the night, and stayed "up". Had to paddle back in short-length, 4' waves, the roughest conditions I've yet encountered, on 3 hours sleep. Again, I had trouble judging the distance, and felt like I was making no progress, but sighted a green buoy at north Hero, and it did become larger & larger. It took twice as long to return as it did to get there. 
Maybe next time, I'll camp ashore, and paddle the lake for Fun instead of Necessity.

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