On the Hike From Hell(hole) (http://ingasadventures.com/2009/07/13/the-worst-backpacking-trip-ever/) Steve and I resolved to get a canoe, harkening back to the good memories we had of paddling on the Yukon River last summer and eschewing further backpacking trips. Now she was on top of the car, the maiden voyage of the little red canoe beginning with a road trip from Marin to Tahoe. Our Old Town Guide 147 canoe, almost as wide as the car, is a recreational canoe that has enough capacity for canoe camping trips, though at 74 lbs the portaging will have to be for very limited distances.
Ten minutes into the trip we realized that there were a few things we needed to learn, as stray straps slapped against the windows while the seat backs fluttered against the roof. A roadside stop took care of the straps, but as the vibration increased our analysis revealed that we should have positioned the canoe with the bow in the back so the wind wouldn’t catch the seatbacks. Rectifying the situation required a stop on a wind blown side road just before Highway 37. With straps blowing, ropes dangling and the canoe threatening to set sail, we wrestled her off the top of the car, repositioned her and drove carefully and uneventfully onward and upward.
Once in Tahoe we thought a dip in the miniature replica of Lake Tahoe, Fallen Leaf Lake, would be an ideal baptism. Fallen Leaf Lake, created by glacial action a million or so years ago, is 780 feet higher in elevation than its significantly larger cousin, Lake Tahoe, at 6,337 feet, and is an impressive 415 feet deep. On the way we passed Emerald Bay, also created by glacial action, but resulting in a direct connection to Lake Tahoe, creating a bay rather than a separate lake.
Proceeding to the far end of the three mile long Fallen Leaf Lake, we passed many appealing and unique wooden cabins built over the water or nestled into the granite. At the boat launch we found a small, well stocked store and café doing a booming business in ice cream cones. We launched our red canoe into the clear, sea green waters of the shallows, shimmering into cobalt blue of the deeper waters.
With our friend Judy stowed in the middle we assumed our familiar places, with me in the bow paddling and Steve in the stern, steering. A light wind created some small wavelets, but hugging the shore we were protected from wind and wave. The red canoe felt a little tippy when I first stepped into it, but was stable once we all were situated properly. I almost hated to dip our new Bending Branches wooden paddles in the water as the woodwork is practically a work of art. The paddles are lightweight, yet strong and very comfortable to hold. Dipping the paddle into the crystal clear water I looked down to see huge boulders that had slid down the steep avalanche path above, sweeping some enormous trees along the path. We quickly lost sight of the bottom of the lake as we moved into the deepest area of the lake near the Stanford Sierra Camp. We marveled at the few houses on the less populated side of the lake, built into the mountainside with low, sloped roofs to shed winter snow. Inaccessible by road on that side of the lake, we considered the challenges of the building sites.
After a time, long unused muscles make themselves known in our back and shoulders, reminding us of the strength we gained last summer after paddling 200 miles of the Yukon River. We reminisced a bit, and then our thoughts turned to the future, dreaming of flat water and protected coves in the lakes of California and beyond, finding that the little red canoe was stable in the water and ready for adventure.