I headed out to Toledo Bend Reservoir late Thursday afternoon for a weekend-long paddling trip. I was slow out the door and didn’t even leave my apartment until 4:45. The drive was pretty easy..at least until it got dark. I circled all over my put-in area until I finally managed to find the campgrounds. The drive was something like 2.5 hours.
I found a nice little spot right near the entrance, set up camp and made dinner (rice burritos) in the dark. It was starting to get a bit chilly and I was somewhat nervous about my sleep system as I had a new sleeping bag that was rated for comfort only down to 60F..and it was supposed to hit 40F. Luckily, I made it through the night without a problem. I’m a warm sleeper so I was able to stretch the bag all the way down to its extreme limit (37F). I did have to throw on my UA pullover around 2am though.
Starbucks VIA instant coffee and some blueberry bagels with peanut butter woke me up easily. I packed everything up and headed down to the boat ramp. My kayak is only a 10′ plastic rec boat, so needless to say the storage capacity isn’t exactly top-notch. I managed to stash my food and water directly behind my seat without a problem, but my pack with all of my camping gear ended up near the front of the boat down by the foot pegs.
I felt a little weighed down as I put out onto the water, but it turns out this would serve me well in the hours to come. The first mile out of the channel into the open water was a leisurely paddle. That didn’t last long. The wind quickly picked up and I was soon fighting a tough headwind. Within another half mile, waves were starting to form with the occasional breaker and I was getting a bit nervous, as my paddling experience in high wind is very limited.
I paddled another mile in increasingly worse conditions and decided to take a little snack break at a small island. I called my mom for a weather report and it turns out there was a small craft advisory issued for the lake and the winds were gusting to 25. Wonderful.
I was already out there and it was entirely too early to make camp, so I decided to push on anyway. I figured this – the only way I’m gonna learn to paddle in strong wind is to paddle in strong wind. I launched from the island after a short break and immediately noticed the conditions getting even worse. The little waves from earlier were now a few feet in height with frequent breakers. I was also paddling directly into the wind. I put my game face on and pushed out into Six Mile Bay, paddling along the shoreline. I saw what appeared to be a calmer section and paddled towards it, only to find out that it was very thick grass. I ended up stuck, of course.
Attempting to avoid the thick mud, I portaged along the shoreline for a good quarter mile until I found some nice sandy beach with a nice launch spot. Back in the water, the conditions appeared to have calmed down significantly. For the next 15 minutes, the paddling was wonderfully calm. As I turned out of Six Mile Bay into the open lake, the conditions again went downhill. I paddled along the shoreline, just outside of the surf that had developed. The next mile had me fairly nervous as this was the most turbulent water of the day. After getting tossed around like a bitch for about a half hour, I spun the kayak towards the beach and surfed in.
As luck would have it, there was a nice empty campground right up the beach. I dragged my kayak up, found a spot and set up camp. Glancing at my handy GPS, I learned that I managed all of 6 miles in the close to 5 hours I had been paddling. Harsh.
As it was only 3:30, I lounged around a bit and enjoyed the scenery before making a freeze dried dinner of chicken breasts and mashed potatoes. I crawled into my tent as the sun went down, pulled out some bourbon and cracked open a book. This was pleasant until some drunk and/or high kids decided to drive in, several times, asking if I wanted to party with them. After they came in around 10:00, I figured that would be the end of it..but they rolled through and woke me up at almost midnight. I was annoyed, to say the least. As I opened my tent flap to walk outside and have a word with them, they sped off. I must have spooked them!
With the temperature possibly dropping to freezing, I layered up a little better than the previous night and curled up in my sleeping bag with the hood snug over my head. The night passed slowly, as usual, but I did manage to stay fairly warm. With that clothing set-up (baselayer nike pants, hiking pants, baselayer long-sleeve, light pullover, windjacket) and that sleeping bag, I think 30 is just about as low as I’ll be comfortable. It might be time to invest in some type of insulated jacket.
The forecast called for a windless Saturday, although the morning hours were anything but windless. I heated up some water for coffee and some more water for my freezer bag breakfast – 1/2 cup oats, hot chocolate mix and raisins. Great way to start the day.
By the time I had everything packed and was ready to put-in, the wind had died down almost completely and the water looked nice and calm. Although this trip was supposed to last another day, I decided to cut it short as the previous day of paddling had put a solid damper on my mood. Generally, if I start a trip on a bad note, the whole trip will go downhill. That’s just me.
The paddling was easy. I took an exploratory route back to my original put-in, exploring a few coves here and there. I covered close to 9 miles in just over 2.5 hours.
Overall, I’d say the trip was definitely a success. It wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for, but it worked. I learned that paddling in the wind is a pain, but the waves are actually a lot of fun. I was more worried about losing my gear than anything. As far as my gear, I’ll definitely have to do a follow-up post analyzing what I liked and what I didn’t.