Added 1 June 2008

Thursday, 20 March 2008, Saguaro Lake, Arizona

(Hover over images for captions. Click images for larger versions.)

A long-time family friend had recently passed away, and I had already planned on going to Canyon Lake on the Friday after the funeral, so I took Thursday off from work, drove up to Phoenix, and attended the funeral Thursday morning. Having Thursday afternoon free and my kayak on the roof, I decided to go to Saguaro Lake, hoping for some quiet contemplation on the water.

On my way there I stopped at the Forest Service Ranger Station to get an annual Tonto Pass for the lakes, then drove out to the lake. Being a Thursday afternoon, I expected the lake to be really quiet, but all was not as I had hoped. I didn't know that it was spring break for the Mesa school district, so there were quite a few motorboaters out on the water.

Motorboaters at Saguaro Lake almost completely disregard paddlers, neither giving wide berth nor slowing down to reduce their wake. Boat wakes don't generally bother me, as I'm confident enough in my kayak, so what bothers me most is the NOISE. There was a group of kids in a huge jet boat that sounded like a dragster car. Even at a distance it was nearly deafening. It was a rather ridiculous toy, I dare say.

There was only one other human powered boat on the lake while I was there, a couple in a canoe. They arrived at Butcher Jones beach at the same time I did, but launched 10-15 minutes before me as I it took me longer to get my gear organized. I didn't launch until around 3:15, quite a bit later than I'd hoped. I caught up to the canoeists where the canyon narrows down and passed them when they paddled into a small cave. I continued up the lake, growing more and more weary of the incessant boat traffic. My hopes of a quiet, thoughtful paddle after the funeral I had attended earlier that day were almost literally blown out of the water. Eventually I came to a decent sized cove marked off as a no wake zone. There were a few fishermen in the cove, and a whole host of Clark's grebes. I entered the cove and welcomed the relative sanctuary-like feel of the place. I tried sneaking up on the grebes for some photographs, but as is typical of the species, they were wary and didn't let me get all that close.

Had I more time to just sit and drift, I suspect I could have gotten them used to me, but I felt I should start heading back towards home so I didn't get caught out in the dark. I was prepared for night paddling with a beacon and a headlamp, but didn't relish sharing the narrow canyon section of the lake with speedboats at night.

At one point I paused in a wide section of the lake to sneak up on and photograph a great blue heron. I drifted closer and closer, and just as I got to the ideal range and the heron perked up to give me a great shot. But just as I pushed the shutter release in burst mode to get a series of shots as I anticipated the heron to fly from it's weathered tree perch, I was rocked by a series of large swells from a passing boat. The resulting photographs were; mostly water and heron feet, mostly sky and heron's head, mostly water and heron feet, mostly sky and heron's head, and so on until the heron flew off, an event that I missed almost entirely. Damned power boats.

I paused on the way back to explore a small cove and discovered the canoeists sitting quietly in amongst some rocks. I found a relatively quiet spot at the back of the cove to watch a kettle of vultures circling the high surrounding peaks. I departed the cove ahead of the canoeists and soon happened upon a bald eagle hanging out on the cliffs in the narrow section of the lake.

As I continued taking pictures, the tourist "river boat" tour approached and I beat a hasty retreat, paddling to another cove nearer to Butcher Jones beach, where I found some more avian life to photograph.

After I ran out of memory on my dSLR, and having forgotten to bring a spare memory card, I very slowly made my way back to Buther Jones beach as the sun dipped below the horizon, taking a photo or two with my point and shoot. Just before sunset, the boat traffic diminished considerably, and the lake became quite calm.

With darkness settling in and my car just visible in the distance, I looked over my shoulder to see a near full moon rising over the mountains and reflecting on the quicksilver surface of the lake. I rested my paddle across the coaming of the kayak and drifted, using the rudder to come around to face the moon. I stayed there for quite some time, and would have loved to have embarked upon a nighttime paddle, but I was hungry and hadn't really prepared enough food for staying out all night long, so I eventually continued to the beach under the light of the moon.

The canoeists beached shortly after I did, and I helped them pull their boat ashore since I was already wet from my landing. After getting the canoe ashore we chatted for a while. It sounded like they had spent quite a lot of time at the lakes in the area since he bought the canoe a few months ago. In that time, he's lost 34 pounds from paddling so much, which I thought was pretty cool. We parted ways and I loaded my boat and gear on the car and headed home.

SO while the lake was more crowded than I expected, but I still had a nice time at what is largely a play lake for beer-chugging Phoenicians.