Last week, knowing that we both had off on Friday and that we were both in need of an all-day outdoor adventure, Evan and I had a very brief conversation that ended with the decision that we would paddle the entire length of the 30-mile-long Raystown Lake.
And so, we woke up just before 5am, piled in the truck, and drove south in the darkness of pre-dawn with cups of coffee in hand and a dog on the bench seat between us, arriving at the Weaver Falls bridge near Saxton just as the sky began to lighten.
The lake was smooth, and we glided along amongst the brightly-colored fallen leaves that also floated on the waters surface. The dog was surprisingly well-behaved, and I was pleasantly surprised that she stayed relatively still and relaxed instead of trying to jump out. So with building excitement about the prospects of more tandem canoe trips with Dinah, Evan and I peacefully paddled along, enjoying the early morning quiet and the sight of a great-blue heron perched along shore.
The hours passed by as the sun climbed higher in the sky, and the waterway slowly widened. Reflections of the morning clouds and brilliant fall foliage shone in the water. It was getting hot and humid, but a layer of clouds kept the beating sun at bay for a while, relieving us from the brunt of the heat for most of the morning. We were happy, enjoying each others company and the lighthearted banter, taking too many pictures, laughing.
We continued to marvel at the angelic behavior of the dog, who was now asleep on her blanket in the bottom of the boat , head and paw resting on the gunnel, the perfect picture of cuteness.
By midday, the clouds had parted and the temperature was quickly rising. We stopped briefly after lunch to swim, and the dip in the cool water was welcomed by all.
The miles began to seem longer as my arms and shoulders tired, but my mind was distracted from the ache by Evan pointing out all the features along the coastline—where the mountain bike trails were, the old roads that used to exist before the river was dammed to make the lake, and the approximate location of an old cemetery hidden in the woods.
It was mid-afternoon when we neared the dam, almost to the end of our paddling journey. We drifted a while, resting, munching on tuna and wasabi almonds and other snacks, sipping beer, watching a fisherman in a boat attempt to reel in what had to be an enormous fish.
Soon, the dam was in sight, but it was time for the hard part to begin—the portage. In order to get around the dam, we would have to walk halfway up the mountain, follow a trail for approximately a quarter mile, and then walk all the way back down, all while carrying a canoe and gear and balancing on loose, dry leaves on top of hidden rocks. It wasn’t anything close to easy, but finally, we were at the river, and our car and journey’s end was less than a hundred feet downstream.