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11 April 2015 – Saturday morning and, for the first time in months, I got some time on the water.  I made it up to Bullhead Bay just after sunrise, operating on a friend who lives nearby who said that the water was open down to the marsh.  And so after a winter-long hiatus, I put the hull in the water and paddled off to explore.

The northern arm of the lake, from Bullhead Bay down to the marsh where the South Branch of Tunkhannock Creek enters was indeed open, save for a bit of shore ice in a section, and a rather large ice raft floating in the middle.  But the whole area was navigable and I was able to paddle from my launch point up to the Dividing Rock in the creek, which was running high and fast.  As always, the flow around Dividing Rock was too strong to paddle against, so I enjoyed a free ride back down the creek into the marsh.

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Conditions weren’t optimal; the morning sunrise skunked and thick clouds moved in my the time I was finishing.  The wind was blowing strong the entire time, and the temperature never rose above the 40s.  It turned out that Sunday would have been a much nicer day, but such is the nature of hindsight.

The variety of wildlife already on-site was surprising, although I regret not having any photos of critters to share.  I did all of my photography with the little TG-3 and, although I had the E-M5 and 75-300 with me, I was never in a position to capture any wildlife photos.

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But the tally stands as follows: an adult Bald Eagle soaring overhead, 10 Common Mergansers, an American Crow, two Mallards, seven Canada Geese, two Kingfishers, and even a Tree Swallow.  There was also a beaver and a very small, very cute muskrat.

This was the maiden voyage of the TG-3 and my first time using it; all the photos in this post were captured with it and, overall, I’m pleased.  There’ll be more to come regarding that.

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I’ve made some improvements to the kayaking gear that definitely improved my quality of life.  The biggest was the purchase of both a pair of rubber boots and a pair of Frog Togs waterproof over-pants.  In previous years, when the weather is still too cold for me to enter the kayak from ankle-deep in the water, I’ve gone through all manner of contortions to get into the boats from dry land without falling in the lake.

The boots go halfway to my knees, so I can just walk out into the lake as far as necessary and climb in, secure that I’ll remain dry and warm.  The Frog Togs keep my pants dry, protecting both from splashes while entering the kayak, and from the inevitable paddle splashes and drips while underway.  When the weather is cold, a dry paddler is a happy paddler.

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When I returned from the marsh I paddled past the Bullhead launch and around the bend into the mid-lake’s northern end, where things are still ice-bound.  I was able to hug the flooded shoreline and make it around the top almost to the far shore before the ice closed in, but that was it.  As far as I could see down the lake, to the bridge, was still frozen.  I played around on the edges of the ice, forcing my way into a few soft channels.  But overall it was solid, and even where I managed to bust into it, it was at least an inch thick, although weakened by it’s physical structure.

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It’ll be at least another week before it’s all gone, assuming we get several warm days in a row.

Kayaking Note: I took the little Perception Impulse out this time.  When I left in the morning, I wasn’t certain there’d be enough open water to really go far, and I didn’t want to lug out the Tarpon for a potential skunking.  Chalk it up to laziness, but the Impulse did fine and, on a windy day like this, it’s nice having my legs tucked away inside the kayak.

Brent Pennington is a freelance photographer and the driving force behind The Roving Photographer. When he\’s not working with portraiture or promotional clients, he’s usually in the field, hiking, or kayaking in pursuit of nature and wildlife shots.

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