For the twelve years we've lived on Vancouver Island, we've resisted "lake" paddling. Why? Well, the salt water is just five minutes away from home and these narrow boats are, after all sea kayaks. The past eighteen months in Scotland, however, taught us that when the nearby North Sea was inhospitable, as it often was, loch kayaking was just fine. There were many memorable paddles, for example, on majestic Loch Tay.
This was the first paddle, back on Canadian waters. We quickly realized that we had discounted a very beautiful venue, also close to home...Cowichan Lake. Why? Who knows, maybe because it was just a lake? Maybe because it wasn't a salt water experience or because there were no tides or intertidal life? Maybe because the expectation was that it would be benign and calm, and therefore slightly "boring"? Hmmm...benign and calm? We should have known better. Our friend Linda certainly did. ;)
Life's like that though. We often discount new possibilities for adventures because of preconceived notions and assumptions. Today was to be a gentle reminder of that very thing.
Cowichan Lake is about 30 kilometres west of the City of Duncan (Canada's smallest "city", by area). The lake is about 30 kilometres long and 2.5 kilometres wide at its widest point. Loch Tay, by comparison, is about 23 kilometres long - very similar. Both have a maximum depth of over 160 metres (500'). Both lakes can be very calm in the morning...but in the afternoon, a wind from the west almost always comes up.
On this morning, Linda, Joan, and I launched from Helen's lakeside home, the lake as smooth as a mirror. It truly was lovely...and so peaceful.
"Cowichan" (Quw’utsun’) is a First Nations Coast Salish word meaning "land warmed by the sun". This part of Vancouver Island is Canada's only maritime Mediterranean climate zone. We enjoy the warmest mean year-round temperatures in the country and the country’s longest growing season. The average 1,845 annual hours of sunshine makes for some wonderful locally produced wines.
Paddling by the waterfront homes and cottages, I wondered why we had never done this before.
After a couple of hours on the water, we stopped to stretch our legs on an uninhabited side of the lake. The mountains stretched towards the exposed coast of the Pacific Ocean.
A light breeze began to ripple the water and the high, wispy clouds indicated a coming change in the weather. The breeze that had slowly materialised began to freshen.
The early September sun, however, warmed our bodies, and the dry suits began to feel a little warm.
It was a great place to "chill", eat some savoury snacks, and reflect on just how beautiful (and undiscovered!) places so close to home can be.
Conditions had been perfect for a gentle paddle, but Cowichan Lake never fails to please...and served up some fun bumps and lumps for the return trip.
The blue skies were rapidly obscured by a soft overcast, creating "grey seas". The energetic following waves carried the three happy paddlers along.
Cowichan Lake is truly a "jewel"...and so close to home. Who'd have thought it? Well, we would have...had the preconceived notions been corrected years ago. :)
Preconceived notions are the locks
on the door to wisdom.
- Mary Kendall Browne
Preconceived notions and assumptions are rarely helpful, or accurate. Actual knowledge and experience is the best bet...every single time. It just takes a little sense of adventure, and the willingness to be shown something new. ;)