Doing Hard Things: Trouble on the water. Canoeing on Lake Chelan
The lake we live on is long. Fifty-Five miles long, and that’s not as the crow flies. Surrounded by hills and bluffs that end up stretching up into the foothills of the cascades. This lake takes on many different personalities depending on which mile you are sitting on and on which time of day you are there. She’s calm one moment and then the next she’s an ocean lapping you up with white caps.
9:00am: Cruising down the road heading up lake. Today, we’re going fishing! Surely catching a fish when your out on the water is WAY easier then catching one from ashore.
9:25: Arrive and start piling our fishing poles into the hallow tin canoe that will be our fishing spot for the next hour or two.
9:25: “Mom…do we have our life jackets?”. Crap.
10:15am: Back in the tin can, life jackets included. We push off into the water.
Canoeing On Lake Chelan
The placid water, the birds chirping. Mountains in the backdrop. Fishing lines trolling the bottom of the lake. It was peaceful. Aside from the 1001 questions coming from the middle of the boat.
10:30: How deeps the lake?–Really Deep
What is at the bottom?–Really Big Rocks
What is the Lake monsters name? –Ogo Pogo
What does it look like? –No one really knows
When are we going to catch a fish? –Hopefully soon
Why aren’t we catching anything –Because fish are scared of questions
10:31: Why? — …..
11:00: With no bites on the lines Ranger suggests we head across the lake.
The lake was calm as we paddled over and over and over again. It’s about a mile across, but rowing a heavy metal canoe with kayak oars makes the trip seem more like 27 miles.
11:45: Our boat washed up on shore and we piled out. Being sure to tie or boat so we’d have a way back home.
The north side of the lake up here is deserted. No roads, no people. Once in a while you’ll spot a house or small shelter dotting the steep landscape. But for the most part, no one lives here. We found a creek and hiked along side it, crossing here and there. Coming across a dead deer carcass, butterflies, and spiders along the way.
The roaring water kept getting louder and louder until it almost drowned out the sound of dead winter leaves crunching beneath our boots. Finally we came across a wall of water rushing down from above surrounded by steep bluffs leading to the blue sky . We stopped to admire it and were getting ready to head back when I saw Rangers eyes.
I know that look by now. The look that makes my stomach fill with hummingbirds. Most people have butterflys….but no, not with this look. This look is one worthy of something that beats their wings against my stomach walls 80 times a second!
“Let’s go up!”
Going up meant a STEEP incline lined with loose rocks, patches of dirt, weeds and the danger of falling all the way down. I’m not going to pretend i’m any good at math and angles, but if i had to guess i’d say it was almost 90 degrees. Ranger would say more like 50. But still… 50!
So we went up.
Half way up panic hit. And it wasn’t “i’m a girl” panic. Panic like: this has got to be one of the most idiotic things I have ever gone along with.
Ranger took one look at my face and knew not to argue when I said in a very loud, some would call it a yell, but really it’s just loud talking, “We’re going back down. NOW”.
Back on level ground the hummingbirds finally perched and I could breath again, and we wound back down past the spiders, the butterflies, and the deer carcass back to our boat again.
One look out into the water and I knew we were in for it. All i could think of was “Thank God we went back to the house to get the boys life jackets”. We were in for a rough ride back.
The wind had swept in and the placid lake was now resembling more of an ocean with waves that were falling and crashing in on themselves.
We’d taken too long on our exploration and the weather had turned, as it does most days up there. -Rookie mistake-
We pushed off into the deep water and were prepared for a hard row back. One row forward two rows back, again and again. The waves started to rock our little canoe back and forth. By this time our Junior Rangers were getting scared, hell I was getting scared. We had so far yet to row and we weren’t go anywhere, fast.
We could see the waves rolling towards us. Some little, most big. We could see the big ones coming at us from yards away. We could see them picking up speed and height as they charged towards us. Lifting our boat up again and again. Poor little Junior K, he was bawling at this point. Watching the waves rush towards us was too much for him to handle. Again and again the waves would come and he would scream in terror.
Ranger and I were becoming exhausted quickly but we paddled on.
I thought singing might help calm Junior K.
“Row row row your boat, across the lake so wide. Through the waves, we’re safe and sound by each others side”.
A wave rolled up the side of our boat and slapped us all in the face with its bitter cold drops. Singing had now been overshadowed with standing water in our boat. Nothing was going to make this situation any easier.
Between the big waves I’d be convincing the boys that we all have to do hard things. I think I was more trying to convince myself. I know you’re feeling really scared right now (and so am I) but if we stop now we will never get through this. If we stop rowing we’ll be out in the middle of this water for a very long time. We need to keep going. We need to dig down deep and tell ourselves we’re strong enough to do this hard thing. We can cry and scream but that won’t get us to shore. Daddy and I are doing a hard thing right now, we’re rowing and rowing, and it’s tough and exhausting. And I’m asking you to do a hard thing too Juniors. I’m asking you to believe that we will make it to shore, i’m asking you to be brave and know we’re all together in this. We are all still in the boat. We’re all doing this tough thing together.
With a few nods and panic “yes'” we pushed on.
We had been on course to row into the docks but with the strong waves it had pushed us further down lake and there was no way we’d be able to row against the strong current back to the park. We made a quick decision to just get to shore, no matter where that may be.
I spotted a great open beach to head for but soon that was no longer an option and we once again were being pushed too far down lake to make that our landing.
As the waves were quickly pushing us towards shore and then back out to sea again we saw we had a small area between rocky ledges we needed to try to steer the boat.
We maneuvered the canoe in the small spot as best we could.
Finally i heard the bottom of the canoe scrape the rocks below. Just as I let out a sigh of relief a wave came up behind us and swept into our boat. I jumped out into knee deep water to try to pull the boat ashore so the waves would stop beating us with their cruelty. The Juniors were crying again at this point. Their little faces looked at me in complete despare. Looks that crushed my heart as their eyes begged for me to make this all be over. They were officially done with being brave.
The next few minutes were a scramble. I threw the boys out of the boat and got them far enough on to shore to be out of the water. The cold waves crashed into Ranger and I one after another as we tried to get the boat on the beach. We grabbed what we could and climbed the rocky ledge upto the road so we could start our walk back to the truck.
We were all a bit drenched. Some more than others. Even with our moisture wicking and quick drying clothes, we were still wet and cold.
It was a quiet walk back to the truck. We were cold, exhausted, and had just done a really hard thing. All of us.
This isn’t a typical lake. You don’t expect to get caught in waves that lap over your boat on a lake. But this ones different. Ogo Pogo must have been angry. Maybe it was all the questions. We don’t know.
But we were fine. We were safe. We had made it. The Juniors had realized they are capable of doing hard things, even when scared. I had realized i’m capable of doing hard things, even when scared, even when trying comfort those that are scared around us.
You are capable of doing hard things.
And if you decide to go canoeing on lake Chelan, be advised that the water can turn on you at any moment.