November 10-11, 2012
The morning was clear and bright. Our campsite was right along side Upper Lake with our own beachfront. I was up early trying to photograph waterfowl. It was challenging, between the cold temperatures and the skittishness of the birds. I make a plan for later, when it is warmer, to set up my tripod on the shore and to sit still next to it, and quietly take photos.
My key to the camper was missing. Since I last saw it at Ash Springs Hot Springs, I figured it had dropped out of my pocket there. After breakfast we drive to the springs again to look for the key and to take a morning warm soak. We imagine we will be there alone in the cold. When we arrive many people of all ages have assembled around tables with food and there is an atmosphere of celebration. Children run around excitedly. People look at us expectantly, assuming we are part of this event but with quizzical looks on their faces . . . who are they?
It’s not the ambiance we want for our soak and we don’t want to crash this event so we decide to look for the key and then leave. Unfortunately, if the key was there, it was probably under a person, a table or a cooler; we don’t find it. We were told there would be a baptism here, I imagine they will use the warm springs for a full water immersion. I explained to someone that I had lost a key and if they find it, to leave it on a big flat rock.
The morning warmed and returning to the lake I was excited to get in my kayak. As I changed my clothes and inflated the boat the weather suddenly changed. A cold wind picked up and both light and dark clouds appeared in the previously empty sky. The wind continued to increase and, although I put my boat in, I didn’t go very far before I turned back to shore. My hands were freezing and the surface had become choppy. I became concerned about battling the wind to make progress through the water. The birds gave me a wide berth, quickly swimming or flying away to no closer than a 100 feet, usually farther. There was hunting on the lake south of here and these birds had no interest in finding out if I was friend or foe.
At 2 PM there was a scheduled birding class. Chris and I joined the docent and the couple who were the campground hosts. The docent had set up three sighting scopes and showed us photos of some of the birds we might see. He and the couple said that just a few weeks ago the lake was so covered in migrating waterfowl that you could “walk across the lake on them.” That is something I’d like to see! A completely solid sea of birds.
The wind was constant and the chill factor extreme. Bare hands were needed to operate the scopes and my fingers ached from the penetrating cold. Tears filled our eyes making it difficult to see. We braved it for about 30 minutes and then ran back to the truck for shelter and warmth. Despite the hardship we were able to identify a variety of birds, including . . . canvasbacks, ruddy ducks, ringnecks, snow geese, American widgeons, buffleheads, coots, mallards and Canada geese. Still cold, I sadly give up my plan to sit outside by my tripod and I forfeit more photos of birds.
The next morning on our way to Las Vegas we retraced the 12 miles again to Ash Springs to look for my key. There it was on the flat rock with a note! They had found my key but, not explaining why, had cancelled the baptism. Too cold? I was grateful to them.