Sunday, May 8, 2011

Kayaking a Mountain Lake

If the winters could be kind of harsh we could sure have nice summers, even though some years they tended to be short-lived.  
During the summer of 1978 I had my brother coming up from Germany. It was the last weekend of my summer vacations when we decided to go exploring one of the most beautiful lakes in the area. We loaded up my two-seated kayak, the tent and kitchen gear with food for two days. The lake is called "Eikesdalsvatnet" (don't break your tung..) and even though being narrow, it is 18km (11miles)  long. With the VW-Camper parked and all the gear loaded into the boat we paddled across the calm waters and arrived on the other side about 3hrs. later. 

We pitched the tent on the gravel beach and thought life was just wonderful.
Sunday morning ran up with a deep blue sky and a mirror-like lake. After breakfast we took down the tent and repacked everything in the boat. We were looking forward to another leisurely trip across the water.

We had gotten across about two thirds of the lake when we noticed an upcoming noise. Looking around, we couldn't see anything suspicious - until we noticed white foam caps on the water approaching us rapidly from the far north side of the lake. It just took another few seconds and we were paddling in a boiling frenzy of crossing seas, taking in water over the sill with every wave. All of a sudden a fast-going motorboat came up from the rear. The driver was pointing to the land, and I understood that it would be the only way out of this for us. 

Now, if you have never seen that lake you wouldn't know how difficult it is to make landfall there. Right ahead of us the shoreline was made up by a steep rock wall, where the waves were now clashing high against the rocks. Slightly behind us, we had a similar situation, but there was an opportunity in between where a tiny little beach with smaller rocks and some gravel permitted a land fall. So we turned the boat and were now rapidly riding the waves towards that shore. Before the surf had thrown us on the rocks we jumped out of the boat and pulled it farther onto shore.

Exhausted from the strain we sat down on the gravel and watched the surf rolling ashore. We sat there for hours until I noticed the clock going onto 4pm. The wind didn't let up and there was no hope we could leave the place today. 
I started to ponder alternative ways of getting away from the shore. Next day was Monday and I was expected back to work. 

I knew that the lake ferry would come by at 6pm and stop at a little cabin from where hikers used to return by ferry. If we could make it to the cabin we could return by ferry to our van.
But looking up behind us I noticed the futility of leaving this place by foot. A steep wall was rising behind us, but maybe if I went through the bushes there might be a chance. We discussed the possibility and agreed that I should make an attempt to find a way up the wall. If a possible path could be found, I would come back for my brother. 

I started climbing, found a few crevices where I could find a hold for my hands and feet, and finally had to make a big jump over a sloping rock. Grasping for some branches I pulled myself over the edge and were now looking across a deep creek bed over to the cabin and the ferry landing. From here it would be peanuts to reach the cabin.

I retraced my steps, came down to my brother, and we stowed the boat and the whole gear under the bushes, then I climbed the same route back, followed by my brother. Again I jumped over the sloping rock and turned to face my brother. He was glancing across to my side but seemed undecided. I told him to jump and stuck out my arm to grab him, just in case.

When he jumped off, I lunged for him but  missed his hand by an inch. I stretched out further grabbing after him again and got a hold of his hand before he slid off the rock. With all my strength I pulled him up, and we both collapsed in a heap. If my brother would have been sliding of the rock he would have fallen at least 250 ft straight down to the water.

After regaining our senses we crossed the creek bed and made it in time to the last stop of the ferry.

The Ferry, after it was converted into a passenger boat
Next weekend we went back to fetch our camping gear and the boat. For that purpose we approached the captain of the ferry. Explaining the situation he started nodding. "Yeah", he said, "I have seen the boat on the shore and was wondering about it, but I can get you to the shore there so you can retrieve your stuff".

Farmhouse in the village of Eikesdalen

View over Eikesdalsvatnet
Since it was a weekend with fine weather the ferry had a lot of tourists on board. When the captain turned the ferry towards our little hide-out quite a few of them were wondering what was going on. Could it be the captain being drunk? Should there be reason to worry?  

We were only a few feet from the biggest rocks when the ferry went into reverse. We got our go-ahead and left the vessel at the front. We hardly got our feet wet and waved a hearty farewell to the captain and the curious tourists.

Read more tomorrow:  The Farm

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