Sunday morning, after feeding the animals, we loaded our kayaks onto the top of the Subaru and headed to Stumpy Meadows lake. Our friends followed with their long, bright red tandem kayak draped over the roof of their SUV, a red flag tied to the back, waving cheerfully in the breeze. We hadn't been to Stumpy Meadows before and I was excited; the reviews and pictures were stunning. Stumpy Meadows was described as a small lake, surrounded by dense pines, and quiet; the speed limit on the entire lake is 5mph.
We crossed the American River, outside of Placerville, and started the climb to Georgetown. As we left that small town (two stop signs) and continued our climb, the pines, redwoods and cedars crowded against the road so densely that we couldn't see into the forest at all. I squirmed with anticipation.
We finally glimpsed the lake through a clearing and pulled into the day use area. The west end of the lake, where we unloaded and launched, had trees but the rest of the lake was bare. Two years ago, the King Fire, which burned for months, reached, and surrounded, three sides of this lake. All that remained were blackened trees, vast areas of no trees at all, and patches of grass. The King Fire started near Placerville, in Pollock Pines, and spread to become almost 100,000 acres. They caught the guy who started it, and he's serving 20 years for arson. But, that can't bring back the beauty of the blighted ridges, valleys and lakes.
We thought this stump was particularly picturesque. I'm sure that when the lake was named, many years ago, there was no inkling of how apt that name would become; there were black stumps everywhere.
The view looking back towards the launch was pretty.
But, most of it looked like this. We paddled up a stream feeding the lake, on the east end, and found a small cascade of water over rocks -- which was beautiful, despite the moonscape surrounding it.
It took some work, but we found a spot to beach the kayaks and have lunch under the shade of a couple blackened, but still alive, pines.
After lunch, we paddled back to the boat launch, against the wind. I braced my feet, engaged my core, and dug into the water with my paddle. I reveled in the feel of the paddle pushing the water, and the sight of water rippling away from the front of my kayak. I felt strong, despite the aching in my shoulders. Brett was flying, setting a course down the middle of the lake before turning and heading into the shore. When I reached the launch, we drifted, smiling with satisfaction, while we waited for our friends. Their kayak is built for comfort, not speed, and they enjoy a more leisurely pace. When I got out of my kayak, I could hardly walk. My foot (crushed by Finessa, one of our donkeys, when she stood on it in early May) was swollen and painful. I strapped on my walking cast and spent the rest of the day with it up. I'm three months into a six-to-twelve month recovery and I'm pretty tired of wearing the boot. Kayaking is generally fine; I don't normally do more than casually paddle around. I shouldn't have pushed it -- but I'm not sorry. It was worth it.