Paddling had never seemed so effortless, so smooth, the boat slicing through the water silently. I didn't notice the paddle stroke, just rhythmic and unconscious. All attention was drawn to the color the kayak was sliding by. It may be cliché, but I was in peaceful awe of the spectrum of hues encircling this lake. There was no need to rush, to get from one end of this body of water to the other, or maintain a steady pace. Somehow, I found myself exploring back bays and islands and shorelines I'd never ventured to with seemingly no exertion. “Zen” is overused perhaps but maybe I had accidentally slipped into it.
The long irregular blue shape on Google maps drew my attention last year-it was roughly halfway between Interstate 29 and state hiway 64 near Stanley Wisconsin-Otter Lake. This flowage is formed by Otter Creek, which eventually flows north and west into the Yellow River in Chippewa County. I'd ventured there just twice, both summer paddling trips and each time thought it must be an amazing place in the fall. Surrounding thick forest is mostly comprised of sugar maple-the most brilliant of autumn trees. This had the potential to be a magical place when the calendar flips to October.
I'm getting this sense of urgency-that winter is around the corner- kinda absurd, September is just a few days behind. I've been here before-somehow October comes and goes too quickly-perhaps because it's my favorite month and I have to be outside every minute. I'm resolved to get as much outdoor time in as possible, and the paddling days will be numbered-a trip to Otter was on the list.
The lake is long and narrow-4 miles from end to end, with little back bay nooks and crannies. It's a fishing hotspot and there always are a few boats plying their luck. The northern half of the lake is mostly public and free of cottages and homes. Otter Lake county park campground and day use area are located here along with several boat landings. I'd put in at an unimproved one before and it worked well for my 17 foot sea kayak.
With few man made structures to spoil the scenery, I paddled and explored this far end of the lake. Each corner I rounded revealed a more luminous view-that cannot be understated. As a photographer, It was frustratingly hard not to shoot a million images, but after a while, I gave up-the camera just needed to be put away. Images would have to be just captured in my minds eye-sometimes that's okay too.
That's when the instinctual paddling began-the kayak just gliding from place to place evidently by itself-attempting the impossible task of taking it all in. I was aware of this and consciously appreciating it. I don't know if one can pin down the exact date when colors peak at any one place, but I'm pretty sure on this day I did. I can't image it much better and from a boat, 3 “ above the waterline, I had the perfect vantage point to experience it.