swimming snapping turtle
Sunday, August 12 2012
location: southwest corner of Lake Edward, Fulton County, New York
This morning before Gretchen was even up, I kayaked out to the southwest coast of Lake Edward to see what was there. I found yet another makeshift boat landing (43.11621N, 74.362282W), the kind with a number of boats, firepits, and stray beer cans but no permanent structures. It seemed to have a trail leading inland from it that might be worth exploring.
I paddled back to the house through smooth glassy water, the calmness of which made every occurrence on its surface broadcast ripples like a beacon. I saw a black object sticking out of the water maybe a half inch, but then it disappeared and was soon replaced by another such object of similar size. So I paddled up to see what it was and was amazed to see a full-grown Snapping Turtle slowly swimming across the lake. I'd figured there would be Snapping Turtles in this lake, but I didn't expect to see them out in open water. Later when I told Gretchen about the turtle, it gave her the heebeejeebees; now she was concerned about running into one while swimming. This seemed unlikely, and even if it happened I doubt a turtle bumped into in this way would lash out aggressively.
When Gretchen got up, she and I took Eleanor and Ramona on a walk on a dirt road that took us past the northeast corner of the lake to a dead end. There was nothing interesting about the forest this road went through, though occasionally there would be driveways leading down to the lake. Some had built impressive structures, including a Victorian revival mansion complete with two turrets and a dual-floor wrap-around porch (43.121668N, 74.361563W). Beyond that (43.122578N, 74.360517W) was a dense sprawling compound of cabins where Ramona and Eleanor quickly got into a tangle with an unseen dog, but we managed to call them back before anything bad happened.
Back at the house, I decided to see if it was possible for me to take Ramona out on the lake all by myself in the canoe. So I loaded her up and set off, and it went well. I only took her a short distance, to the spillway of a small dam that been built to raise the level of the lake (43.117998N, 74.368763W). Owing to the ongoing Epic American Drought of 2012, the lake's level wasn't high enough to reach the spillway; evidently all the water entering it from its tributaries was being balanced by evaporation (and perhaps a little seepage). Ramona and I got out and walked around despite the no trespassing signs, and soon we were joined by Gretchen, who arrived by kayak. Ramona was surprisingly agreeable when it came time to get back into the canoe and paddle back home.
Our house came with an expansive well-maintained lawn. Though large patches of it had turned brown from drought, the part that was alive was thick and plushy, perfect for lying upon and leisurely reading. I'm still reading that book Chaos by James Gleick, which is actually more about fractals than it is about disorder. With my mind in the pop-cultural version of the Mandelbrot brainspace, I realized that one of the things that is compelling about a lake is that it is a self-contained two-dimensional universe within a two-dimensional multiverse curved to fit on the three-dimensional sphere of the Earth. Exploring a small lake in a kayak is like exploring the Star Trek universe in the Starship Enterprise. One can impulsively set a course and go, look around, learn some things, and then return home in time for dinner.
In the case of tonight, dinner was a vegan cheeseless frozen pizza from Trader Joes that Gretchen heated up and decorated with oven-roasted tomatoes from our garden. It was delicious.
As darkness approached, Gretchen and I went on a kayak paddle out into the center of the lake, though as we returned we heard our dogs barking at one of the neighbors who was trying to land his battery-powered boat (evidently gasoline-powered boats are forbidden on the lake, though everybody but us seemed to be using electric boats). We hollered at our dogs and managed to get them to stop marauding the neighbor and join us at the landing. It was clear at this point that our dogs weren't to be trusted by themselves while we were out on the water.
Me skinny dipping while Ramona looks on.
Paddling the canoe with Ramona on board.
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