When you hear an Echo

Before I dip my paddle into Lower Echo Lake, I want to share all the stories I’ve heard about this lake.  If you, like me, have been paddling for many years, you will have heard of a few lakes that typically have gale force winds blowing on your return.  Well, Echo Lake is one of those said lakes.  I’ve heard story after story of paddlers starting out in perfectly clam or slightly breezy weather, only to find themselves struggling to paddle back to the cement boat launch that never seems to get closer, no matter how hard you dig that paddle into the water.

Well, today was going to be different.  The picture below is the cement launch.


Several of us were camping in Tahoe for a few nights and decided to paddle Echo Lake first.  After all, it’s on the way if you’re leaving Sacramento at “O-Dark-Thirty”!

We arrived at 9am, unloaded and waited for the nice gentleman to inspect our kayaks.  They take boat inspections seriously here, as to prevent the spread of not only invasive creatures but invasive water plants as well.  He asks me “what body of water has your boat been in, in the last 30 days?”.  I stop to think, I have a few kayaks and don’t always take the same one out.  “Oh, I remember”. I tell him.  “The lower American River”.  He proceeds to tell me about the many varieties of invasive plants living in that part of the river.  I open all my hatches, he pokes his head inside each one.  I knew this was coming, so I did a full clean and dry out the weekend before.  He stands up and tells me “It looks good, nice and clean and dry.”  So, we proceed to haul our kayaks and gear down to the cement launch, and one by one, we enter the water.  Can you believe how flat this water is?  I can’t believe it.  I had been watching the wind forecast for several days, but I just never completely trust it.  So far, the forecast was accurate.


I point my bow towards my fellow paddlers and we begin to paddle along the North shoreline, soaking in the beauty.  This is a first time for three of us.  The water is clear, the air temperatures are mild enough to start pealing off layers.  We’re heading to the back of the lake to see if we can get through the channel that separates Upper and Lower Echo Lakes.  We finally see the opening, and are thrilled the water levels still allow us passage through.


I’m the lucky one as I’m in front, so I get the pleasure of the mirror like reflection in the water.  I slowly move my way forward and spot two female Common Mergansers.  They’ve been doing what I like to call “snorkeling” for fish.  The hair on the back of their heads is still wet and a little spiky, as they continue to move away from me.  I ease up on my stroke a little to allow them to increase the distance between us.


As the channel opens up into Upper Echo Lake, I’ve almost the same reaction as I had when I saw Lower Echo for the first time.  “WOW!”


It’s almost prettier than the last body of water we just left.  We continue to explore looking at all the little cabins dotting the shoreline.  Most are made of wood, but a few are made of stone.  Windows are boarded up for the winter as I imagine most owners have already left for the Summer.  I capture a really nice shot of my dear friend Nancy, who’s also one of my paddling buddies.  Her smile says it all!


This reminds me of one of Santa’s reindeer.  All that’s missing is the red nose.


We continue until we come to a nice little sandy beach with a couple of picnic tables and a large lawn of what looks like golf turf.  We decide we’ll get out and stretch and eat lunch before we start back.


Lunch is quite relaxing as we soak in the sun and enjoy the view from our picnic table.  A little breeze is starting to pick up so we decide it’s time to move along.  We load back into our kayaks and we’re off again.

One of our paddlers talks to a nice fellow on the shore, who’s busy working on one of the cabins.  He tells us these cabins have no water, no electricity and no sewer lines.  But, you’re in luck as there’s one for sale…..for only $750,000!  Not to mention you only get a 20 year lease with the deal.  Hmm, I think I’ll just visit.

As we first wind our way back through the channel to take us to Lower Echo Lake, we’re blasted with a big gust of wind.  Here it is, I thought to myself.  I hunker down a bit, look back to see where my paddling companions are, and push forward.  A few of us are farther ahead, so we stop behind a big rock and wait for the others.  And then, as if it never was there in the first place, the wind was gone.

As we move along in the water we hear the cries of a pair of Osprey.  I look up and they’re taking turns flying overhead and calling out to each other.  Then, all of a sudden, one of them contorts his body into an arrow and falls down and down and down until he’s completely submerged below the water.  In all my years of paddling and watching Osprey hunt for fish, I’ve never seen one dive under the water.  He came up empty handed, shook himself off and flew towards shore.  I got my camera ready, but he was either too fast or too far away to capture a good shot.  I did get a nice shot of my buddy Randel as he watched the Osprey dive for another fish.


We finally make it back to the take-out and are all in amazement of the lucky day we had here.  I’m thankful to have experienced both of these lakes with the conditions as they were.  Hopefully, the next time I come back, we’ll have the same luck.



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