After five weeks of planning, our kayak and camping adventure had finally arrived! The preparation for this journey had started on July 30, 2019, when we had ventured into REI to look at tenting gear that would fit our needs, not only for this adventure, but future endeavors as well. Please continue reading to learn all about it… the good, the not so good and the windy!
September 1, 2019 had started out quite differently than most Sunday mornings at Base Camp. Instead of sleeping in, lazily enjoying our coffee and breakfast with our books, we had gotten up early, ate a very quick breakfast and began to prepare for our adventure. By 8:15am, the “Big Mango” was loaded onto the Tahoe and we were off to the Stillwater Boat Ramp located south of Grand Lake on Lake Granby.
We had pulled into the Stillwater Boat Ramp on a picture perfect morning; the water was calm, the sun bright and warm and not a cloud in the sky. Once the “Big Mango” was unloaded, we carefully packed our gear into and onto the kayak, ensuring that there was an ideal weight distribution:
- Two sleeping pads and Larry’s sleeping bag tucked under the bow.
- Tent and Stella’s sleeping bag strapped behind Stella’s seat.
- 13L Dry Bag tucked behind Larry’s seat .
- Dry bag strapped under bungee cords onto the top of the bow.
- Food, personal items and other miscellaneous things stored in the rear hatch.
Once loaded, we had moved the “Big Mango” to the waters edge, noting the added weight of roughly 30 pounds.
Shortly after 9:00am, we were off, paddling our way towards Arapaho Bay and the Roaring Fork Campground. Our goal was to mirror the shoreline as much as possible; however, with a few marinas along the way, we sometimes had to kayak a little further from the shoreline. A short while later, we had passed through Indian Peaks Marina, where we had stopped for a moment to gape at a recently completed home. From the road above, the home has a very different look to it, than the view from the waters edge. It was beautiful, like so many other homes in the area.
Once we had reached Quinette Point, we had stopped for a quick bathroom break, before continuing on toward Sunset Point and then to the dam where the lake is released into the Colorado River. I have always been curious about what the Colorado River (once known as the Grand River) would look like if it were not damned at Shadow Mountain Lake and allowed to flow naturally.
Side Note: Prior to our launch date, I had spent several days studying the winds, to know which direction to expect them from, and at what times. I even went as far a double checking them again that morning prior to leaving for the Stillwater Boat Ramp. The winds on Sunday were forecasted throughout the day to come from the West at 8mph gusting to 10mph. However, attempting to forecast weather in the mountains is futile at best.
We paddled into Kamloop Cove and set our sights on Inspiration Point. We both felt great, and had been kayaking at our normal pace, but that soon changed. Over the next hour, the winds had begun to increase. The winds had shifted from the west, and had begun to blow in from the Northwest, which was pushing all the surface water towards Arapaho Bay. On the plus side, we at least had the wind to our backs, which had helped move us along at nice clip, but eventually we would have to deal with the waves.
After enjoying the aid of the wind, we were near the Strawberry Lake Trailhead and the small creek that empties into lake. At that point, we paddled parallel to the waves and negotiated a small set of islands before the final push into Arapaho Bay. As we approached Arapaho Bay, however, the waves became a bit more ominous, forcing us to use different techniques to prevent the “Big Mango” from capsizing.
After one last push, we had reached the calm waters of the bay, which is sheltered within the trees. But before we beached the kayak on the shoreline of the campground, we quickly paddled down to the bridge that you cross (via County Road 6) to continue to the trailhead of Monarch Lake or enter the campgrounds at Arapaho Bay. At that point, we had kayaked nearly fifteen miles. Turning about, we headed back to our campsite.
It felt good to be back on solid ground after having paddled for four and a half hours, and just shy fifteen miles. But honestly, the paddle to the campground went by so fast! We still had a full afternoon and evening ahead of us, but first we needed to get our camp set up. After beaching the kayak, we unloaded and proceeded to carry the “Big Mango” to our campsite, located at the Roaring Fork Campground, which is one of three campgrounds in Arapaho Bay.
Our first order of business was to setup our newly purchased REI Co-op Half Dome 3 Plus tent. After determining the best orientation, we laid the footprint down and the tent was up in less than five minutes, including the rainfly. We then proceeded to stash our sleeping pads, sleeping bags and our remaining gear inside of the tent. Hunger then kicked in and we basically ate our dinner around 3:00pm, which consisted of chicken salad, candied pecans, and hardboiled eggs.
Afterward, we walked around the campground and over to the Roaring Fork Arapaho Creek. Beneath it was a small riverbed, where we had located a beaver dam and their home. Stella was insistent upon finding a beaver, but none were spotted. Back at our temporary base camp for the night, we played several rounds of the card game, “Phase 10,” where all of the hands seemed to have fallen in my favor.
Side Note: At our campsite, there was a large picnic table, but zero shade. We had to bear sitting in the sun the remainder of the day. In the future, we will be sure to pack some type of shade device to help keep us cool until night falls.
Just as the sun had started to go down, we began to prepare for bed. We had packed a collapsible bowl to hold water for brushing teeth, washing our faces and removing contact lenses; the campground provided a water spigot and restrooms. Once cleaned up, we had settled into the tent because the mosquitos had begun to takeover the campsite. By that point, we were hot, sticky and tired. Knowing that we needed to get an early start the next morning, we attempted to get some sleep but there was little sleep to be had.
That was our first attempt at sleeping under the stars, outside of our RV travel trailer. And though we we had known that there would be some challenges, we were not expecting them to be so extreme! The first challenge began with an annoyingly loud RV generator a short distance from us, which happened to be the campground hosts’. That clunky thing ran for several hours into the evening. The next involved tossing and turning in/on our newly purchased sleeping bags and pads (please see the Gear Tab for review of these items).
After a night of little to no sleep, we arose to a chilly morning, though after a short period of time we had begun to feel the warmth of the sun as it broke over the ridgeline. We had eaten a light breakfast consisting of hardboiled eggs, cheese cubes and a half of a whole wheat bagel with plain crunchy peanut butter. Next, we began to breakdown camp and pack up the kayak for our journey back to the Stillwater Boat Ramp.
Once the “Big Mango” was packed and ready to roll, we had set off under perfect conditions, just as we did the previous day. For the journey home, we paddled along the north shore of Lake Granby. Paddling through McDonald Cove, we had come upon Twin Pines Point. Typically that area is a known Osprey nesting site and should be avoided from May 1st to September 1st. With no nest in site, we paddled around the point and observed rock formations that many people would not normally see.
With Deer Island off in the distance, we rounded Rocky Point and paddled a short distance into Columbine Bay, where we had beached for a few minutes in one of the many unnamed coves dotting the bay. We then decided to alter our plans and not paddle the entire length of the Columbine Bay, which would cut out about four miles.
Paddling out of Columbine Bay, we had set our sights on Hidden Cove, which had we bypassed on a previous paddle earlier in the year. It was a very tranquil spot, separate from the hectic pace out on the main body of the lake. We drifted about while we snacked on pistachios and turkey jerky. After our break, we had ventured back into the main body of the lake, and paddled around Shelter Island, toward Rainbow Island. And it was on the journey to Rainbow Island where the weather had begun to change in a drastic way.
Let me say this: whenever you spot an abundance of sailboats out on the water, it never is a good sign when in a kayak (or on a stand up paddle board)! Once we had rounded Rainbow Island, we were immediately confronted with winds gusting between 20-25 mph. And, to make matters worse, we had a solid two-mile paddle to reach the end destination of our adventure (Stillwater Boat Ramp).
We had paddled as hard as we could for the next forty five minutes, beelining it back to the shore, while battling waves two to three feet high and cascading over the front of the kayak as the bow dove into the water (Stella sits in front, so she received the bulk of the splashing). We have kayaked in very difficult weather conditions, and though this was not the worst, it still rates high on the difficulty scale.
In total, we had cut out about six miles of our kayaking trip that day. But, it was a good feeling to be a back on solid ground once again, and out of the wavy water. Though we did not paddle forty miles, we had still accomplished what we had set out to do: paddle to Arapaho Bay Campground, camp over night and paddle back the next day.
Once the Tahoe was loaded, and the “Big Mango” secured to the rack, we headed back to Base Camp to shower, before celebrating with a great dinner at Grand Pizza. Needless to say, we slept like logs that night.