Stella’s Solo Stand Up Paddle Board Adventure

Isle Surf & SUP 9' 10" Glider Wood

So, let’s talk about stand up paddle boarding! If you’ve read my (Stella’s) review of our paddle around Willow Creek Reservoir (9/28/19), then you should know that I LOVE to paddle board! When I got my Isle Glider Wood 9’10 in May 2019, I made a goal to paddle all the way around Shadow Mountain Lake, located a short distance from Base Camp, in Grand Lake, CO. While Shadow Mountain Lake is only a seven to seven-and-a-half mile trip, I figured it would be a modest trek for a beginner stand up paddler.

Several times over the summer, I had set out to accomplish that goal; however, the weather was never ideal for a long enough period of time, until Saturday, 9/21/19. It was on that day that I was finally able to have made it all the way around the lake, without the nuisance of rain or wind. It was a blast!

That morning, Larry parked the Tahoe at the Hilltop launch site, and we quickly unloaded the boards – eager for the adventure. Little did I know that the adventure would end up being a solo one due to a miscommunication. I told Larry my plan to paddle along the western shoreline (“by the houses”), turn around by the dam at the end of the lake, and then follow along the eastern shoreline on the way back. I had heard him say that he was going to start out around the eastern shoreline and meet me in the middle (at the dam). Well, that never happened… I will explain later.

So, with that plan in mind, I had hopped onto my board and began paddling my way along the western shoreline of Shadow Mountain Lake. The sun was warm, and the only waves I had encountered were those from the boats stirring up the water. The western shoreline of Shadow Mountain Lake is comprised of beautiful lakeside homes, all varying in size, design, materials, etc. And in between the homes, there is one marina.

Once I had passed the marina, I had begun to approach the numerous islands scattered through the southern end of the lake. And just before you reach the start of the islands, the water there becomes very, very shallow, which means it is an ideal spot for bird watching. Pelicans, ducks and geese are often found sunbathing atop of the many sandbars, or simply floating around in the shallow water. On that particular day, there were at least a hundred geese hanging out in that area, preventing me from going any further. So to avoid getting them all flustered, I paddled east to circumvent them.

American White Pelican, Shadow Mountain Lake

Once I was a safe distance away from the gaggle of geese, I resumed paddling toward the southern end of the lake, in the direction of the dam. I had taken my time paddling in between the islands, always admiring the beauty of the wooded, floating preserves. Within the quiet cove areas of the islands, many boaters like to anchor and hang out along the beach. They are also great places for swimming dogs, because those areas are “no wake,” which means boaters must proceed very, very slowly.

When I had reached the tip of the last island, located just before the dam at the southern end of the lake, I stopped for a moment to look for Larry, who was supposed to have met me there. Well, had been no sign of Larry! So, I crossed over to the eastern shoreline, and began paddling my way back to the launch area at the northern end of the lake. 

The eastern side of Shadow Mountain Lake is definitely more picturesque and tranquil than the western side, because it is comprised of forested land, as it is a part of Rocky Mountain National Park. As you paddle on this side, you will often find people walking along the Continental Divide Trail, which can be accessed at either end of the lake. This is a nice relatively easy walk along the eastern shore of Shadow Mountain Lake. Sometimes, you may see wildlife, such as deer, tiptoeing out to the lake’s edge for a sip of water. This is also a very common place to view Osprey, as their nests are abundant, and are located in restricted areas around the lake, so you have to paddle/boat outside of the marked areas. Along the eastern shoreline, there are several small coves to explore and park your boat/kayak/paddle board. 

As you reach the end of the eastern shoreline, you will come upon a large condominium community, and a few homes. The closer you get to the shore, the thicker the seaweed gets, so I don’t usually paddle very close to the shore in that area. And, the water starts to become very, very shallow. So at that point, I usually paddle back out toward the middle of the lake (to the west side again) before making a sharp right back to the Hilltop launch site.

As I paddled to the spot where I had put my paddle board into the water earlier, I spotted Larry sitting in the back of the Tahoe looking at his phone. When I asked him why he didn’t meet me at the dam, the conversation had went something like this: he had no idea where I went; he fell off his paddle board; he looked for me in Grand Lake; he went back to the truck to dry off; he waited an hour for me to return.

Even though I am still confused about how he had been clueless about where I had went, I had a fabulous time on my solo paddle board trek around Shadow Mountain Lake. Next year, my goal is standup paddle board around both Shadow Mountain and Grand Lake in one day. Larry and I have done this numerous times in our kayak, so I am eager to accomplish this on my board! That would be about a twelve-mile standup paddle trek. Until then, paddle on!

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