The Honda Odyssey is not normally an inspiring vehicle. The utilitarian soccer mom minivan does not leave one longing for cruising the open road, or romance, or anything like that. But today I was following one up the twisty road out to Fountainhead Regional Park. As it drove along it kicked up a blizzard of leaves, which were then kept aloft by the wind. It was like being in a snowstorm of autumn. An almost magical feeling.
I'm a fall foliage junkie and one of my regular outings is to kayak at Fountainhead Park, which is one of the better local foliage spots. Jim Z,. had organized a CPA foliage paddle but I missed it because of the Tourette's walk, so the next morning I opted to launch on my own from Fountainhead.
The way the wind was blowing the leaves around should actually have been a tip-off to me. When I got out of my car at the park I realized it was WINDY. I later looked it up and the online reports showed the winds were gusting over 30 MPH when I went out. What I knew at the time was that it was pretty blowy - things like traffic cones were blowing down and I had to make sure I was in between gusts when I lifted my kayak off the car and carried it to the water.
I headed up into the wind (this is always a better idea than starting out downwind). The Occoquan is essentially a long, narrow lake and so even the heavy winds weren't kicking up very big waves. Still, every time it would gust I felt like the wind was trying to rip the paddle out of my hands, and I had to duck my head against the force of the wind. I tried to get out of the wind by heading up into various coves but even those were pretty breezy. The one good aspect of the weather was that the made it possible to sneak up on wildlife and get photos. I think the wind was hiding my sound and smell, and the cool weather was making the turtles sluggish. Still, I didn't pull out the camera very often since each time I did the wind would start taking me and my kayak off in all kinds of directions. I wished I could have gotten video of a heron I saw attempting to fly in the wind and looking for all the world like he was FUI (flying under the influence). The autumn blizzard effect continued out on the water as well and I tried unsuccessfully to get some pictures of it. It was just too hard, even when I grounded myself alongside the shore to capture a moment with all the leaves blowing around.
I only made it as far as Wolf Run, a much shorter distance than I'd expected to paddle. This wasn't turning out to be the contemplative leaf peeping paddle I had expected and so after beating upwind for a while I decided to turn back. The trip back was, of course, like lightening. I was back at the launch in no time.
It seems like I always run into someone at this park. As I loaded my boat Pastor Pete (Peter H3) and Deke showed up at the lead of a Meetup outing. They invited me to join them for lunch but it looked like it was going to take a long time for all of them to land and load their gear. I needed to get home so I took my leave of them and headed on my way.