Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Lake Frederick

Once the sky cleared, the Falcon Sail drew us across the lake
toward the foothills of the Wichita Mountains.
When we got the granddaughters home, Jean, to my great surprise, said we should take advantage of the good weather and strike out again, this time on our own.  After Lake Tom Steed, the next lake south would have been Lake Frederick, so after stops at the post office and to top off the gas, we headed south.  With the wind strong out of the south, we were burning a lot more gas, but arrived at 4:30 pm.  We continued down Rt. 183 past Tom Steed, through Mountain Park and Snyder, and turned left at Manitou on Baseline Road.  Manitou was so small, and Baseline Road so nondescript that we had passed both, and had to get turned around to go back and search again.  Baseline Road is being rebuilt, but it had little to recommend it during our visit.  We could only go about 30 mph, weaving across both lanes to avoid potholes, some of which were hidden under blowing grass and straw.  The road was closed for construction right at the entrance to the park.  With such a humble beginning, we were happily surprised by what we found.  The campground was open, picturesque, and well maintained.  There is a ranger living on the property, and he was out mowing grass as we came in. 
I prepared to set out for a paddle the next morning.  It was a foggy, dreary, and dismal morning.  There was so little light that the landscape had no contrast or color.  The water was the color of coffee, as were the dirt and rocks along the shore.  The sky looked like lumpy clam chowder.  Everything appeared to have a flat, featureless appearance.  It wasn’t worth wasting time taking pictures, so I just started out on my circumnavigation of the lake. 
I followed the west shore into a small bay past the campground and ramp.  It then opened into a large bay that trended northwest.  The sky finally started to lighten.  I pulled the Falcon Sail up and glided across the bay.  It led into a creek, and the creek ended in a grassy, marshy finger that bifurcated the stream.  Stranding right there was a huge buck, which took one look at me and darted into the grass along the shore and up a bank. 
I paddled back out to the east and rounded a point that opened to the north where I was able to set the sail again and paddle/sailed up the west shore.  The breeze was light, but still gave me a good starboard broad reach.  Along the way, Ibi and I encountered a blue heron, and several osprey and hawks.  During the nearly decade-long drought, the lake must have been mostly dry, for I now paddled through thickets of brush and stubble.

Entering Deep Red Creek with a small gravel bar to starboard.
At the north end of the lake, I entered Deep Red Creek, and the wind began to build from the south.  The brush became so thick that I took the mast down for fear of damaging the sail.  There was every indication that the creek was ending, but then the nicest surprise.  After continuing to push through, within a half mile the dead growth ended and Deep Red Creek opened into a beautiful placid stream that continued for another mile or more before ending at a low concrete culvert.  The pipes were too small to paddle through, and both the scenery and map indicated the open water ended right on the other side of the land bridge.  There was one spot where a two-man tent could have been accommodated on a gravel bar, but much of the rest of the shoreline was impenetrable.        
By the time we came about, the treetops were dancing in the wind.  Paddling speed dropped considerably, but we were still protected within the wooded stream.  When we were back in the open water of the lake, however, the lake was covered with breaking whitecaps that made me glad I had a decked canoe.  I was now heading toward each piece of dead stubble breaking the surface of the water as a way of marking my progress and insuring me that I was still making headway.  I saw one piece of crooked branch floating nearby, so I headed for it.  When I got right alongside, I realized to my surprise that it was a water snake.  He seemed so out of place in the open water that was so rough, but it just floated there with its head up, riding the waves, as it remained quite unconcerned and watched me pass close by. 
I stopped in a bay along the east shore for a break and late lunch.  The wind was gusty, but once I had a break, I continued the rest of the way around the lake.  Once I got back to the campground, however, I took both an Aleve and a nap. 13.4 mile paddle.  This was a day well lived.
(Note: For Falcon Sails, see  For details for Frederick Lake, see DeLorme Atlas & Gazatteer, P. 49, grid I-10 or P. 50, grid I-1.  The lake falls on the edge of the page, so you may have to flip from Pages 49-50 depending on how you want to approach.)   

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