Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Canoeing to litter at Claytor Lake, local woods discoveries

     Just as there is more than one way to skin a cat, there is actually more than one way to address the litter issue. Litter, that refuse tossed by citizens onto roadways and waterways, is a big issue in our communities. And to help our municipalities and parks, we should volunteer some of our time and pick up some of this unsightly garbage.
     So, the spouse and I headed to our nearby state park, Claytor Lake, and with a group of others, set upon the lake to do some summer cleanup. We wondered at first whether to go that day; after all, the weatherman had predicted partly sunny skies and there was a  light rain coming down at 9 in the a. m. But Frank said, oh, it won't be raining at the lake, and guess what? He was wrong.
     We arrived  to light rain that quickly petered out, just as I was getting on my red plastic poncho. One worker there pointed out that there was a "lake effect" that caused Claytor Lake weather to differ from the surrounding community. The weather was really quite temperamental. In the 4 hours we were there it went from rainy, to deep, gray clouds to sunny and white fluffy clouds high above us, and the park started to really fill up in the beach area.
     It was not a day to sunbathe (though my right arm did get a tiny bit of sunburn) -- we were litter hunters. I thought we would be on land, but they gave us a canoe, life jackets (to borrow, of course) and these thin orange vests, I presume to show vacationing boaters that we meant business. We were litter hunters. And what we found was interesting: tires (too heavy to put in the canoe that a Friend of Claytor Lake told me the lake staff would pick up), I don't know why, plastic and glass bottles, containers for worms, pieces of plastic jugs, tubing, part of a wooden table or chair, pieces of styrofoam (which they say will take several hundred years to break down), and other assorted odds and ends. 
     After 90 minutes it was getting hot and I pulled off the poncho as we got off at a boat dock so Frank could stretch his legs. They made the mistake of putting him in front and me in back (am not a good paddling "steerer"), so we were also going to switch places. The lake had a bit of current, and when a motorboat went by we really had to paddle against the waves in order to not be pulled too far from the coastline. And I had to use my light orange vest so that there would be something to tie to the dock. 
     Once on land again we spied  the smaller cabins for rent. Frank asked a park employee how much they were and he actually opened one up for us to see. For $90 a night you are really close to the lake, and have at your disposal two bedrooms, a screened in porch, a small living room (no TV or  radio as nature is your entertainment), and small kitchen stocked with utensils, plates, fridge, stove, microwave,  air conditioning, also a bath with a shower and linens. Like a motel room but actually bigger, close to fishing, hiking or going to the beach. But I still think $90 a night is steep. Across from our "cove" were McMansion cabins which looked like 3 story wooden apartment buildings for 2-3 families. No idea how expensive they are, but probably great for family reunions on the lake.
      It is really good exercise paddling, your shoulder muscles really put to work.  The lake was, the trees in the distance, the "water bar" little pontoon boat that sold refreshments as it slowly drifted down the middle of the lake -- these were interesting sights, peaceful, in a way. 
    Finally, we contributed 3 big orange bags and a long tube too big for their orange garbage bags to the FOCL group, who had a flatbed trailer collecting our efforts. In return we got a free Friends of Claytor Lake tote bag, with colored letters on an impractical white bag.
     This spring and early summer, when I haven't been doing something like the litter pickup (important for my Master naturalist hours) I have walked various paths. At the local Wildwood Park I have noted different plants coming up with all this rain we have had in the past month --- I sure hope it stops soon so our tomato plants don't rot. I came upon some unfamiliar plants in leaf shape-- one was from the mint family and another was probably the green coneflower family. I won't know till they actually flower or I find them in one of my wildflower guide books. Blackberries were in evidence too, a long ways from being ripe! I love fresh (organic) berries from the woods. They're healthy AND free.

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