Location: Boulder Lake, WI N45°8'28" W88°38'19"
Weather: Air temperature 54°, water temperature 49°, overcast skies with fog and light mist, winds calm.
Boulder Lake is my home lake. Fitting I should be here for my first spin on a Paddle North standup paddleboard. The morning's weather isn't quite fitting, though. I bundle up and load the board in the cold, soft rain. The skies brighten a bit as I drive the Jeep through the tunnel of green springtime forest on the lane down to the lake.
The Paddle North Loon board is surprisingly light compared to the bargain-basement sporting goods store model I've been using for the past two years. There is a handy recessed handle on it making unloading very easy for this old gal. The carbon fiber-bamboo paddle is half the weight of my old one. And they're both beautiful. I'm giddy with excitement as I waddle down to the water in my wetsuit and Wellies and place the board in the water.
Every first paddle of the season brings a bit of apprehension. I second-guess my muscle memory, my winter couch-potato fitness program and the wisdom of showing up early and possibly falling into the cold water alone. I grab the board, push off, and the apprehension fades as I take the first few paddle strokes on my knees. Standing up, I adjust my footing and paddle, paddle, paddle. I'm amazed at how the Loon tracks. I paddle about 20 strokes on one side and just keep going. All the disappointment of the old board begins to fade into joy of the new. In the misty haze I change direction with a backwards sweep on my left and an offside forward on my right, as smooth as the ducks on the glassy surface. For the next half hour, I paddle around the lonely lake as I wait for my friends to arrive. Gazing out through the lifting fog to the boulders that dot the north shore, I'm falling in love with this board and I think it's found its new home.
Boulder Lake and the surrounding Nicolet National Forest is full of geological and cultural history. The region's landscape was formed by glaciers and is rich in the heritage of the native Menominee people. Today one can enjoy the many recreational opportunities that the area has to offer including whitewater kayaking, mountain biking, hiking, hunting, snowmobiling, and fishing.