My first paddle of 2009 …

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Wes gave me a funny look when I told him I wanted to get out on the lake and paddle in the next snowstorm that blew through. Then a stern warning. “I know you’re not a big risk taker. But that sounds kinda crazy. Be careful, dude …”

Yesterday, I got my chance. It was snowing and there wasn’t much wind. I told Lara I was going to take out the kayak, and while she wasn’t impressed with the idea, she seemed somewhat assured by my insistence that I would be out for only a short time.

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I suited up and went down to the dock, where I managed to get the kayak underway without taking a cold bath. I’m a newbie paddler but I’m pretty good at staying in the boat. I stuck the shoreline in case I did end up in the water. But once I got out of the cove, I knew my promise to Lara was a lie. I was going to paddle for a while. It felt really good to be paddling for the first time in 2009, and the snow made it amazing. I really wasn’t cold and headed upstream, paddled into the cove housing Choto Marina and when I came out, I decided to blast across the main channel and explore Prater Flats or a while.

As I approached the south shore while crossing the main channel, I heard someone hooting and shouting. I looked up to see a guy standing on the deck of a house. He clearly had just stepped out since he wasn’t wearing a coat, and he was pointing at me and jumping up and down.

“You’re my hero, dude,” he yelled. I grinned broadly and replied: “Until I fall out of this thing and drown.” I could hear him laughing as I paddled toward the entrance to Prater Flats. I started thinking about my heroes. The folks who are good enough in a sea kayak to get out on the open ocean and paddle through ice flows and sea lions. While I realized I’m a long way from that kind of skill, I still got a bit pumped to be a hero to one Knoxvillian watching a crazy kayaker paddle across Lake Loudon in a snowstorm …