I’ve been thinking for a while now that with all these record low water levels in our hydro storages that this could be the time to try and circumnavigate Lake King William …
|Lake King William|
Little did I know as I set off this morning, to do just this, that not only was I heading towards an epic fail, I was also this close (think of something really close and insert it here) to the ignominy of almost drowning in what was supposed to be an empty lake.
No one’s surprised there, I bet.
But, back to the beginning.
One of the first routes I put up on tassietrails.org was an out and back route from Butlers Gorge to Derwent Bridge alongside Lake King William. I later got some feedback about a potential low water route which made the ride even more attractive, but had never got back to try it.
I had also scouted out Harbacks Road, on the other side of the lake, on my way back from the West Coast one day and found a perfectly rideable trail that ran all the way down to Guelph Narrows …
|Notice Harback Road – it actually continues all the way down to a hut on Guelph Narrows.
Albeit you need to walk/ride down the last few hundred metres of road.
This meant that if, and it was a big if, I could get from Butlers Gorge to the other side of Guelph Narrows, then I could circumnavigate the lake.
This seemed like a very rambler type thing to attempt, which is why I found myself looking out over the dam at around 11am this morning, thinking to myself “now how am I going to get across here …“
My Plan for this trip had been that I’d simply cross over the top of the dam on foot, as I recall having read bushwalking stories of people who had done this in the past, but it was very clear from the security put in place that this was not a legal or desired thing to do …
|This is actually taken from the other side, but the principle is the same.|
So, I had to settle for the less convenient Plan B – paddle across.
Which is where it all started to go wrong.
I got all my gear together (this was the big try out for the Surly ECR), rode down to the waters edge and inflated the packraft.
So far, so good.
But then, as I finished putting a last few breaths in the raft I heard that ominous sound of escaping air.
That’s not so good.
After a bit of an investigation I found the culprit – the o ring seal around the main valve had several cuts in it which was letting air escape.
Not a problem I thought, this is why I bought an Alpaka repair kit, so I casually opened my emergency repair kit … and of course there was everything in there but a new o ring.
That was a problem.
After a bit more tinkering, I finally managed to get the raft inflated and it didn’t sound like it was releasing air … but I knew that that could change at any second, so after a bit more pondering and with images in my head of my new Surly ECR sinking to the bottom of the dam as my raft sank, I made the hard decision to abandon the bike and just paddle to the other side … for a bit of a look.
After all, I had driven two hours to get here and it seemed a bit of a shame to go home straight away.
Figuring I was alone and that I would never be out of sight, I just left the Surly where it was and jumped in the raft to paddle to the other side.
About 40 metres from shore I noticed that the raft was definitely feeling a bit softer than when I launched.
About 100 metres from shore, I realised the raft was definitely soft. I started paddling a bit faster.
About halfway across the raft had a horrible bend in the middle where I was sitting which indicated that it seemed to be deflating faster than I was paddling. I really started paddling at top speed with just a little bit of panic setting in.
Twenty metres from shore, water was just below the top of the raft and I was starting to feel like I was in one of those cartons where the raft shrinks around you as it deflates and you go slower and slower and slower as it loses all of its firmness.
But I made it, managing to touch shore and get out before the water came in over the side.
I was pleased about this, as the idea of Newspaper headlines reading “Man drowns in empty lake” was not how I saw myself exiting this world.
As I lifted my rather sad looking raft out of the water and looked back across to my car, I realised I had a serious problem with getting back home …
And soon found myself at the top of a steep little climb next to some sort of communication tower.