Rochester, New York City Guide
Rochester, NY City Guide

© 1996-2015 Max Lent Communications




Moonlight Canoeing On Canadice Lake

©1996 Max Lent

September 18, 1994

Tina and I anticipated that we would have less company on our canoe trips during the Fall. By September, our academic friends have classes to prepare for, papers to grade, and generally less free time. Judy said that she had to make up time she had lost as a result of the burglary of her apartment. Gordon Goodman, we found out later, was out of town at a conference. This time we were on our own.
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There was a lot pre-trip discussion as to times of the moonrise and sunset. A computer program downloaded from the Astronomy Forum on Compuserve enabled us to determine the exact times. However, because Canadice lake is at a relatively high elevation and because it is situated between two hills, we had to guess a compensation factor to predict the actual sunset and moonrise times. Our guess was pretty accurate. The actual sunset was an hour earlier and the moon rise was about an hour later than described by the computer program.

Once again, the weather was a significant factor. There were patchy clouds over all of Upstate New York. Some were large and dark. Some produced light rain showers. Should we go or not? Would we get rained on. Would it be unpleasant? These were the questions that ran through our minds. Remembering that only a strong declaration to go, whatever the conditions, would enable us to find out for sure, we decided to go. Overcoming inertia is often the most difficult part of an adventure. It is too easy to say, let's don't go.

Even after having the same doubting thoughts and the same wonderful conclusions on previous trips, I wondered if this evening's canoe trip would become just another moonrise. I was wrong worrying and doubting the moon's ability to amaze.

Being alone, we decided to be a little more adventurous with our dinner plans. Instead of eating a Wendy's in Henrietta, NY, we drove Lakeville, NY. At a supermarket in Lakeville, we bought cookies for later. We drove West through town looking for somewhere to eat. Our gamble and our search paid off. We decided to give a diner we saw a try. The food we saw being served to other patrons at the counter looked great. Chicken wings were on the menu and since we had not had them for a while, we ordered some. The wings took a long time to cook. Stranded with nothing to do for, what seemed like, a long time, we became voyeuristic. We looked at the other patrons and at what they were eating. Most of the patrons were elderly. Most ordered hamburgers or hots. Nearly everyone ordered fries. The most interesting patron was an attractive middle aged woman who was about three feet tall. The most interesting car in the parking lot was a restored pickup truck dating from, perhaps, the late 1940s.

The fear of arriving at the lake after sunset and before moonrise started to make me feel anxious about waiting for our food. At last, our name was called and we picked up our order. My anxiety dissipated as I concentrated on gnawing the meat off the bones. The wings were worth the wait. They were meaty and the sauce just spicy enough to make our lips warm. Next time, I'll try their hamburgers and order a root beer float.

At the lake, we followed, our now usual, routine of taking the canoe off of the car, loading our gear into it, visiting the portable toilet--which still didn't have water in the sink, and shoving off.

If the lake had been smooth on other nights, it was like glass on this evening. We followed our usual route west and then south making the only waves on the lake. Along the western shoreline we saw that some of the flowering plants had matured since our last visit and that others had died. Some trees and bushes were starting to show fall colors.

Just as the moon appeared above the mountain on the eastern shore we called our friend Judy, using our hand-held cellular telephone. We were so far and so sheltered that I was surprised that we could establish a connection. The signal meter on the phone showed no response, but it had a dial tone and made connection. Judy was surprised and not surprised to hear from us. We told her that we missed her company and that she was missing out on a beautiful evening. I splashed a little water near the phone with my paddle for effect. Judy couldn't hear it. She said that it was cloudy in Rochester and asked if were cloudy at the lake. Just as she asked the question the moon became obscured by a passing cloud. The conversation was short, but fun, both technologically and personally.  

Within an hour, the two fishing boats and a lone canoe left the lake. We had the lake all to ourselves. No human artifacts were visible from where we were. For a little while, there were not even jet con trails in the sky. The Finger Lakes probably looked just like this before the first White settlers arrived, we remarked.

Paddling close to shore we heard the eerie sound we had heard at dusk on other evenings. It was still a mystery to us.

Scudding clouds darkened the sky. Little clear sky showed through. Concentric circles formed on the water. Since I didn't feel rain, I assumed the circles were from fish coming to the surface. I was wrong, it was raining. Soon it was raining hard enough for me to feel rain drops. I urged Tina to point on a nylon jacket to keep her sweatshirt from getting wet, but within minutes the rain shower subsided and clear sky appeared through breaks in the clouds.

What was left of sunlight slipped into night as clouds obscured both the sun and moon. The transition from dusk to dark only lasted a few minutes. Expecting the evening of moon watching was over, we poured ourselves cups of hot apple spice tea sweetened with honey from a thermos and ate store-bought Orange Milano cookies. The sugar from the tea and cookies revived us. We toasted our love for each other and to the moon that was no longer visible.

At the moment that we declared the evening finished, a glimmer of light appeared along the edge of a cloud blocking the moon. Within a minute the edge became a brilliant white line. Within another minute the moon came from behind the cloud. Or the cloud moved from in front of the moon. It was hard to tell. From our perspective it looked as though the clouds were stationary and that the moon and stars were racing across the heavens. It was an illusion, but we checked it with as many visual clues as we could. We intellectually concluded that the clouds were the objects of the most rapid motion, but it wasn't an absolute conclusion.

The moonrise from behind the moving clouds was splendidly bright. Our emotions soared. It was not unlike the feeling of seeing the sun come from behind a storm cloud on a gray rainy day. Within seconds the moonlight was bright enough for us to see the Western shore. Within minutes the moon was again obscured and our emotions sank a little. For the next hour or so, the moon appeared and disappeared nearly a ten times. On this evening, we were being treated many moonrises. The overall feeling was glorious.

While paddling toward the boat launch, we stopped whenever the moon appeared or disappeared to revel in the beauty of moment. A few hundred feet away from the boat launch I asked Tina if she knew where we were. She did and I praised her awareness.

Three small fishing boats had launched since we reached the south end of the lake. We passed them silently in the dark and in moonlight. While we were taking our canoe out of the water a man arrived driving a pickup truck with a Coleman canoe on the roof. I helped him unload his canoe. He didn't immediately offer to help me put our canoe on top of our car. Instead, he drove his truck back to the road. When he returned and saw me with our canoe on my shoulders he apologized for having not offered to help.

The man launched his canoe at too seep an angle and immediately filled it with water. He pulled to shore and spilled the water out, but refused to permit me to shove his canoe away from shore. He seemed to be that kind of rural macho person who didn't like accepting help from others. He also seemed a little shy. We sized him up as a beginner canoer. Within a minute or two he had paddled far enough off shore to see the moon. We heard him excitedly yell back to us what a beautiful sight he was seeing. He was hooked. It was sad that he was alone.

Once again my fears of having each new moonrise not measure up to the ones past were unfounded. This was the most beautiful moonrise ever, even the beginner thought so.


Geoff Lister, told us that the sound we had heard on the lake was probably an owl, perhaps a Screech Owl.

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