Seven days have passed by since my failed attempt to reach Blue Ridge Reservoir. True to form though, I stick with my goal of exploring the Mogollon Rim as much as I can until the snow flies. I did a little more research online, and believe I have found the true route to get to this lake, albeit along a dusty road that makes me glad I have four wheel drive.

Sunday morning finds me, finally, at Blue Ridge. There are only few parking spaces at the launch ramp, and even with it being 7:30 a.m. there is only one space left. I snag it and work on pumping up my paddleboard as a crow caws loudly, breaking up the silence.

Even though there is a picture of the lake right in front of me, I somehow have it stuck in my brain that this lake is one big loop. This lack of paying attention will end up testing me physically later, but early on all I want to do is get out onto the water and paddle. The water is deep, dark and still as I head out.

The steep canyon walls that protect the lake from wind also prevent people from making it down to the water’s edge. The two fisherman I see are at least fifteen feet above the water, casting long lines into the lake from a rocky precipice. I can’t wave hello though, as 100% of my concentration is on maneuvering around rocks and blockades of downed trees that are congesting the waterway.

The bluebird morning slips away as large puffy white clouds roll in. At least they don’t appear to be bringing any rain with them. After a couple of hours I’m feeling pretty good, arms aren’t too sore, and the beauty out here is unparalleled.

The flashing image of a black bear moving through the forest is caught in my periphery, as well as that of a snake quickly gliding through the water, then disappearing out of sight. A few more miles in and I see a lone kayak docked against the rocks, and a tent higher up in the trees. A man is sleeping in a hammock, with only socks on his feet.

The skies are starting to darken, and the wind picks up, this time strong enough to penetrate the canyon walls that usually protect all that are on the water. I think I’ve almost reached the end, having circled all of Blue Ridge, when suddenly my paddleboard hits the bottom of the lake.

I turn around, and find a lady with her son and ask about the lake being a loop. She lets me know that I have to go back the way I came, as Blue Ridge Reservoir is not a circle.

I look at my phone and see that I’ve already been paddling for 4 and a 1/2 hours. The wind gets stronger and rain hits my face. I’m going to need to dig deep to get back before the weather turns potentially deadly.

It is in these moments that one truly finds out how strong they are, how much grit, determination and ability is in both your body and mind. I focus solely on my paddle, feeling each stroke in my arms, my back, everywhere…..

Rain is falling harder now, but at least the wind has dissipated. Eventually I turn a corner and see that I’ve made it back to the launch ramp. Legs feel like jelly as I stumble back to the truck, deflate the SUP, and make the slow journey back home.

The adrenaline is helping with the pain in my muscles, and the feeling of conquering Blue Ridge satisfies my soul as only a solo adventure that is done successfully can do.

Wench, bring my ale, what say you?

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