Darkness surrounded us, our path illuminated only by the moon in the eastern sky and the glowsticks adorning our kayaks. The bluffs of Devil’s Head State Park shadowed the lake as we skirted its edge. Stars decorated the sky, Jupiter and Saturn appearing first, followed by the Big Dipper, then thousands of tiny distant twinkles.
Tonight’s Full Moon Paddle was our first, although the park’s nature center has offered it the past few summers. Nearly 75 people with 56 canoes and kayaks participated in the quiet Thursday night paddle. A lone stand-up paddleboarder braved the dark lake, glowsticks outlining his board and fastened to his ankles, wrists and clothing.
Naturalist Sue Johansen Mayoleth and her husband, Derrick, came up with the idea of a guided night paddle one evening years ago while watching the bats glide over Devil Lake’s surface. After organizing their first event as a Bat Paddle, they realized people were hesitant about kayaking with the bats.
The next year, they posed the event as a Night Paddle, but that particular night offered no moonlight and kayakers were bumping into the rocky bluffs, unable to see their way through the blackness. Thus, the Full Moon Paddle resulted and is held the week of the full moon in July or August each year.
Greg and I paddled with our friends Jenny and Patrick, who were barely recognizable in the night except for a couple of strategically placed glowsticks and the sound of their voices. Friendly conversations carried from small packs of paddlers, drowned mostly out by the hum of crickets and cicadas singing their post sundown songs from the shoreline.
We pushed our way through cool air pockets as the night air settled over the lake, thankful for long-sleeved shirts. Our bodies warmed up again on our final stretch as the natural springs pulled our kayaks in an unanticipated current. The lake seemed still but if we dared to stop paddling, our kayaks would slowly twirl seemingly by their own will.
The stream of kayakers created a line of light around the lake, leaders pulling into the distance and out of sight, while laggers could be seen as dots of light across the lake. We paddled near the front of the group, maybe a half dozen boaters ahead of us, the rest trailing behind our backs. We pulled to shore just past 10 p.m.
The Full Moon Paddle at Devil’s Lake is an experience worth repeating, one which will be preceded by a very large order of glowsticks next year!