Goat Mountain (01/24/2009)
I had so much fun on this trip. The photography conditions were as good as it gets. Apache Lake has always been one of my favorite places to kayak. I arrived at the lake in the dark at around 6:30 AM. The prior weeks storms were just beginning to break down so it was mostly cloudy with the sun periodically peeking in and out during the early morning hours. Haunting fog banks were rolling through the canyon heading down towards the dam at first light. I was the only person at the lake and it was literally silent throughout the morning with almost zero wind. I started paddling to the trailhead at around 7:30 AM. The conditions were like nothing I have ever seen. Moments like this are why I kayak. You really have to experience it to understand. The boat is effortlessly gliding across the still water at around 4 mph with the only audible sound being your paddle coming in and out of the water. Truly magical.
This location may very well be one of the most special places I have ever been. I am already thinking about all of the side trips throughout the basin that I want to explore. The undisputed icing on the cake for the day was when I spotted a Bald Eagle soaring above the upper cliffs riding the thermals. I was hoping I would see him land on the cliffs to get a picture, however he never did and after a little while I stopped watching. About fifteen minutes later I spotted a bright white spot on top of a tall rock spire. I thought to my self, could that be what I think it is? I pulled out my binoculars, which I don't normally bring, and saw that is was the female eagle sitting on the nest. The nest consisted of a mountain of branches sitting on top of jagged rock outcropping towards the top of the upper cliffs. I then noticed the male was still flying around the outer edges of the basin. The next thing that happened completely blew me away and I swear on a stack of bibles is the honest truth. While still on the nest, the female started calling out with a shrieking, cackling like sound that echoed throughout the basin. A couple of minutes later she flew off the nest to a nearby cliff edge and started calling again. The sound bouncing off of the cliffs was so cool. Within less than another minute the male comes soaring in from the top of the mountain and lands next to here. After a short session of what appeared to be foreplay, the male proceeds to mate with her directly on the cliffs above me. I am watching all of this with my binoculars. My jaw hit the rocks in front of me. I might sound a little overly excited by the whole thing but this was the first time I have ever witnessed anything like this. When you combine the encounter with the remote and stunningly beautiful surroundings, it really can't be properly described in words what if was like to be there. I sat on top of the inner basin mountain for about two hours just soaking in the surroundings and watching the eagles. It was definitely a good day!!!