Heading west and south, we pass Canada geese and great blue herons on the hunt. We round the side of the Tom Jones Memorial R/C Flying Field (and home to a family of foxes). I still remember the day that Tom Jones took his last flight in Oklahoma. Do the kids with remote controls in hand know who he was? They play on his field, never realizing that another anniversary of his end approaches. Regardless, his legacy still takes to the skies in the field with his name. As the daughter of a pilot, I can't forget.
Across from the fishing pier, killdeer babies run like fuzzy ping-pong balls on stilts. Mallard families take turns sharing responsibility for the young ones. We pass the marina, where thousands of cliff swallows emerge to clear the air of mosquitoes. The recent drought leaves plenty of clearance to take our thin boats under the docks and see the busy parents filling the open mouths. We wonder at their bravery to attempt their first flight over water.
Ahead of us, the water is rushing in from Lake Overholser through the canal. A little higher, and the water will connect to the shallow bird sanctuary on the other side of the fishermen. Eight types of egrets and herons reside there, as well as beavers, snakes, songbirds, raccoons, and cormorants. The blackbirds guard their nests in every willow. Flimsy starbursts of straight branches make up the nests of the green heron. Their nervous, awkward ways entertain us. Rarely-seen migrating species rest and refuel in this area.
See the dark birds with thin, bent beaks? These few are the last hold-out from a group of 20 or 30 white-faced ibises that came through last month. The visitors revolve with the daylight, and each season I spot something I've never before seen.
Jetted ahead by the influx of water, we approach the shallow southwest corner of the lake. Coots run on top of the water and small fish jump in our boats. The sides boil with spawning catfish. Let's follow the dam around and search for mink in the rocks. Yes, there are mink here. The runners and cyclists may never see them, but ask the fishermen that sit quietly. The water tower still proudly brags about the '89 Olympics held here.
Windsurfers and kiteboarders catch the abundant air on the northeast side of the water. Our small boats become a rodeo when we turn into the summer wind. There is the Lego-like lighthouse to our left. Smoky gray cats mingle with siamese by the boat docks. See the left ear, missing the tip? These cats are part of a large colony, fed and neutered by volunteers. We splash past the row of restaurants, promising to come back after dark and listen on the water to the one-man bands playing the patios, or The Wise Guys playing covers to all ages on the lawn at Louie's.
Further south, beavers are changing the landscape. It snows with cottonwoods, fighting to reseed. Pubescent geese mingle with the ducks, looking for a free meal by Stars and Stripes. The park has a new face, complete with viewing scopes by the flagpole - ruining the days of losing layers and tanlines midweek in the center of the lake.
OKC Kayak to continue to bring boats and their experience for others to enjoy on the waters of Lake Hefner. On the far side are remnants of a pier by funky, teepee-like shades. Remember these landmarks when we return after dark, they will guide us back to the shore.
This completes your kayak tour of Lake Hefner, as our paddles dip in the mud at Hobie. Feel free to stay a while. Park your chair in the sand, open a bottle of wine, and enjoy front-row seats to a no-special-glasses-needed 3-D theater for another rich, Oklahoma sunset.