Lake Norman Fall Cruise (2016)

Boating season has no end.

This axiom was put to the test Saturday, October 22nd, when I boarded the Jolly Roger (a.k.a. my sister’s family’s boat; unofficially named) for a fall cruise around Lake Norman. It was a crisp 46 degrees sitting still…and we weren’t going to be sitting still.

Approximately twenty boats—a combination of Benningtons and Cobalts—participated in Lake Norman Marina’s annual fall foliage cruise, and we had the pleasure of being one of them.

During the cruise, we passed locales like Sherrills Ford, Monbo, Long Island, and Buffalo Shoals. Translated, we went up the lake, turned around before it got too shallow, and came back.

Here are a few photos I took that day. Enjoy!

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Boats lining up at Lake Norman Marina for the fall cruise: There were a few pops of color along the shoreline, but the day was more about enjoying the lake with other marina patrons.


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The shoreline tried, it really tried, to impress us with some fall foliage, but it was a bit early for full-on fall color.


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A view of the Marshall Steam Station from the lake.


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When we reached the halfway point of the cruise, my nephew in particular enjoyed watching the boats turn around and face us.


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Adults, kiddies and canines, too, enjoyed the cold but sunny day boat ride.


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I took quite a few photos of the furry seafarers in front of us. Judging by their able footing, they’ve cruised Lake Norman a time or two  before and were clearly enjoying their sunny day adventure.

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The cruise ended back at the marina with a cookout and a promise that next year, the cruise would be a week or two later in hopes of more colorful foliage. Green or brown, yellow or red, the cruise was very enjoyable and Lake Norman Marina could not have been a more gracious host.

..But the day didn’t end there for the Jolly Roger and its crew. We set out later that evening for a cruise up river, er lake, to a waterfront restaurant. On the return trip, the sunset was the cream on the top of a very good day.

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Fall, Leaves

Fall is transforming the piedmont foothills of North Carolina into a tapestry of orange and red and gold. Last weekend, I took a few photos of the foliage around the Charlotte, North Carolina, area while celebrating the close of my nephew’s cart racing season.

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The trees around the track were as colorful as the racing flags. — Mooresville, NC

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There were copses of color here and there on the shoreline of Lake Norman. — Denver, NC

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This was a lovely sight along NC Highway 16 in Maiden, NC. (The park-like setting is on/beside the property of Christian Tours.) A blue heron glided down and rested briefly on the bank shortly after I took this picture. I managed one disappointingly grainy photo before he disappeared.

Murray’s Mill in Catawba County boasted color, too. (I’ve written about this National Register Historic Site before.)

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Spotted leaves and a millstone behind Murray’s Mill. — Catawba, NC

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Rustic spots like this one along Balls Creek at Murray’s Mill are popular places for family photos. — Catawba, NC

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Repurposing at its best: A skid-turned-swing along the bank at Murrays Mill. — Catawba, NC

Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.

— Emily Brontë, “Fall, leaves, fall,” lines 3-4

Our Sunny Day Boat Ride

LakeNorman_Sail_082214My nephew turned seven this past week. To celebrate, he wanted to take a boat ride. His crew? His Mom and Dad, Nanny and Pap, Aunt Beth, and me. So this past Friday, we rented a pontoon and set out on the “inland sea” better known as Lake Norman.

Lake Norman is North Carolina’s largest manmade lake, consisting of about 50 miles of surface area and 520 miles of shoreline. It’s average depth is about 30 feet, but it can be as deep as 110. The lake was first made in 1959 by Duke Power in order to run the generators at Cowans Ford Dam to subsequently provide energy to the Peidmont region of the Carolinas.

We rented our pontoon from Westport Marina in Denver, North Carolina, where there was a lot of activity for a weekday morning.

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Nanny and my nephew watched a boat being moved from storage to the marina waters for a day on Lake Norman.

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My nephew fed the resident ducks before we set off for our boat ride. — Lake Norman, North Carolina

There are 82 islands on Lake Norman. According to Lake Norman Wildlife Conservationists, Duke Energy owns all of the islands and has numbered them. Many of the islands have beaches that are public access.

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The islands on Lake Norman are eroding. (Pictured here is one of the smaller islands.) Erosion creates challenges for the wildlife that inhabit them–wildlife such as ospreys, snakes, turtles, bats, beavers, deer, and heron. (Information courtesy of the Lake Norman Wildlife Conservationists.)

We found our own little beach and anchored for lunch.

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Small beaches, like this one that we stopped at, provide a place to relax, eat, or even cool off in the water if you dare. …To varying degrees—from wading to full-on swimming—each of us dared. — Lake Norman, NC

Beyond the sandy shore, the island that we stopped at seemed very remote and heavily wooded. (Translated: exciting!) I was immediately transported to scenes from Lord of the Flies and Treasure Island. I tossed my life jacket aside and headed into the “wilderness” for something to photograph. I had seen a bird’s nest from the boat and was delighted to find a clearing with a “bird’s eye view” of it.

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An osprey on Lake Norman, North Carolina.

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My nephew’s approaching footsteps and calls of “Aunt Lolly, where are you?” set the osprey aflutter and gave me the perfect opportunity for this beautiful shot. — Lake Norman, North Carolina

We pushed away from shore and continued cruising, taking in the sights and enjoying the wind in our hair on such a warm day.

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Although my nephew is a bit past the Thomas & Friends stage in his young life, he was tickled to see this barge carrying a “Cranky the Crane” across Lake Norman.

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The freshwater of Lake Norman is used by Marshall Steam Station (pictured in the background here) to cool the steam that drives the turbines. One of the most efficient power plants in the nation, the steam station generates enough electricity to power approximately 2 million homes according to the Duke Energy website. — Catawba County, North Carolina

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Blythe Landing in Mecklenburg County, NC, is a 26-acre park on Lake Norman that offers floating boat launches and fishing piers.

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This is how the other half lives: a helicopter sits on a private dock in The Peninsula region of Lake Norman, North Carolina.

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Afternoon sightseeing, dinner, and Sunday buffet cruises are available on the Catawba Queen, which sets out from Queens Landing. A replica of a Mississippi River paddle wheeler, the Catawba Queen is a distinctive presence on Lake Norman, her American flag waving and her paddle wheel a turnin’.

The sight of the Catawba Queen evoked a spirit of adventure in a Huckleberry Finn sort of way; and I can say of our sunny day boat ride that I was not disappointed.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. — Mark Twain

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Sunset, Sunrise

I grew up in the country where the wide-open spaces provided amble views of the sun rising over the Washington Monument to our east and setting behind the old red barn to the west.

Day by day, swiftly flow the years.

Now, on occasion and if I time it just right, I see the sun setting over Jordan Lake as I go about my evening activities, but generally the suburban landscape in which I live hides the beauty of the sunrise, sunset.

On a visit to Denver, North Carolina earlier this month, I enjoyed the views of Lake Norman, which is North Carolina’s largest manmade lake. With nearly 520 miles of shoreline and 50 square miles of surface area, this massive body of water is an “inland sea” that provides both power to the Piedmont region of the Carolinas and recreation to residents and visitors.

Here are a few pictures that I took of the sun setting one evening and rising the next morning on Lake Norman from two different vantage points. They are not only beautiful images of nature, they are for me representations of how the created order and human circumstances are ever-moving and ever-changing—the same and yet different as we experience life under the invisible hand of an active, involved Creator and Sustainer (namely God).

From the bridge leading to Governors Island, the sun setting over Lake Norman:

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Lake Norman sunrise from the dock on a secluded inlet:

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The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises. – Ecclesiastes 1:5 ESV