Saoka had just completed her first day of paddling training on Lake Shikotsu on the Saturday, and Haidee and I were looking to do something on the Sunday. It seemed like a nice idea for Saoka to practice the skills she’d learned, so we settled on a three-person day-trip from Poropinai to the old abandoned (closed) campground at Okutan, along the northern shoreline of Lake Shikotsu.
On Saturday, the weather forecast was predicting very light winds – something around max 15km/h gusts. Practically no wind at all by Lake Shikotsu standards. When we arrived at the lake, there was a stiff breeze blowing, so I checked Windy.com one more time. By now, the forecast had been updated to max gusts of 35km/h in the middle of the day, coming from the south.
I was in two minds. On the one hand, we’d be on our way back to Poropinai – heading due north – by mid-day, so any stronger wind would be at our backs. On the other hand, we all knew how fast the lake could change to scarily high swells. In the end, we decided to at least paddle around to Marukoma Onsen, and see how things panned out.
In the end, we made it all the way to our original destination of Okutan by lunchtime, paddling the whole 8km more or less on a mirror-calm lake.
Along the way, I was scouring the shoreline for any indication of the shoreline hotspring that I’d seen on an old blog a couple of years back. In the end, we made it to the final destination without finding it.
Just as we had finished eating lunch at Okutan, we noticed tiny white-caps forming in the distance. It seemed that the strong midday winds were making their way to us from the south. Sure enough, in about 10 minutes, we had a hefty swell pushing onto the beach. I was soloing on this trip, so I was happy that at this point, there wasn’t much actual wind blowing where we were – just the swell of strong winds elsewhere. I loaded up the bow of my boat with a heavy chunk of driftwood to keep the bow steady, and we pushed off.
It was a busy and sporty paddle to get around Okutan Cape, but beyond this, we now had the wind more at our backs. On the way back to Poropinai, we actually managed a slightly faster average speed. I was envious of Haidee and Saoka’s canoe, fitted out with a full spray deck – they’re great for cutting out the effects of the wind on a lake.
a few kilometres shy of Marukoma Onsen, we noticed a few canoes pulled up at a compact beach. Someone was digging furiously at the fine gravel. Could this be the shoreline onsen that I’d read about? Sure enough it was. The visitors had already carved a couple of two-person holes in the gravel. The water was probably somewhere around 39 degrees Celsius. Perfect for a make-shift soak. Their friendly dog seemed to take a liking to my canoe.
Not even 10 minutes after pulling away from the onsen beach, the wind that had been pushing swell in our direction arrived. It was a stiff, strong southerly, just as forecast. It propelled us northwards towards Poropinai. This wind confirmed to me that had we planned a trip with a southerly start-point on a day like today, we wouldn’t have even attempted to get on the water. Paddling into this would have been almost impossible. I shuffled to the bow of the boat and allowed the wind to wind-cock me around, pushing me northwards. This didn’t last long, as Poropinai was, technically, more northwest of our location than directly north. There was some traversing of the wind to be done.
As we were approaching Poropinai, we noticed a couple with a small child. They’d flipped their sit-on kayak in the swell, and were just pulling it up on to some rocks when we passed. They seemed OK, and weren’t far from the public beach, so we carried on carefully.
We’d set off at 8am that morning, and now it was just after 1pm. We’d been on the water for just over five hours. During that time, Poropinai had become a bustling madding crowd. We loaded up the canoes and high-tailed out of there as quickly as we could.
Another great day out on Lake Shikotsu in the books.