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Sara Harelson

I’m Sara! I’m 21, a senior in college, and a journalism major.  I love to read, write, travel, and listen to music.  I’m always on to my next adventure.

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My lone float on Watson Lake

Text and Photos by Sara Harelson

Being completely alone is something hard to come by lately. As I pulled into the parking lot at Watson Lake in Prescott, Arizona, I realized that is exactly what I was. 

Alone. 

It was 6:30 a.m. and the flood of tourists and locals alike that frequent this gem, hadn’t begun yet. I had paid the three-dollar entry fee and sat in my car gathering my things before I began my adventurous morning. In the early morning, on this particular lake, being alone wasn’t unsettling or uncomfortable to me. The air was crisp and the only sound was the occasional cry of a bird or an insect buzzing by my ear. I was too early to rent a kayak so I set off on the Watson Lake Loop Trail with my camelback and camera in hand.  I slipped in my earphones and almost immediately, Sam Cooke began to croon in my ears, “I was born by the river…” It seemed fitting.

By 7:15 a.m. there were five kayakers out on the water. I caught glimpses of them through the overgrown trees and ring of small sunflowers that lined the lake. The cool air coming off the lake sent a shiver down my arms so I pulled my sweatshirt over my head in order to keep warm. The roughly five mile trail weaves up and back, over magnificent rock formations that sit in and on the lake, forming the barrier that keeps the water in. Besides a few lone bikers, I continued on wonderfully alone. When I finally made it around the first major bend and observed the red and brown rock formations of Prescott in front of me, I understood why this place is so well liked by boaters, hikers and bikers alike. 



It was breathtaking. 

I wound my way around these ancient rock formations and eventually dropped down on the backside, into what looked like a marsh. I could hear running water and pushed forward, searching for the source. I came to the dam holding the reservoir in, and saw a cascading of water, pouring out of the opening. Due to the large amount of rain the region had just gotten, the water levels were high and the reservoir full, so the steady gushing of water continued. I crossed a small, man-made bridge and made my way back to the parking lot and kayak rental.



The hike had taken me a about two hours and when I finally rented my kayak it was nine a.m. At this hour, I could look out onto the lake and count more than 20 kayakers and paddle boarders enjoying the now warm weather and gorgeous scenery. For only 15 dollars I clipped on a lifejacket and hit the water in a tiny yellow kayak. I asked the young man renting them if he had any suggestions on where to head so he pointed me to the right of the small rock formation in the middle of the lake and said due to high water level I could explore some inlets on the coast.

Although there were other people out on the water, the lake is large enough that you only catch the faint noises of their chatter. Mostly, I only heard the slap of the water as I paddled out and the buzz of what seemed like thousands of dragonflies.

The dragonflies were spectacular. They came in the colors of burnt orange, fiery red and even pitch black with white wing tips. They would catch the breeze and almost float on the water, drifting back and forth over my head. When I stopped paddling for a minute, one or two of the dragonflies would get brave and dive towards my kayak, nearly grazing me with their delicate wings. 

I completely lost track of time as I floated in and out of inlets, winding my way around the lake. I startled a group of three egrets basking in the sun. They unfolded their large wings and flew across the water. I followed them into another secluded area and simply lay back in the sun and basked along with them. For a moment I almost felt a part of the group. 



It was finally time to make my way back to the dock. I took a moment to bask in the sheer beauty of the reflections of the massive rock structures on the water and how even with all of the people out on the water with me, I could feel so alone with myself. 

I couldn’t think of a recent time where I had felt more at peace and more in tune with the natural world around me. I took a deep breath. I was lucky to be here.

Sad to leave but sunburned and smelling of sweat, I hoisted myself out of the kayak and back onto dry land.  I had been out on the water a little over two hours yet it felt like only a few minutes had gone by.  The only way I knew any time had passed at all was the length of the shadows elongating on the almost glass-like surface of the water.

I packed up my bag and headed back down towards the main road and back to the bustle of the real world. It’s days like these that inspire the adventurer in me. The pursuit of true beauty and the way being alone in nature makes me feel.

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