We launched from Lakeside Park, which is on the southwest side of the lake. It's a free county park where we could leave our cars after sunset (unlike Clear Lake State Park). There were some big swarms of "Clear Lake Gnats," which apparently hatch during this season and used to be a major pest. According to Wikipedia, the swarms were so thick before the 1940s that people would have to stop every 1/4 mile to wipe gnats off the windshields of cars (this is surprising since cars probably didn't go as fast as they do today). Control efforts involving DDD during the 1940's and '50s killed many birds (Western grebe) on the lake. Today the gnats are kept under control by two fish species that provide competition for food (zooplankton). [How do gnats eat plankton? Crazy]
We crossed over from Soda Bay to a narrow peninsula. The wind and waves picked up significantly in this exposed stretch, and made for some unexpected excitement. On the way back we were craving some cold beers and pulled over at the Country Store, which was in a shadier part of the bay. By the time we entered the air conditioned store we were quite chilly (not having brought extra layers) and no longer craved beers, so we munched some almonds and went on our way. :)
In summary, Clear Lake is a lake with many troubles, but also many unique and interesting stories and sights. I've been craving a long paddle on a big lake, and Clear Lake was perfect for that. We did not encounter the droves of motor boats that were predicted, and we almost felt alone on the lake - a strange feeling for California. I can't speak for Alice, but I'd go back to do some more exploring on the south end!
Our return was perfectly timed with the sunset. We had an audience of fishermen as we loaded up our boats. On the drive home we crossed the mountains westward to HWY 101, nearly hitting Bambi on the way (coincidentally during a conversation about movies with animal name titles).
Date: Saturday June 1st, 2013
Time: ~4.5 hours
Distance ~ 13.5 miles