Summary: The Apache Hills launch is a large, clean ramp at the back of a neighborhood along the shores of a flood-ravaged Lake Somerville. It’s a popular spot for the friendly locals. The cove makes for a nasty paddle when the wind kicks up, but you can access some creeks and shoreline at the mouth of the cove for a sheltered paddle. Wildlife was surprisingly quiet when I went in mid-spring, but the scenery was beautiful when the sun saw fit to shine through moody clouds.
I’ve often overlooked Lake Somerville as a paddling destination due to what appears to be a lack of cover if it’s viewed from Google Maps. There is a lot of open water, but not much cover. Mother Nature made me the fool when I put this hypothesis to the test on April Fools’ Day in 2017.
I launched from the Apache Hills ramp at dawn on a day with heavy thunderstorms and 20 mph winds projected for the afternoon. Wind was blowing straight up the cove from the southeast, but the waves weren’t quite breaking and it was easy enough to manage with fresh, well-rested arms.
The most striking feature of the cove was the amount of dead trees. Everywhere they sprawled upwards, trying in vain to reach the sky, testament to the massive spring floods the year prior. The shores of Somerville are a graveyard for a forest destroyed by the might of nature. Together with ominous clouds they created a haunting atmosphere that had me second-guessing my safety on such a poorly-forecasted day.
Two creeks are accessible from the cove, and they provided impeccable wind cover for a pleasant paddle. The water was like glass as I wound up Big Creek, and the surrounding fields overwhelmed me with greenery when the sun came out mid-morning.
Wildlife was surprisingly scarce save for buzzards and some fish. I was, however, rewarded with my first wild otter sighting. They observed me from a distance and loudly chattered to one another as I approached. After a few moments they were gone again, and I was left alone to ponder the loneliness of the creek and the adjacent fields. Oh, and some country folk were shooting off guns in the distance. There was that.
As I left the shelter of the creek to head back to the ramp I had a big surprise – those 20 mph winds had come in and were blowing directly into my face! It took ten minutes of an all-out sprint to cross a quarter mile of open water. I lost ground when my paddling slowed without my realizing it. Waves crashed over my gunwales. To make things worse, I had an audience of about 20 locals fishing on my destination shore who got to laugh at the nutter that embarked on a kayak on such a windy day. One even commented to me that for a few minutes it looked like I was sitting still despite all my effort!
The Apache Hills ramp has a lot of space that was mostly empty when I showed up. Many locals showed up during the morning with their families to hang out while their lines got wet (they agreed that they could hardly call it fishing). They were all friendly and talkative, and after meeting such a group I felt safe about leaving my truck at the launch.