After lunch, I grabbed my puffy coat and headed down to meet the marina owner for the boat ride he promised me. I was looking forward to motoring around a while; “if you can stand this darn cold”, he said, his quizzical look offering appreciation. Or maybe it was pity over the obvious struggle I was in with my puffy coat. Regardless, I was ready for Norris’s peaceful, frigid winter waters.
After some loud noises that made me jump on the cold, wooden seat, the pontoon’s rebellious engine finally fired to life. At first we lunged forward, and then finally sputtered to a slow steady pace. We traveled around the other boats, careful not to get too close to the ducks who have established domain of the season. We navigated slowly towards the main channel, exchanging pleasantries with a few folks who live here year-round.
The puffy coat was sufficient at the dock but as we entered the main channel, it was clearly time for the hat, gloves and scarf I (wisely) crammed into my daypack. Once I got myself settled, I took in more of the stunning beauty and stillness around me.
A barge trolled slowly past, the deck hands busy arranging cargo on the giant deck. I noticed a few of them mockingly not wearing hats or gloves, their skin used to the exposure of the day. Two fishermen sat in a large cove each with room enough to feel like the entire cove was his alone. Tree branches heavy with aging snow hovered over. One gentleman, leaning back in his seat as if napping, threw us a friendly wave. A few birds flew out from the shore to greet us then followed a short distance as we slowly motored down the crystalline lake.
Our destination was a few marinas down the lake, but I didn’t mind. I was properly “armored” and the cold air was refreshing as I saw the marina in the distance, it’s grand boathouse on display among the hundreds of boats and jet-skis. As we slowed and idled closer I noticed three boats leaving, each with fishing rods secured in the back. Norris Lake is known for rainbow and brown trout fishing in the winter. Many anglers consider these waters some of the “finest trout fishin’” in the country. With over 34,000 acres of water, there is plenty of room for everyone.
We tied off and I walked around to thaw, grateful to be back on solid ground. This full-service marina is very impressive. Boats of several different sizes line the boathouse, which has a restaurant and tackle shop/sundry store. They also rent houseboats, jet-skis, and pontoon boats. Although most of the services are limited in winter, they still rent rooms at the beautiful Shanghai Resort that overlooks the lake. The views are serene, incredible and as I huddled close to a portable heater with the helpful girl who works inside, I made a mental note to get some more information on rates for stays and services. After all, Valentine’s Day is around the corner, and I am still breaking in this puffy coat.