The RV jostled and bounced with each rock and bump as our family made its way down the gravel road to Canoe Lake. We were tired, we were ready for the cool lake water and fresh smell of pines and woody air. We eagerly anticipated long boat rides exploring hidden coves on the lake and languid dinners grilling fish on the fire and sharing tall stories. This was summer vacation in my home province of Saskatchewan, Canada. My dad, an avid fisherman, sought out the best lakes for walleye (his favorite) and took us all with him on fishing and camping adventures throughout the province. Canoe Lake, even though remote and only accessible via tiresome gravel roads, was his first choice, and each year we made our trek – family, RV, and boat – to this little haven.
We were a large family and I imagine camping was an affordable vacation. My dad was also a carpenter and in his “spare time” converted multiple school buses into RVs well before any millennial hipsters had the idea, this was the 70’s after all. With a fishing boat in tow, we lumbered in that schoolbus/RV to this tranquil lake and setup camp for our summer vacation. Each day, part of the family went out with dad in the boat. I’m not into fishing, but I relished bringing my books with me on the boat (maybe it was the most recent Nancy Drew or Little Women) and staking out my spot in the front bow. With the wind whipping through my hair as we sped across the lake, I couldn’t imagine a place I’d rather be. And once we found the perfect fishing spot for my dad, I’d open my book and read as the boat gently rocked with the waves, snacking on some Spitz (sunflower seeds) and losing track of time.
When the fishing limit was met, we cruised leisurely back to camp where my dad would clean the fish while my mom prepared some sides like her delicious homemade potato salad. Cooked in just a little butter and flour in a cast iron pan over a hot fire, that fish was the best thing I had ever tasted – maybe it was the lake air, maybe it was being with my family and without a care in the world. I never wanted those days to end.
Fast forward 25 years and I’m back on the lake, only this time it’s different. I’m in Ohio and the lake is huge and bustling – a great lake even – Lake Erie. My days have been spent working at stressful jobs, and we are given an opportunity to purchase a mobile home just minutes from one of the best beaches on the lake, only 1.5 hrs from our house. We bite at the chance and make the leap to vacation home ownership. Now our summer weekends are spent driving from the city (on a paved highway though!) to this ever-changing beautiful lake.
As we cross the Sandusky Bay causeway, I feel that same anticipation and eagerness of my childhood, my blood pressure drops and I sink a little lower in my seat. I roll down the windows and breathe in the lake air, albeit minus those Canadian pine trees. Lake Erie is not a secluded, wooded lake like Canoe Lake, but rather it is an enormous ocean-like lake we access via Catawba Island. Yet when I am on that causeway, I am surrounded by water glistening like diamonds in the warm afternoon sun, and all I want to do is get to the beach, kick off my shoes and dip my toes in. Our days are spent taking long walks through the quaint community of vacation cottages, whiling away sleepy hours on the beach, slow cooking something delicious on the grill, or exploring nearby restaurants, shops, and sights.
And somehow Sunday nights have become my favorite time to be at the lake. When the day-trippers have returned home and the lake has emptied, I again take my book and walk down with my chair, this time to the grassy knoll right above the beach. I settle in, stretch out my feet, and sigh. There is no place I’d rather be – I will always relish summers at the lake.
Do you spend summers at a lake? I’d love to hear about your favorite memories at the lake or the ocean – feel free to leave a comment. Happy summer, friends! 🙂