After sitting for hours with my fishing pole on the weather-worn dock, watching my bobber on the dark lake water, my seven-year-old mind focused on two primary thoughts: This is boring, and I’d rather be swimming. But eventually, after many Saturdays, I caught my first fish, a trout longer than my arm. I was delighted that my brother felt jealous of my catch. I still have the photo of me holding that dead trout, smile combined with a pained expression as the trout’s sharp mouth hung off my index finger. Once I had “catch a fish” checked off my list, I was free from fishing with my brother. And by then the weather was warm enough for swimming.

I still enjoy this memory (even though I didn’t have the temperament for fishing as a kid). Many other lakes hold my most vivid summer memories: diving off docks, canoeing at summer camp, tubing behind a power boat with terrified glee, learning to slalom waterski. Good times at many different lakes, never just one.

Recently, my husband and I went for a sunset paddle—a post-dinner idea for our kid-free date night. We kayaked across Fish Lake’s dark, flat water, listening for wildlife in the reeds. Fish jumped in front of our bows. Bats flew past our heads. And then there was a thunderclap. We paddle-sprinted across the lake through pelting rain, with a plan to follow the shoreline back to the boat launch. Then a lightning bolt flashed; its fractured arms splintering down beyond a not-too-distant hilltop—less than a half-mile away, we figured. So we pulled our kayaks onto the rocky shore, moved away from our metal paddles, and waited for the storm to pass. As serious as the situation was, we couldn’t help laughing at ourselves—here we were, in our early 40s, scrambling to avoid being struck by lightning. Not our smartest decision to go paddling with an ominous weather forecast. We knew better. But our ambition overrode our common sense.

Still, it was a good adventure, and reminded me of a chart I once saw. A quick Google search found it again for me: a handwritten flow chart, posted on semi-rad.com, with a series of questions to distinguish outdoor adventures from, well, regular ventures. “Was it hard or dirty or uncertain at times? Did you think you were going to die? Did you get some minor injuries? Did you get lost? Did you get scared? Did you get cold?” If yes to any of these, the next question is: “But did you die?” No. à “It was a good adventure.”

Maybe there are no misadventures outdoors, only learning opportunities. And lakes can be good teachers. Summertime, after all, is for boat rides and jumping off docks into glacier-fed lakes, the season of long days and bold sunsets. Out There’s annual Lake Guide provides ideas and inspiration for your lake-based recreation and travel to new destinations. Perhaps this is the summer you try a new watersport or catch your biggest trout. Or maybe your goal is to use your SUP or kayak as much as possible, to teach your kids how to fish, or to go boating every weekend. July is the heart of summer—time to dive in. //

 

Amy S. McCaffree, Special Section Editor

 

[Feature photo: Katie LeBlanc]