My New Year’s resolution a few years ago was to swim in a new lake each week during the months of July and August. That’s eight new lakes, and I only managed to swim in one: Fish Lake, just southwest of Spokane near Cheney.

Fish Lake is easy to access. It’s a quick drive, and it’s mostly connected to Spokane by the Fish Lake Trail, which makes biking a breeze. With the occasional swim diaper stranded on the beach, and constant ballooning of BBQ smoke, the lake isn’t all that quiet or scenic. But that’s part of the reason I like it, and why it was so easy to make swimming there part of my routine.

Growing up, regional lakes were so muddy they could suck the shoes off your feet, and algae blooms added a greenish slime to the surfaces. So I competed with the whole Eastern Seaboard for beach towel real estate. The Jersey Shore was always mobbed with weekenders working on their tans. Thanks to boardwalk shops and amusement parks, the cities people left behind never felt far away. 

That is, unless you navigated the hot sand, past the used condoms and hypodermic needles, and waded into the murky waters and jellyfish blooms.

Bobbing around in water, even if the equivalent of the entire population of Wenatchee is scorching their skin on beach blankets behind you, washes something away. It pulls your mind into a new place. It makes you feel buoyant and cooler and free. 

Sharing Fish Lake felt similar. I liked feeling the families and irreverent teenagers around me on the shore as I pushed off the bottom and started to swim.

There’s also something to be said for a routine. Having a practiced plan in place makes it easier to get out and do things in a busy world. I didn’t follow through on my New Years resolution, but I did establish my pattern of going to Fish Lake—so much so that I found myself going there that summer whenever I needed to clear my head and shake a few things out. 

And sometimes even a familiar place can surprise you. I remember driving out to Fish Lake so I could have a body of water to jump in after a short but very hot run. I ran the adjacent trail for a couple of miles then turned around and ran back, wiping sunscreen and salty sweat from my watering eyes. Relieved to be back by the water’s edge, I ditched my shoes, hat, and sunglasses and started wading out. Before me an enormous inflatable unicorn glided across the surface of the lake. The dreamlike sequence continued as I heard my name. 

“Summer!” the voice called. 

I squinted into the sun and saw two former colleagues captaining the unicorn, surrounded by coolers and snacks. “Would you like a beer?” they asked.

“Oh, hell yeah,” I responded. I stayed in the water long enough to cool down then performed a belly-flop boarding of the fantastical vessel. We chatted, ate salty foods, and sipped beers for the next two hours. It was my favorite swim of the season.

Cheers to all the lake trips this summer, both spontaneous and planned, whether you visit as many lakes as possible or travel over and over again to the same special one.