Water seemed a contradiction, where I grew up. In the Columbia Basin, summer days are so dry you can smell a raincloud before it hits. I was aware of the land’s aridity living on a dryland wheat farm. There were days so hot and stagnant I swore I could hear the wheat crackle as it grew. There was one reprieve I always looked forward to, and it became my definition of summer greatness: a trip to the lake.
The lake we chose was Lake Chelan, 50 miles from our farm. We went on summer Sundays, my father’s day off from the field. It’s still my favorite lake in the region—so deep and clear I remember fish darting from my shadow at what seemed an impossible depth. We never had watercraft of any kind. It was enough of a thrill to feel the contrast of cold water on hot skin. We reveled in the in-between, marveling at our sudden buoyancy under the summer sun.
We only ever stayed a couple of hours before piling back into my dad’s hot pickup and driving the steep canyon back to the farm. But something about the lake stayed with us. It gave us the push to play outside from the time the clouds went gold until the soft rustle of wings announced the barn owls were up. It sent our skin tingling once again as the cool night air settled in invisible columns around us.
Many people I know are back to the pre-Covid complaint that every weekend in their summer calendar is full: commitments to family trips, sports tournaments, weddings, camps, and baby showers standing like blocks around which we must arrange the things we waited all year to do, like hike, camp, and raft. A schedule like this set me wondering how I could make my summer time really count. Was there something fundamental I could engage to make my outdoor time more memorable, rather than just check off an item on a calendar?
If my memory of the lake holds any clue, it may be this: go toward something that feels a bit contradictory. A little bit jarring. Something that will make you suck in your breath like you’ve just jumped into a mountain-fed lake on a 90-degree day.
In this issue, you will find ideas for summer inspiration ranging from the fast-paced wilds of whitewater rafting to the quiet task of foraging for edible plants. Jump on a bike, bike everywhere, but be conscious in your choice to go fast or slow. Stop and smell the lilacs or go for a new land speed record—whatever feels new and most engaging. Rent a van and travel north with our British Columbia Adventure Guide to surround yourself with mountain peaks straight out of a J.R.R. Tolkien book. Make a side dish from a backyard plant you may have considered a weed. (It will make a great story at your next obligatory BBQ.) Contrast can be found when we seek out new experiences, whether it’s a difference in elements, muscle use, or conversation. Near or far, (safely) follow that contrast for a bit of friction. It’s the best way I know to find experiences that will stick with you, no matter what’s filling your summer schedule.
Lisa Laughlin, Managing Editor