It was September of 2009 and the Aussie on the Road was in love.
I’d touched down in the United States at the very tail end of summer and had celebrated six months with the girl I was seeing by sipping Widmer Brothers Hefeweizen and eating deep fat fried feta at the White House in Post Falls, Washington.
The following day, with my jet-lag from the 17 hour flight from South Korea behind me, we woke to a beautiful fall morning and my girlfriend at the time took me to see my first real lake up close and personal.
Do we have lakes in Australia?
Yes and no. I grew up spending my summers on the seaweed strewn shores of Lake Macquarie and have vivid recollections of childhood camping vacations on the shores of the sometimes completely dry Lake Menindee.
But to say I was moved by my first encounter with the shores of Lake Coeur D’Alene or that I was absolutely awestruck when I stood on the deck looking out over Hayden Lake is an understatement.
I’d seen the ocean more times than I could ever hope to count. But there was something amazing and almost terrifying about this vast body of cold, clear water. Unlike the beaches I’d grown up exploring, this was something immediately deep and mysterious. The shore wasn’t soft sand or beachside cafes – but pine covered mountains rising steeply on all sides.
I was immediately put in mind of Stephen King and his descriptions of lakes in stories like The Mist or Bag of Bones. There were no sharks or crocodiles or box jellyfish lurking beneath those eerily still waters, but I felt a strange chill as I gingerly walked towards the diving board that jutted out over the dark blue of the lake.
It might not be evident in the video below that I was quite shaken by the experience. The moment passed with the first startling moment underneath those ice cold waters. You can see that moment below.
After I pulled myself up that ladder and savored the warm kiss of the sun on my goose-bumped flesh, I went straight back in.
Later that day I’d recline in a tube with a Cherry Dr. Pepper in one hand and a handful of home-made Chex mix in the other. I looked up at the azure sky and listened to the way the increasingly cool autumn breeze stirred the pines and made the ropes tethering us to the deck creak.
I didn’t get another chance to swim in a lake before I left the States. The days grew colder and soon there would be snow dusting the lawn of Fallon’s family home. But I still remember that warm fall day fondly and recall the dueling feelings of fear and exhileration as I threw myself off of the diving board and into the waters of Hayden Lake.
I hope someday, somewhere – I’ll get the chance to rekindle my brief love affair with lakes. They’re something most Australians will never really experience or truly appreciate.