Let’s go on a 3.5 mile hike around my favorite mountain lake in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia. I’d like to introduce you to my outdoor gym, Lake Laura. It took me fifty minutes to walk around her and over the course of seven years, I’ve estimated I walked around her 644 times. She is not a particularly large lake. It’s not on the “must-see” places of anyone’s bucket list, I’m guessing. Lake Laura is an attraction at Bryce Resort, a four season golf and ski resort. To expert skiers, Bryce is considered second-rate and lack-luster compared to neighboring Massanutten Mountain Ski Resort in Harrisonburg. It’s not worth comparing Bryce to PA or VT ski resorts and forget about the Rockies. The ski resort is for families, especially for kids who learn how to compete on ski teams. It’s that neighborhood ski resort one learns how to ski on first before going somewhere legitimate. It’s also great for teenagers who want to learn how to snowboard. That’s the consensus in the area if you are a skier. I’m not. I don’t bounce anymore when I fall, and my aversion for hospitals keeps my love for golf growing. Now as a golfer, and the consensus in the area is, Bryce Resort is a legitimate 18 hole golf course. I recommend the trip there because the fees are reasonable, and the course is not easy but not too hard. Rarely is there a problem getting on the course, and there’s enough par 5s to keep it interesting, and the grounds are groomed by a devoted staff. However, a golf blog is for another time. Lake Laura. We were hiking around her, yes?
I bought a condo at Bryce Resort because I fell in love with the mountain ridge of the Appalachians, and I was thrilled it was not overcrowded with tourists and traffic and noise, etcetera, for 300 days of the year. When I hiked around the manicured trail of Lake Laura, I felt like it was “my” lake, for the 644 times I walked around her, over half of those treks I saw no one.
In the spring, the trail on the west side of Lake Laura was covered with rose bud trees. For a half mile, it was a special experience to walk under the festoon of pink blossoms. Ignore the bumble bees. They want nothing to do with you. The spring always came early—a month early, compared to my home state of Illinois. On the east side of the lake, I observed the geese and ducks protect their nests. When the babies hatched, I counted the single file procession of families. We looped around the lake together, and they grew up right before my eyes.
In May and June, the turtles arrived. I loved seeing hundreds of their heads peeking up over the water and sunning on the logs. The water was cold and my old buddy, Dewey, loved this water break at the half way point.
The humid heat of July and August could make the hike under the trees stifling. Just as I thought about turning back because it was too hot to be out in 95 degrees with 95 percent humidity, I turned a corner and the breeze off the lake was so refreshing I ignored the coating of sweat on every inch of me and marched along. Now was the time to go jump in the lake. Families came to swim on the beach and lounge in the grass. It cheered my spirits to hear the sounds of kids jump off the floating rafts put out by Bryce Resort and watch the paddle boats and canoes criss-cross the lake.
Who doesn’t love to hike in the fall? Lake Laura was gorgeous. The lake colors changed to a deeper hue and matched the sky while the trees took their time turning colors. Leaves crunched and it was nice to put on a sweatshirt and jeans.
Winter was a great time to hike around Lake Laura. First, no one hiked around the lake. It was your private sanctuary. Second, I fell in love with the quiet. How quiet? You could hear the ice groan and echo off the lake. It sounded like whales talking to each other. Finally, it doesn’t get that cold in VA, so a winter hike means hiking in the 20s and the air is dry and pure and more comfortable than at the peak of summer.
I miss “my” lake. Is it possible to personify a place into a friend? How therapeutic, how Socratic to walk and think out my problems and dream up new ideas?
Where do you go for solace?