One of my greatest struggles when it comes to writing regularly is that in order to have something to write about, I have to take a break from writing and go do something. Not like, “step back, have a cup of tea.” I don’t struggle with that at all. If anything, I’m too good at that. But in order to share adventures with you, I must first have adventures. So here I am, freshly returned from another adventure: a week back at Truman Lake with a large portion of my dad’s side of the family.
This used to be a relatively regular occurrence (although usually just a weekend trip, I believe, not a whole week) when I was much younger and my grandparents had a camper trailer parked on a permanent lot. We’ve all grown and changed a lot in the last 25 years or so since we were all at the lake together, but it was a special kind of escape from the stresses of the world to float around the beach again with my cousins reminiscing and marveling at the surroundings. I hope this becomes an annual event and that those who couldn’t join us this year can join next time.
We had daily temperatures of over 100ºF for the first half of the trip, but we managed remarkably well with minimal sunburns and limited dehydration all around.
We’re not quite vampires, but we are a pretty pasty bunch, so the lack of sunburns felt like a massive achievement. Obviously a lot of this is owed to sunscreen and avoiding the direct sun in the hottest part of the day as if we were vampires, but I will take a minute to share my newfound appreciation of UPF wear. Before this trip, I got (i.e. my mom generously purchased for me) two long sleeved rash guard shirts (they’re from Land’s End, if you’re curious; I definitely don’t have any kind of endorsement deal, but the shirts are lovely) and a sunsuit from Waterlust, which is like a long sleeved swimsuit.
Here’s the thing: I’ve talked before about how sun protection is important, regardless of your complexion. And I know it’s easy to say “Yeah, I know, but I just can’t bring myself to wear sleeves in the pool! It seems hot, and restrictive, and what am I, a self-conscious fat kid?”
I’ve always identified with the “fat kid” and still have a lot of weird hangups about various things that I relate with that, but I’ve never been a t-shirt-in-the-pool kid. And for weird sensory reasons, I don’t even like to wear long sleeve t-shirts when it’s seasonally appropriate (I neither want nor need to feel all my arm hair all day long, thank you). But this sunwear is a game changer. I didn’t get sunburned AT ALL and the long sleeves held water in just the right amount that I was far cooler than I would have been wearing far less clothing. Interestingly, the sunsuit, which was made of slightly heavier material, felt cooler than the lighter rash guard shirts. So if you’re interested in minimizing solar radiation damage, I’m pleased to report that UPF shirts are definitely the way to go if you’re in the water at all. (They were a little stifling before we got to the water, so keep that in mind. If you’re looking for sun protection in the desert, this is maybe not your best option, but it would be better than just frying.)
As when we were much younger, the prime place on the beach with my cousins proved to be the buoy barrier that marked the marine limits of the beach. At this beach, the buoy barrier consists of several long yellow tubes, and while I’m certain that there are posted rules somewhere about not hanging on them, we sat on the buoys like the miscreants that we are. And as happens all too often with the passage of time, both the buoys and the beach itself seemed much smaller than they had when we were children. Swimming out to the buoys once seemed a monumental feat. Now, we can walk three quarters of the way and reach it quite easily. We inflated one of the paddleboards and used it as a communal floaty to rest our arms and chins on as we hid the rest of our bodies from the brutal sun, keeping below the waterline like albino alligators.
With a lovely view of the dam and the visitor center, we were given an extra treat with a visit from a bald eagle and a pair of great egrets swooping over the cove with their snowy white plumage. I didn’t get pictures of any of them because I didn’t take my phone with me out to the “deep end” of the beach, but I never get good pictures of the eagles at the lake anyway. They always photograph like the moon, so much smaller and less impressive through the lens.
That is an example of something that has improved since we were children, however. In the early 90’s it was a rare spectacle to spy an eagle at the lake. Their population was still devastated from the effects of DDT working its way up the food chain. Now it’s rare that we don’t see multiple eagles on any given trip to the lake. The increased frequency of the sightings in no way diminishes their magnificence, though, and knowing that their population has recovered specifically due to humans recognizing and remedying our harmful actions is encouraging. I wish we could do that kind of thing more often as the oceans fill with plastic and large portions of the entire planet face worsening consequences of climate change. We’ve done it before. Let’s do it again.