We went to the lake again this weekend, probably for the last time this year. It was a quieter trip, but still enjoyable, and it was evident that summer (actual seasonal summer, not calendar summer that dictates school and fashion and craft store decorations) is winding to a close.
There were fewer boats on the lake and fewer people at the marina. The swimming beaches were empty. Most of this goes by calendar season, though; we’re past Labor Day, so kids have been back in school for a few weeks and people are preparing for cooler days. But there were other signs as well. The sun shone warm instead of scalding, and a few of the trees on the bluffs had the shyest yellow tinge to their green. The water still held enough warmth to allow for comfortable wading as we explored an island or two with Pippin, but the air was cooler.
The surest sign, though, were the migrants. Monarch butterflies pass over the lake, flapping for all they’re worth on their journey to Mexico. There are also some kind of large gulls that come through each autumn, but I can’t identify them more specifically than that.
My favorite migration to see, though, is that of the white pelicans. Missouri is very landlocked, so we only have pelicans when they pass through at the end of summer on their way south. Much like my appreciation for dragonflies, I can’t really explain why I like seeing the pelicans; I just do. I think it might be just because they aren’t always there, and any other time I want to see pelicans, I have to travel thousands of miles.
The pelicans weren’t the only birds to impress us this weekend. We were fortunate enough to have numerous eagle sightings, including a fly-by on the lookout behind the cabins where we stay. I did manage to get some pictures and video as the eagle soared by several times, but as usual, the pictures never properly convey the awe they inspire in person.
I paddleboarded a little, though not quite as much as I would have liked. I tried out an app to track my distance, though, and am pretty happy with it. I paddled about a mile in total, but I launched from the boat which wasn’t really in a cove or next to a small island, so I didn’t see much. I did see a decently large turtle and took a very poor picture of it. Shortly after I took the picture of the turtle, I ran aground because I had floated into some shallows as I tried to avoid a guy who was fishing in a bass tournament. I managed not to fall off, so I’m proud of that.
We had some good fishing, too. My dad caught the biggest crappie I’ve ever seen. Crappie have to be 9 inches long to keep. I don’t know exactly how big this one was, but the measurer goes to 13 inches and it was hanging out the end by at least an inch. Dad was very pleased with himself, to say the least.
I only caught one fish the whole weekend, but it was a keeper. Even though I had my line in the water the majority of the time, most of my attention was directed to watching the birds soaring around the cove, so I was neither overly frustrated nor surprised with my limited success until we put the boat away. As Dad lifted the boat, a large bass got trapped on the float. We weren’t fishing for bass, but if you were going by either inches or weight, I was outfished by the boat lift, and just by plain numbers, tied. Dad lowered the lift to let the bass swim away, lest he die and stink and become otter fodder, and then put the boat back up.
We saw several more eagles when we were out on the water and even heard them calling back and forth to one another several times. Eagles don’t make the warlike screech that we’ve all heard in movies. They whistle, and the juxtaposition of such a large and fierce looking raptor making such a comparatively puny sound makes me giggle and appreciate them more.
We also quietly celebrated a family milestone, and this was the best part of the weekend. This weekend marked four years since my mom’s cancer surgery, a highly invasive and complicated procedure to remove and prevent the spread of her pancreatic cancer. Every day we are so thankful that she is still here and doing so much better than we ever could have imagined after that initial diagnosis. Everything else about the weekend was icing on the cake.