This year is the 64th year my extended family has been going to the same lake for vacation. (See Family Traditions – 63 years at the lake near Boulder Junction WI.) We’ve been enjoying the same family activities every year through multiple generations: competitive Scrabble, fishing, swimming, the Tuesday Flea Market in Boulder Junction, pontoon rides to see the loons, and watching for deer. This year I even saw my first albino deer up close. Boulder Junction has the largest population of albino deer in Wisconsin.
The Scrabble is just as competitive, now that Generation 4 is playing with those of us from Gen 3. The swimming is just as iffy with cold snaps driving us to more Scrabble. I still make chili and potato salad for the group suppers, even though I can’t eat either on my Gundry lifestyle diet. And I still gratefully sauté and eat the bluegills and perch my brother-in-law brings me. The supper group all eagerly await my other brother-in-law’s annual offering of short ribs and bratwurst.
The Flea Market is just as worthy of the hunt for a kohlrabi to grace our dinner tables or some special treasure. I so love the friendly “hellos” from strangers; everyone is approachable except for the few disgruntled-looking people wearing Bears T-shirts here in Packerland.
Strangely, during this time of strong traditions, something happened: we did some NEW things. This year, Gen 4 brought a new toy with them: a paddle board. It was a big hit. All the cousins tried it and nailed it their first time out. Gen 4 Dad “rescued” a Gen 5 passenger off the raft and paddled her out into the bay and beyond. The more adventurous Gen 4 adults even paddled way up the river to enjoy the serenity and appreciate the wildlife.
I admired the adept moves of the younger generation, but luckily did not allow that to hinder my own attempt at grace on the water. Unfortunately, I required a couple of trials before I could stand. Even then, it’s clear I still need to practice the return to shore. I finally found my groove in Trial Three by sitting cross-legged on the board. I’ll try standing again next year if they bring the paddle board – a new tradition.
My sister and I also tagged along with our niece, an expert thrifter who showed us several vintage stores and thrift shops in Minocqua and Boulder Junction. I had fun adding to my blue and white vintage Pyrex collection. This could definitely become a yearly hunt. Why I hadn’t done this before Up North is a mystery, as I love thrifting. It might have something to do with now trying to make room in my suitcase for these new treasures.
The most unlikely new thing we did was to go dancing in Boulder Junction one evening, for Music on Main Street. The event has been happening every week in summer for eleven years and this is the first we heard of it! That just told me we hadn’t been looking to expand our horizons beyond what we already knew – so unlike me.
But my sister and I were eager to go. The band was Unified Soul, playing R&B and soul, perfect for dancing. I still have Soul Train wafting through my brain. (Next week Music on Main Street is featuring polka; still good dance music, but glad we caught this group.)
I immediately started dancing, by myself. Everyone else had brought lawn chairs and didn’t move out of them. My sister needed a bit of encouragement, but joined me quickly, and we danced every song in the set. Bare feet on grass, avoiding the big dog turd in one spot, we boogied pretty much alone until Gen 4 and Gen 5 showed up. Then it was dance, dance, dance with my sister’s daughter and grand-daughter. Though my knees were sore the next morning, this will definitely be a new tradition for years to come.
We also explored a new swimming lake. While we love our lake, it does have leeches, and it helps to keep moving to ensure a leech-free swim. We have also driven to and enjoyed Crystal Lake for years, but it’s spring fed, and really cold. It’s also crowded and you have to pay to get in. So we checked out a free and leech-free warm lake a couple miles from town. There were only two cars in the parking lot when we pulled in. The ladies enjoying the quiet beach begged us not to tell anyone about it, so I won’t mention the name. But it is listed as one of three good beaches on the Boulder Junction website. Unfortunately by the time we found it, the week had nearly ended. It’s something to anticipate for next year.
Finally, we began a new food tradition: prune pie! Mom used to make it all the time, but only once Up North that we can remember. My Dad loved it “piled high to there” with real whipped cream. No matter that it sat like a bowling ball in my stomach for hours afterwards, we will do this again. (By the way, that piece of pie is sitting on a dinner plate.)
When our last day arrived we woke to a steady rain. No matter. What’s important is being with family. We readily slipped back to one of our standard traditions, good day or night, rain or shine: Scrabble.
For other essays about our annual lake reunion, see:
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