Thursday, September 09, 2010

My heart along the shores of the Mighty Minnewaska

On a Sunday afternoon in late July, friends gathered to celebrate Ned's birthday. It was then that a small crew of us hatched a plan to return to New Paltz--a town upstate that captured our hearts in May--in pursuit of some fine late summer swimming. We finally agreed upon a time to execute said plan, and a month later, just before September made her abrupt debut, we headed north. Maggie kindly agreed to drive, and DJ Ned treated us to a medley of Michael Jackson (and assorted mix CDs from Maggie's high school years) to keep the energy up.

Our first voyage to Lake Minnewaska was brief. Friends of friends had informed us of a mythical "crystal lake" hidden somewhere along Ulster County's Shawanagunk Ridge (charmingly referred to as "the gunks" by locals). We were armed with little more than this cryptic and enticing description on the first go-round. When we reached the lake, the wind whipped around fiercely and we stayed only long enough to make a white-knuckled dash to the scenic overlook before skedaddling back to the car. Adventurous.

This time, cars overflowing from the parking lot signalled our approach to the swimming area, and a very distracted fellow in the ranger's booth gave us some directions to the water (though he failed to indicate that the swimming area was, in fact, a 1.5 mile walk away). The unexpected trek was worth it when we at last spied the water and heard the shrieks and splashes. Despite Minnewaska's size and majesty, swimming is only permitted in a very small area cordoned off by a colorful string of buoys. The lifeguard atop her umbrellaed throne seemed much more interested in sunbathing than lifesaving, though she occasionally mingled with us commoners long enough to half-assedly enforce the "no eating on the beach" rule, which is a dumb rule anyway. I was initially crestfallen by the diminutive size of the frolic-zone, though ultimately, there was more than enough room for my aquatic aspirations to be fulfilled.

Jordan, Maggie, Ned and I swam around like crazy, and Maggie, Ned, and I ultimately engaged in an amazing display of repeated jumps into the water (motivated largely by my [false] claim that my middle name is "cannonball"). Jordan and Jamie joined us on the dock to photograph the antics, and somehow, the presence of the camera infused the affair with an additional element of fun. We were generally pretty unsuccessful at the simultaneous jump, since we've all got different styles: Maggie cuts to the chase and jumps in, Ned springs into the air with a grandiose flair, and I am super slow, generally calling out "Wait, is it 1, 2, 3 and jump on 3, or is it 1, 2, 3, jump!?" Truth be told, I was probably the biggest obstacle to obtaining a photo of a simultaneous triple-threat splash down. Here is a nice triptych showing a series of our jumps, though. Maggie went first, and as you can see, she's already emerging for the next round by the time I begin my plunge.

The beach was peppered with dagger-like pebbles. And here is an indication of the size of the swimming area.
The day offered a range of amazing sensory experiences: the cutting feel of the pebbles on the feet, the ice cold water, a distinct something wafting from the compost toilets. More than all these memorable impressions, there was the broadening patches of shade that hung over us, casting ever-widening shadows across the beach area. We ate our tasty picnic lunch, swam until the waning daylight and fatigue overtook us, and packed up for home. Yes, summer's on its way out, but I was so happy to spend one of the last fine warm days with these dudes.


maggie in america said...

Likewise, Cannonball! I love these photos and your descriptions. What a great day.

Jill said...

Great post Meredith 'Cannonball' Bak!