It’s where we spent 10 days at the end of summer camping, fishing, swimming, canoeing, biking and exploring. We’d go with friends and reserve a spot for our small Jayco pop-up camper close enough to the water that you could feel the lake breezes or be seen from the campsite while fishing along the shoreline.
Often, my grandparents joined us with their Winnebago and boat, which meant early morning fishing trips with my dad, grandpa, cousins and uncles. With fog still hugging tight to the ground, we’d head out with our fishing gear and a thermos of grandma’s special blend — a delicious concoction made with Lipton instant iced tea heated over the camp stove — in search of walleye, catfish and perch.
No one minded that Pymatuning’s motor restriction meant a slow trek out to the channel where the lunkers roamed. It kept the skiiers and speedsters away from the glacial lake’s 14,000 acres, making it great for anglers of all stripes. It was so peaceful that my grandfather would often tip his cap over his eyes for a little nap once our lines were in the water. We’d all pitch a dollar into the pot for the first fish and biggest catch, but I don’t recall any trophy walleye or muskie among our hauls.
Our best fish story concerned one that one got away, the monster that hit my grandfather’s nightcrawler so hard it woke him out of his slumber, knocked his fishing hat into the drink and almost took his pole with it.
When everyone got hungry, we’d head back to shore for afternoons spent frolicking at the beach, building elaborate sand fortresses and moatlike waterways. During those long summer days, I learned to swim, played Galaga and Dig Dug at the commissary, drank my first cup of coffee and imagined myself as a race car driver on my bike.
Sometimes for dinner, we’d venture to one of the nearby farms and pick sweet corn right from the field. At night, we’d play cards, sit around the fire ring eating hobo pies, and do our best to avoid the skunks. Our lake life was pretty simple, but all together glorious — even when the August storms inevitably rolled through our campsite or when I wiped out on my bike and tore up my leg pretty good.
That’s what we’re celebrating this month as we explore the best inland waterways, bodies of water much smaller than Lake Erie but just as great in their own ways.
8:00 AM EST
June 29, 2018