Joanne Palmer's Life in the 'Boat column appears Wednesdays in the Steamboat Today. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Steamboat Springs The heat from the boat dock warms my beach towel as slowly, one by one, I feel the muscles of my body begin to let go. I make a little nest out of my other towel, to burrow my head into, and with a big "whoosh" let go of all the air, all of the to-dos and all of the stress. I melt into my towel. I listen to the hollow sound of my son's bare feet on the dock as he scampers back and forth until there is the satisfying plop of a crawdad into the bucket.
"Got another one," he exclaims.
All of the gear my busy-bee mind hummed at me to bring is abandoned helter-skelter on the shoreline. Canvas bags spill over with rain gear, bathing suits, a change of clothes, extra shoes, books, magazines, bug spray, sun block and water bottles. Eventually, I'll do something with all the stuff. But first, I need a minute.
I lift my head long enough to mumble, "What's the count?"
"Ten," my son replies excitedly.
"Perfect," I say with a thud as I collapse onto my makeshift bed.
There still is more gear in the car to unload - reading chair, cooler, extra fishing rod and more bait - but right now, it can wait. All of the bad news, the headlines, even the economic worries can wait until I have my perfect moment on the boat dock.
"Do I have to be productive yet?" I murmur into the towel.
We are in North Routt at Pearl Lake - our paradise. If a perfect winter day means 15 inches of Champagne Powder, a perfect summer day, for us, means Pearl Lake. It's the place we talk about all winter long because most of our favorite memories are from time spent there:
- The night we camped in the yurt and a hungry mouse kept us awake.
- The day we watched a pair of corgis in their little doggy life jackets get lowered into the water for a swim.
- The day a water snake sent me hydroplaning out of the water.
- The time a big truck backed up to the water's edge and released hundreds of wiggling fingerling trout.
- The moment we raced each other into the cold water, losing a shoe in the process.
- The day we couldn't wait any longer for Pearl Lake to open so we hiked in with our picnic.
My pre-teen son argues with me about everything - from washing his face to his untied shoelaces - but we don't argue about Pearl Lake. We've been catching crawdads together there for almost 10 years, and it seems to be the last activity we can agree to do together. When he was little, crawdad fishing offered immediate gratification and less tangled lines. Now that he's older, it offers uninterrupted time together in a spot with no cell phone service.
We never admit to ourselves that the real reason we are going to Pearl Lake is so we can stop for ice cream at the Clark Store. We never talk about the ice cream until we are almost there, and then I'll ask him whether he wants an ice cream cone, which is a dumb question because he always wants an ice cream cone, and he'll ask me whether I want an ice cream cone, which is a dumb question because I always want an ice cream cone, and so we stop. For some reason, an ice cream cone at the Clark Store tastes better than an ice cream cone anywhere else.
We don't have a lot of traditions in our family, so I hope fishing - crawdads or otherwise - is a tradition we will continue, with or without the ice cream.
And hopefully, at Pearl Lake.