We wade through the shallows along the Park Point beach to the waiting boat. It’s big and white and wears a couple beefy engines on its transom.
Three of us, and a couple dogs. Our spouses are otherwise in demand at a church meeting on the Point. We have some time on our hands.
And the boat.
The captain, who lives here on one of the world’s longest freshwater sandspits, fires up the twin 225-horse outboards. The dogs settle in. The captain pulls the anchor, and we are away.
The wind is light from the southwest. The big lake’s surface is barely crinkled.
We ease along the beach, populated on this late afternoon by deeply tanned sunseekers, waist-deep dads in serious conversation, babies on blankets, picnickers. The beach is not crowded. There’s plenty of room for more bodies and blankets here.
Now the 225s are throttled up. Hang onto your caps. We cruise along the Point and eventually pass the linear maw of the Duluth Ship Canal. The captain eases the big Grady White down to a near idle.
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We putt along the recently remodeled and beefed-up Lakewalk. Impressive. Massive boulders are stacked and racked against the potential for the next angry nor'easter — the kind that ate the city’s previous attempt at controlling nature. Maybe this version will do the trick, but in the long run, I’m betting on the lake. I hope I’m wrong.
We pass Uncle Harvey’s Mausoleum, the listing concrete structure built by early industrialists. Now it provides a place for teens to swarm on warm afternoons like this.
“You have any beer?” hollers one of three boys sitting atop the structure.
Other young bodies of both genders clamber over the hulking remnant of the past like ants on a piece of Popsicle. Up to the top. Courage gathered. Leap. Repeat.
On down to the little gravel beach at the corner of the lake we go. Lake Superior’s currents create and recreate this cobblestone heaven so that kids from 3 to 80 can lob stones into the greatest lake just to watch them splash. And so that young moms and dads can dangle the chubby bare feet of toddlers in the lake, whereupon the youngsters quickly realize that the water isn’t the same temperature they know from city swimming pools near Des Moines.
Up the shore to Leif Erikson Park we motor now, and onto the rock outcroppings at a popular hidden swimming hole. It isn’t a secret spot, but you have to know which trails will get you there. Not many swimmers in the water today — it must be cold.
We take a quick tour of elegant waterfront homes along London Road before the captain turns the boat back toward Park Point. The wind feels good blowing through all 27 hairs left on my head.
The yellow dog flops down on the deck in a patch of sun. The thrum of the big outboards feels good coming through the floor.
It’s almost enough to make you wonder if winter will ever come again.
Sam Cook is a freelance writer for the News Tribune. Reach him at email@example.com or find his Facebook page at facebook.com/sam.cook.5249.
This story originally mischaracterized the size of the Park Point beach. It was updated at 11:04 a.m. July 21. The News Tribune regrets the error.