When I want to get away
The sunlight is stretching farther into the day, and the air is showing signs of the warming up. I hear the lyrics of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band song “Fishing in the Dark” running through my head.
“Crickets are singing and the lightning bugs are floatin’ on the breeze,” and I think of that special place – you know the one they tell you to visualize when you are feeling stressed. For me, it’s Harlan County Lake.
I see our new lifejackets sitting on the counter in my laundry room, reminding me that it’s almost time. Time to lather on the sunscreen, grab my Kindle and magazines and spend some time with family and friends at my favorite summer destination.
It’s my special place. I picture myself sitting on the breezy shore on a wooden picnic table in the early morning, smelling the fresh lake water mixed in with a few whiffs of smoldering campfire wood from the night before.
Harlan County Lake doesn’t have white sand beaches and deep blue water like the oceans of Florida or the beaches of Mexico, but it has 75 miles of shore line stretching 9 miles, which is a massive amount of water for fishing, water skiing, tubing, paddle boarding, sailing or kayaking. And, it’s only a quick 30-minute drive from my home.
Social or serene – the lake’s got both
The quiet family campgrounds at Harlan’s Methodist Cove hold some of my favorite memories. I camped there every year with my family as a child and am now giving my children the same experiences. With its wide open spaces, Methodist Cove provides plenty of space for Frisbee, baseball, washer toss, horseshoes and ladder ball. The sand area near the playground provides endless hours of entertainment for the kids as they build elaborate sand cities, complete with mini rivers and lakes of their own.
The bustling and busy cabin and camping areas at North Shore, Hunter’s Cove and Patterson Harbor have that college Spring Break feel on the busy summer holiday weekends – perfect when I feel like socializing. But, those areas are quieter and more serene during the week. On our June wedding anniversary, my husband and I often stay with our good friends Steve and Debbie Dornhoff at Blue Sky Cabins at Patterson Harbor. Steve’s carpentry skills have been a blessing to the old cabins as he has carefully remodeled each one inside and out over the past few years. Boat and paddle board rentals are also available at Patterson Harbor.
One of our favorite family activities at Harlan is the scenic 6-mile bike trail (you could also run or walk the trail) that stretches from Methodist Cove to Alma. The trail meanders along the shore of Harlan County Lake through a variety of landscapes, from open meadows to lush areas thick with trees. A good mix of small hills provide a decent challenge for any bicycler.
The trail is just right for families with middle-aged children (ours have completed the trail since about age 8). We enter the trail at the Methodist campground and ride the three miles to the white gazebo just east of the Highway 183 bridge in Alma. We take a quick rest to enjoy the lake view and then turn around and pedal back. No headphones are needed on this trail as it’s the perfect time to enjoy the sounds of nature and the birds, bugs and other small wildlife along the trail.
The lyrics continue in my head as I anticipate another season of fun and family memories at “The Lake.”
“And, it don’t matter if we sit forever and the fish don’t bite.” That’s right because, for me, fishing isn’t about the fish. It’s just another excuse to enjoy the lake and the people with me at the lake!
For more information
Harlan County Lake, harlantourism.org
Blue Sky Cabins, Patterson Harbor blueskycabinsatharlan.com
Patterson Harbor Marina, pattersonharbor.com
North Shore Marina, harlanlake.com/northshore