Journeys: A Minnesotan’s Happy Place

Time wasted at the lake is time well spent

People playing on a dock and in the water at Lake Sarah.
Lake Sarah

photo by Katie Ballalatak

My whole life I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by lakes. The earliest memory I have of my lake-filled summers is at my aunt’s cabin on Waverly Lake, 40 miles west of Minneapolis. Cousins, siblings, parents, aunts, and uncles would make a weekend out of it, and we would all cram into the two-bedroom cabin.  When the sun came up, it was the start of another water-filled day, and when it went down, that usually signaled big movie slumber parties for the kids. As a sunburned, water-loving eight-year-old, I remember running down the small hill from the car to the little dock and peering down into the water—clear enough to see the sand at the bottom, no weeds in sight. Those were the best summer days.

If I wasn’t at my aunt’s cabin with family, I was at my grandmother’s house on Lake Sarah in Independence, swimming and building castles in the sand, or spending Fourth of July on Lake Minnetonka with extended family. In between these family visits were trips to the beach with friends, family reunions at Baker Park, and a trip up north once or twice (would you believe me if I said my first visit to Duluth was just last summer?).

The best thing about my lake memories is that I know I’m not the only one has experienced them—lake memories are state-wide phenomenon. Ask any Minnesotan what their favorite summer destination is, and nine times out of 10 their eyes light up as they list their go-to spot on the water. “Up North,” subsequently, has pretty much become synonymous to “our happy place”—usually a destination with lake access, fresh air, warm sunshine, and various amount of peace and quiet—the best place to make summer memories.

No matter how busy life gets between work and commitments, this summer I’ve made a conscious effort to make time for the lake whether it’s a quick visit to Lake Bde Maka Ska after work or a weekend with my favorite people at a friend’s house near Alexandria.

This past week, I spent the Fourth of July with extended family at my grandmother’s on Lake Sarah. Between morning coffee on the deck overlooking the lake, paddle boarding with my sister, late night bonfires with cousins, and many other lake activities, I was able to cross off lots of things on my summer bucket list.

Sometimes going to the lake can be a hassle (anyone with little kids or siblings can attest to this) but the sweet sigh of happiness upon arrival is worth it. One thing’s for sure: Lake memories are too special to pass up and I’m not willing to stop collecting them quite yet.