I was only twelve years old when I first went kayaking on a lake. It was August 2004, and I had never been on any kind of kayak before, despite living in Florida for most of my life.
I did a lot of traveling when I was young, and at the time we were visiting my parent’s friends, Athena and Tom, at their home in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. They had started a business selling kayak parts and generously offered to take me out onto Squam Lake when I expressed interest in their kayaks.
I jumped at the opportunity – this being the time in my life when I was most eager to try new things – and after a thorough demonstration and explanation of safety measures and rules, the three of us set out to explore the lake in our sit-on-top kayaks, the warm season bringing with it perfect weather.
I remember worrying about how far I’d be able to paddle, being only twelve and not particularly strong or athletic in any way, and (though I didn't know it yet) I was already developing carpal tunnel in my right wrist. But once we really started moving, leaving the dock behind and moving out into the open water, I found the rhythm easy to settle into. Any concern for my hands fell to the back of my mind as I was caught up in the breathtaking experience of being out in open water on a craft I was moving entirely under my own power.
It was a beautiful day, and the clear blue water reflected the sun in a way that would be blinding without sunglasses. Dotted around the lake were tree covered islands where other boaters could be seen relaxing, having picnics and sunbathing. I was fascinated – the entire experience was so different from the tour boat trips I was used to taking.
What struck me most deeply was that eerie cry, hauntingly beautiful, giving me goose bumps even under the bright sun. The call of the loons – echoing across the water, both inviting me further and prickling my nerves.
Having seen Squam Lake – also known as Golden Pond, nicknamed so after hosting the filming of the Academy Award winning movie, On Golden Pond, in 1981 – up close and personal, I also had the chance to take it in from above.
Athena and Tom suggested the view from the top of Rattlesnake Mountain, so we parked at the West Rattlesnake trail head parking area off of Route 113 in Holderness then hiked to the top, 1261 feet high, uphill on the Old Bridle Path, Ridge Trail, through the Lakes Region Armstrong Natural Area.
Looking over the lake, it really emphasized how beautiful Squam and the surrounding area is. It’s moments like those that made me realize how lucky I truly was for a life so enriched by travel and exploration.
Even though my arms were aching after several hours of rewarding but heavy paddling, even though walking uphill wasn't easy, kayaking across Squam Lake, getting to really take it all in, was a unique and treasured experience.
I still remember it clearly even after all this time, almost 17 years later. I’d love to do it again someday, after the pandemic ends and we can travel again.
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