Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Kayaking Lake Willoughby’s Pristine Waters

You take the lake. I look and look at it.
I see it's a fair, pretty sheet of water…
so long and narrow,
Like a deep piece of some old running river
Cut short off at both ends. It lies five miles
Straight away through the mountain notch…
I see it's a fair, pretty sheet of water,
Our Willoughby!
-       From Servant to Servants by Robert Frost

Robert Frost wrote about Lake Willoughby on a camping trip with his family in 1909. The lake, carved from glaciers and over 320 feet deep, became a tourist destination during the late 19th century. Although far from a large city, folks heard about the clear waters, variety of fish and wildlife, surrounding mountains and lush greenery, and found the place perfect for a summer holiday.

Thirteen seniors and three guides entered the peaceful waters of Lake Willoughby one warm August morning 107 years after Frost wrote his poem. The kayakers headed across the lake, one rhythmic paddle after another increasing the distance between shore and lake waters. Soon the wind strengthened, helping drive the kayaks forward.

I imagined the lake little changed since Robert Frost eyed its waters. One room cabins and two and three room bungalows, some deteriorating and others well-maintained, line the shores. Occasionally a McMansion could be spotted amidst the trees, but the sizeable residences do not mar the natural landscape (yet).

The kayaks spread across the lake as seasoned kayakers and athletic individuals dashed forward. Slower paddlers (including me) took time to marvel at the stone cliffs, observe boats docked along the shore waiting to set sail as owners, individuals not as lucky as we were, worked in far flung cities. We waved and exchanged greetings at the few fishermen and boaters passing by.

It was a perfect last day of our Road Scholar kayak adventure.

Halfway across the lake the distant beach appeared, spurring tired paddlers on. Lunch beckoned, and sore muscles required rest. After wolfing down sandwiches, our dedicated leader wanted everyone back in the water to practice safety and recovery techniques. Unfortunately the unenthusiastic response from the group forced him to abandon the idea. Instead we loaded kayaks and equipment and headed for our next destination – an ice cream shack.

After our guide spent the time on the way detailing the shop's specialties, our appetites whetted and stomachs eager for a treat, we pulled into the store’s parking lot.

A hand-written sign on the window greeted us, ”Sorry. Closed. Opening tomorrow 11:30 a.m.”

Disappointed but not ready to give up on ice cream, our van stopped at a grocery store to stock up on Coaticook ice cream (a Quebec-made product) and cones. Everyone finally enjoyed the treat on the porch of our lodge.

No guilt. Following four days of kayaking, we deserved it! 


  1. Replies
    1. And unspoiled. I don't know how long it can remain pristine.

  2. Seriously, B and I are going to look into this trip for next summer. It sounds super!

  3. I simply love that last picture. All the joy comes right through! :-)

  4. Sounds like great fun, especially the ice cream.