“Catching anything?”I called out to a couple fishing from their boat, drifting by our dock.

“Not yet,” the woman replied. “But it sure is nice to be on the lake.”

“Enjoy!” I said.

Ah! Life at Lake James, I thought with a smile as I waved goodbye and turned back to help my husband with dock repairs.

There is much to enjoy at Lake James. Popular for fishing, boating and swimming, its breathtaking scenic beauty is what you notice first. Clean water splashes up as your boat slices through the water. Surrounded by lush green trees and stately mountains, the views at Lake James draw your eyes up to Carolina blue skies. Beautiful.

Lakes have been a favorite place for me for a long time. I remember visiting my grandparents’ house at Conneaut Lake in northwestern Pennsylvania as a young girl. My sister and I stayed for two weeks each summer without my parents. The beauty of the lake, the sun shimmering on the water, the waves and the breeze are deeply etched memories. Each day we walked down to the lake shore to swim and sit on our beach blanket watching boats go by. It was serene and peaceful and so very different from our home in the city with its sidewalks and alleys.

My sister and I each had a cottage named after us. These were summer rental cottages owned by my grandparents. The “Janny Lou” and the “Virginia.” Each Saturday, Grandma cleaned the cottages between tenants. When we were visiting, scrubbing the bathtub was my job, while my sister swept the floor. After dinner, Grandpa walked us down to the store at the marina and bought us each a candy bar.

My childhood included vacations at Lake Erie, too. Aunts, uncles and cousins filled a rental house overlooking the great lake. One summer, my Aunt Jane drifted way out into the lake in a rubber inner tube. It was so far that my dad and uncle had to swim out to bring her back. It scared us kids so much that we wouldn’t swim past where our feet could touch the bottom of the lake.

In the evening, as the sun dipped below the horizon, a golden glow came over the water, and we knew it was time to make ice cream. We lined up smallest to tallest for our turn to crank the handle of the ice cream maker. The effort was worth it. What a treat. The cold vanilla goodness dripped down our faces. The taste of summer.

Eventually, my grandparents sold their cottages and moved to Florida, and my cousins moved to Arizona. But I was hooked on lakes. It’s hard to explain, but a lake can do that to people. It draws you in, the water inspires and both calms and excites with adventure and possibilities.

Years later, my husband introduced me to canoeing while we were dating. We drove to peaceful lakes and reservoirs for excursion dates, exploring coves and wildlife along the shore. Even today, one of our most prized possessions is an antique, canvas-covered, wooden canoe we inherited from my husband’s family. And we still explore coves and look for wildlife, now in kayaks.

When our children were growing up, some friends invited us to their lake house. After one weekend on the water, we began to search for a lake house of our own. Soon after, a cabin on Deep Creek Lake, in western Maryland, became our vacation home until a move south took us on a new adventure.

For more than 10 years, we visited southern lakes in North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee and dreamed of retiring by a lake. We explored many pretty lakes. Some were too big, some too small, too crowded, too remote, the shoreline too steep or the water too mucky.

When we discovered Lake James, it seemed just right, and the search was over.

In the eastern foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Lake James began more than 100 years ago with the damming of the Catawba and Linville rivers and Paddy's Creek to create hydroelectric power. The dams were completed in 1923. The lake is 6,812-acres, with 150 miles of shoreline.

Lake James is the first, and one of the largest and deepest, reservoir s on the Catawba River chain. The water is very clean, and the lake levels remain fairly constant for year-round enjoyment.

Around the lake are homes, Lake James State Park, several marinas, RV parks and four public access boat launches. A closer look reveals eagles, heron, turtles, osprey and other wildlife. The sunsets are spectacular.

Fellow lake lover and friend, Joe Killian, described Lake James this way when he came to visit, “It’s heaven on earth.”

Morganton is called, “Nature’s Playground.” Lake James is a gem of a splash pad. See you at the lake.

Janice Krouskop is a member of the Morganton Writer’s Group.

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