The beauty of kayaking on Upsata Lake is the peace and quiet that surround you like massaging arms while you navigate the tranquil lake.
Photo by Dorock

“A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is the Earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.”

H.D. Thoreau, Walden

My friend, Brian, is a fisherman. He lives in Elyria, Ohio and likes to fish in remote lakes in Canada. Several months ago he and I were catching up and he began describing this wonderfully successful trip he and some friends had made to a distant, unknown little puddle in the nether reaches up north in one of the Canadian provinces. “Doo, every fish I caught was a personal record! All the guys on the trip thought this was the best fishin’ hole we ever found. All of us got our personal best. It was just amazing.”

Self-portrait on Upsata Lake
Photo by Dorock

He then told me the name of the lake, its location and how to get there. “Whoa, Brian, why are you doin’ this?” I asked. “Doncha know if you keep telling people about this place, the next time you go there, it will be just another pond, not the great pond you know it to be?”  You could see the brain cells working, “Hmm, I guess you’re right.” Of course, I’m not much of a fisherman, so Brian’s secret is safe with me, but I don’t know how many other guys he told about this place, so his special place may be a bit in jeopardy.

Also, I realize that what I am about to share with you could end with the same result.

Last year, when Patti and I visited her brother Jim, and our sister-in-law, Nina, in Missoula, Montana, they took us kayaking to Upsata Lake, about an hour east of their home in Missoula. That visit was truly a breathtaking experience. I wrote about this lake last year. At the time, we were there at dusk and after the sun set, we could hear the sounds of the flapping of wings from birds breezing by us. We couldn’t see the birds at all, but we could hear them and that was the magic.

“Nature spontaneously keeps us well. Do not resist her.”

So, this year, on our Western Swing, we went back to Upsata Lake. This time, there were 10 of us on the lake, instead of the five that went last year. We were in Missoula again to visit Jim and Nina and celebrate the high school graduation of our niece, Ciara.

This time on the lake, we were there in the middle of the day. After we loaded the kayaks with our party, everyone took off and explored the lake to their liking. Jim’s son, Matt, and his girlfriend, Holly, took off quickly toward the other end of the lake. Nothing competitive between these two. The rest of us stuck pretty much together, dodging scores of lily pads that floated either just on the surface to slightly below the surface.

Jim and Ciara
Photo by Dorock

After a few minutes, Jim and Ciara discovered some loons floating along at the other end of the lake. Jim’s other son, Tj, niece, Jordan, and sister-in-law, Lisa aimed for the other end of the lake as well. Nina and Patti floated along, soaking up the scenery and taking pictures.

“We are constantly invited to be who we are.”

If you will bear with me a moment, I have a bit of explaining to do. I feel I need to set a stage for you. I have a very blessed life. I have been fortunate enough to travel to some of the most beautiful places in the world. Sure, not as many as some have done, but I have hiked through the Alps; walked along the water’s edge of fjords in Norway, hiked through the Rocky Mountains and explored the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone. When I have had the opportunity to travel, I have enjoyed every moment of it. And, most of these places have their serenity, their peacefulness and, certainly, their grandeur.

They are all relaxing, restful, joyous, inspiring, breathtaking. They grab your senses.

But, Upsata Lake has grabbed my heart.

“I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.”
Photo by Dorock

When I am quietly in the kayak on Upsata Lake, keeping the paddle in the kayak and just floating quietly, I look up at the bounty of the cumulus clouds floating overhead. They aren’t just clouds to me: they are small children laughing with white towels clothespinned to their shirts like capes, running back and forth touching the flowing white sheets drying in the afternoon breeze of a never-ending clothesline.

The still, languid, slow-moving water and current of the lake reflects the beauty of these clouds, but ever so slowly as if the surface is a watch that is slowly losing its battery and I watch the second hand move slower and slower til it stops.

“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.”
Photo by Dorock

The lily pads rest atop the water like sunbathing models who say nary a word as they await the next mojito to be dispatched next to their lounge. Nearby, a dragonfly dips in a circle to the water. As it dips to lightly touch the water, it is either drinking or bathing, but I am hypnotized by the dragonfly’s circular motion.

Along the banks as I float by, the pines adorning the shore reach for the sky whispering quiet undetectable prayers to the God who put them there. They know it is a magical place and the only time they share this thankful and grateful feeling is when a breeze floats among their branches and they share their prayers with us mere mortals.

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

Sometimes the majesty of beauty can be in the simple, small things that surround us. On our Western Swing, I have marveled at the beauty of the West that rests just beyond the white stripes and asphalt that take us from one destination to another. When I look at a rock formation, I don’t wonder whether it’s igneous or granite or sandstone, I wonder at God’s strength and power to put something so simple, yet so beautiful there for us to see and know. And I know His power extends so far beyond what is visible from the white stripes and asphalt.

“To be awake is to be alive.”
Photo by Dorock

Yes, Upsata Lake has captured my heart, far beyond any other site I have ever seen. I hope each of you have your Upsata Lake. I thank my brother-in-law, Jim, for introducing me to a small piece of this earth that has become such a resident of my heart. And, Lord, thank you for putting it there!

“Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed, and in such desperate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, how ever measured or far away.”

“I have a great deal of company in my house; especially in the morning, when nobody calls.”
Photo by Dorock

“To be awake is to be alive.”
Photo by Dorock

You only need sit still long enough in some attractive spot in the woods that all its inhabitants may exhibit themselves to you by turns.”
Photo by Dorock