Turlock Lake (Day 57)

Today began in the pre-dawn hours with Hazel and I waking up in a hotel room in Modesto where we’d spent the night before in order to make it to her mountain bike race by 6:30 am. The pain of the early hour was tempered by how incredibly beautiful the awakening day was. 

Mountain bike races are a big deal; hundreds of riders; their parents and coaches; food, tents, announcers, multiple start times, plenty of volunteering. The races are a ton of fun, but it’s an all-in kind of a day. I was worried about how I would get my swim in. 

Lake McClure

On the plus side, the race was actually at a lake–Lake McClure. So I packed my swim gear and at each free moment, I hiked around, scouring the area for places to swim. It was beautiful, but access to the water was tough, steep reddish cliffs cutting into the gray blue water.

I finally walked down a long (long) road to the boat launch and found a place where it was theoretically possible to get in, but a sign said, “no swimming” and a ranger boat was docked at the bottom as if to emphasize the point. I was seriously considering doing it anyway, and Hazel’s sweet girlfriend Shai was willing to jump in with me, but by the time I’d walked back up that hill, I’d talked myself out of it.

I know this isn’t that kind of blog, but I can’t help but comment that Hazel had an awesome race. I was bursting with pride watching her roll over that finish line. All the kids were pretty great. It’s an incredible thing watching teens ride their hearts out.

Hazel had a babysitting gig later tonight and so we had to head out a little early. I decided to give up on Lake McClure and look for a swim on the way home. About forty-five minutes in we saw a sign for Turlock Lake.

“Should we check it out?” I said.

“Yes!” answered Hazel. She’s always up for adventure, that girl.

We drove for a while, long enough that I started to worry Turlock lake was an illusion. Finally, we saw a sign for fishing to our right. Taking the turn, we were immediately confronted by a roadblock. But there were very clear tracks to the right of the roadblock—obviously, people regularly bypass it to get to the dirt track beyond. We decided to go for it. 

We bumped our way down the dirt road and stopped when we go to the shore of the lake. It was gorgeous, a soft sandy entrance to clear water. Not a soul for miles around. It was perfect. Even more perfect, Hazel decided to go in with me. 

I have no idea what the water temperature was, but it didn’t feel too cold. There was a river feeding the lake only fifty yards or so from where we got in, so I expected it to be arctic, but it wasn’t. Maybe because it was pretty shallow where we were.

We plunged in—Hazel washing away the sweat from several hours of incredibly hard work, me giddy with the excitement of having found a swim on a day I worried I wouldn’t. It was fabulous.  

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